“Impossible attempts” in law (new study)

October 19th, 2017

Imagine this scenario :

A poacher arrives at an area where there are wild deer, intent on shooting one – but it’s out of season, so it’s illegal to do so. He takes a shot at a deer and hits it – unknown to him though, it’s actually a stuffed replica put there by the gamekeeper. The question now arises – ‘Has the would-be poacher committed a crime?’

Such an event really did happen*, and the implications are discussed by Professor Daniel B. Yeager (Californian Western School of Law) in a new paper for Faculty Scholarship, 206, entitled: Stuffed Deer and the Grammar of Mistakes. The professor discusses the concept of so-called ‘Impossible attempts’ which have had a formal, though somewhat esoteric definition in [US] law since 1864. Here are some examples of ‘impossible attempts’ from a previous paper on the subject  :

As described in: Constructing a theory of impossible attempts Criminal Justice Ethics, 5:1, 53-69.

Note * State v. Guffey, 1953 262 S.W.2d 152 (Mo. Ct. App. 1953). The case centered around the idea that the deer which the defendant shot could not have been “pursued, taken, killed, possessed or disposed of” since it was in fact already dead and had been stuffed.

 

What is Brain Tan?

October 18th, 2017

These people use brains to tan leather.

“What is Braintan? Braintan is an ancient method of tanning hides that involves dressing a raw hide with brains, (or other natural emulsified oils) softening it with manual labor to produce soft buckskin and smoking it to preserve the softness.”

So says the web site of Circle S Leather, which also says: “We are a family run business. We work out of our home and a small shop. Because God has blessed our business, over the last 15 years our braintan has sold in 46 states and 13 countries.”

Patents (De)pending on Weather

October 18th, 2017

Inventors have reason to squirm a bit over the weather, suggests this new study about the granting — or rejection — of  patents. The study is:

Too hot to reject: The effect of weather variations on the patent examination process at the United States Patent and Trademark Office,” Balázs Kovács [pictured here], Research Policy, vol. 46, no. 10, December 2017, Pages 1824-1835. (Thanks to Barbara Ribeiro and Phil Shapira for bringing this to our attention.)

The author, at Yale University, explains:

“This paper documents a small but systematic bias in the patent evaluation system at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO): external weather variations affect the allowance or rejection of patent applications. I examine 8.8 million reject/allow decisions from 3.5 million patent applications to the USPTO between 2001 and 2014, and find that on unusually warm days patent allowance rates are higher and final rejection rates are lower than on cold days. I also find that on cloudy days, final rejection rates are lower than on clear days. I show that these effects constitute a decision-making bias which exists even after controlling for sorting effects, controlling for applicant-level, application-level, primary class-level, art unit-level, and examiner- level characteristics. The bias even exists after controlling for the quality of the patent applications. While theoretically interesting, I also note that the effect sizes are relatively modest.”

Here’s graphic detail from the study:

Keith Raniere’s inventive patents

October 18th, 2017

Keith Raniere, whose inventive uses of human beings are, some of them, profiled in the New York Times under the headline “Inside a Secretive Group Where Women Are Branded“, has filed unusual patent applications. Here are three of those patent applications that relate to things other than branding women.

Determination of whether a luciferian can be rehabilitated [Application US20130281879A1, the current status of which is “pending”] sets forth “a method for determining whether a Luciferian can be rehabilitated. The method includes stimulating the Luciferian with a first stimulus and recording a first physiological response by the Luciferian to said first stimulus. The method includes determining, from the first physiological response, a first polarity of the Luciferian’s response to the first stimulus. The method includes stimulating the Luciferian with a second stimulus and recording a second physiological response by the Luciferian to said second stimulus. Further, the method includes determining, from the second physiological response, a second polarity of the Luciferian’s response to the second stimulus.” And so on.

That patent application contains this drawing, which perhaps summarizes the idea as clearly as is possible:

Rational inquiry sash [US design grant USD469594S1, now expired] included this drawing, which explains the concept of a rational inquiry sash as well or better than does the text that accompanies it in the document on file with the patent office:

Apparatus and method for preventing a vehicle from running out of fuel [application US20140277920A1, status “granted”] attacks a simple problem by making it into a complicated problem. This is the problem, as the patent application describes it: “A vehicle may run out of fuel if the driver is preoccupied or forgetful to refuel. An operator may be left stranded far from any location where he can obtain more fuel. Currently, vehicles contain a fuel gauge which displays the level of fuel for an operator to attempt to prevent this unfortunate scenario. However, a fuel gauge on a vehicle may read empty when there is still fuel remaining in the vehicle. This may condition the operator to disregard the warning and continue to drive the vehicle, sometimes to the point where the fuel actually does run out.”

The patent application includes this summary, in the form of a drawing, of the proposed solution to that problem:

These are just three of the many patent applications filed by Keith Raniere, whose interests and ambitions may be unique.

Keith Raniere has a company called NXIVM. The company’s name is a summary, perhaps clear in some way, of its activities. Many of Keith Raniere’s patents are assigned (in the filings with the US patent office) to a company called First Principles, Inc., which in its paperwork appears to be geared towards selling things to the US government. Another of Keith Raniere’s organizations says “Keith Raniere holds many titles to his name—scientist, mathematician, philosopher, entrepreneur, educator, inventor and author—but perhaps the most poignant among them is that of humanitarian.”

Keith Raniere is the subject of many popular YouTube videos.

A more powerful sports statistics tool

October 17th, 2017

A more powerful statistical tool is available for sports analysts, potentially displacing traditional measures based on old-fashioned body-dimension (height, weight, etc.), or sport-specific performance (speed, scoring, passing,  etc.). The statistic is displayed in a newly published research report:

“Relationships Between the Second to Fourth Digit Ratio (2D:4D) and Game-Related Statistics in Semi-Professional Female Basketball Players,” Makailah Dyer, Sandra E. Short, Martin Short, John T. Manning and Grant R. Tomkinson, American Journal of Human Biology, epub 2017.

The researchers explain:

“Using a cross-sectional design, 64 female basketball players who competed in the South Australian Premier League were measured in-season for height, mass, and 2D:4D, with game-related statistics collected end-season…. Female players with lower digit ratios tended to perform better in several aspects of basketball, especially defensively, and were more likely to be starters, suggesting they are the best players on the team in their positions.”

This researchers here include John T. Manning, the father of finger-length studies.

This study, together with the large and growing collection of other studies by Professor Manning and his colleagues, furthers the dream that statistics — in the proper hands — can tell us anything about everything.