Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Favoritism patent awarded to Microsoft

A few weeks ago, the U. S. Patent Office awarded Microsoft what Greg Aharonian calls is a Bilski-like claim - a sign of favoritism: Bayesian scoring U.S. Patent 7,376,474 1. A method comprising: a) receiving a draw outcome of a game between at least a first team opposing a second team, the first team including at least one player and the second team including at least one other player; b) receiving a first score including a first mean and a first variance representing a distribution associated with the at least one player of the first team; c) receiving a second score including a second mean and a second variance representing a distribution associated with the at least one other player of the second team; d) updating the first mean and the first variance based on the draw outcome of the game; e) updating the first mean and the first variance of the first score due to changed abilities of the at least one player of the first team based on a dynamic score function of a period of time since the first team last played the game; and f) providing an indication of the updated first mean and the updated first variance to the at least one player of the first team. No technology in this claim, just like with Bilski. And some rather broad elements, like "distribution", just like with Bilski. Yet Bilski's claim gets rejected under article 101, but not Microsoft's. Corporate favoritism at the Patent Office? Seriously, big companies get lots of Bilski-like claims every month - where's the PTO outrage? While the patent talks about the use of electronics (just like the Bilski patent), by "receiving" one could mean reading the information in a newspaper and magazine, and by "updating" one could mean paper-and-pencil calculations for mean and variance (which are not that hard to do). I could implement this entire patent with a paper notebook and my mind. In fact, I know some sports-nuts mathematicians who could do all of this in their head, including remembering in their minds the updated scores from game to game. Usually that automatically disqualifies this patent under article 101. That is, this patent can be done equally manually, ( as well as mentally) or by computer. Does both possibilities make this unpatentable (that is, if you were not a big company like Microsoft) under 101? Is it not enough a process to be a 101-process? 35 USC 101, much like 17 USC 102, is a semantic disaster of vagueness and public notice incompleteness, thanks to the cavalier attitude Congress has with regards to the fundamentals of IP law. And based on the Bilski oral arguments, and other recent similar cases, the courts do not have any better fundamental understanding. They should punt 101 (and 103) back to Congress, and Congress should confer with a wide variety of people (as opposed to selling this to the highest bidder).

Atheist sees Big Bang in a piece of toast

I would expect a superstitious person to imagine things in everyday objects, but here is a scientist going through the revelation experience. I found it in the ACPA London news articles.

Excitement is growing in the Northern England town of Huddlesfield following news that a local man saw an image not of God or a saint but that of the Big-Bang in a piece of toast. Atheist Donald Chapman, 36, told local newspaper, "The Huddlesfield Express" that he was sitting down to eat breakfast when an unusual toast pattern caught his eye.

"I was just about to spread the butter when I noticed a fairly typical small hole in the bread surrounded by a burnt black ring. However the direction and splatter patterns of the crumbs and the changing shades emanating outwards from the black hole were very clearly similar to the chaotic-dynamic non-linear patterns that one would expect following the Big-Bang". "It's the beginning of the world" he added excitedly.

Ever since news of the discovery made national headlines, local hoteliers have been overwhelmed by an influx of atheists from all over the country who have flocked to Huddlesfield to catch a glimpse of the scientific relic. "I have always been an Atheist and to see my life choices validated on a piece of toast is truly astounding" said one guest at the Huddlesfield Arms hotel.

To the surprise of many, the UK National Atheist Association has asked its members not to pay attention to the story despite its potential to inspire less faith. "Given what the religious believe already, this is an easy sell" said one disgruntled activist who said he was going to Huddlesfield anyway noting that "Seeing is not believing".