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.

He recommends you read the book The Ig Nobel Prizes. So do we.

October 16th, 2017

Adrian Wallwork explains, in this video, why he recommends that his students read the book The Ig Nobel Prizes. We recommend that, too. (Too, we recommend to you The Ig Nobel Prizes 2.)

Blank pages in 18th century books (study)

October 16th, 2017

Anyone who’s seen the phrase “This page has intentionally been left blank” and who has been left thinking that it’s a relatively modern construct – think again. Intentionally blank pages have been around, in abundance, since at least the 18th century. Dr. Anne Toner (Trinity College Cambridge, UK), has extensively researched varieties of incompleteness in literary works, and covers the blank page in : “Blank Emblems: The Vacant Page, the Interleaved Book and the Eighteenth-Century Novel”, Word and Image 22.4, 2006, 363-71. Explaining that, in some cases at least :

“The vacant page makes explicit, then, the failure of correlation between imagination and manifestation in a text that seems to do all it can to proliferate the processes of narrative communication. “

The blank page shown above is from an edition of The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman (first published in 1759). It was deliberately inserted so as to provide a space for readers to do their own illustrations. Many other literary works of the time had blank pages so that readers could make their own non-fictional notes. To the extent that for some years it became almost fashionable to do so. The author cites one work from 1639 that had 125 blank pages – more than a third of the entire volume.

Question [optional] Is it time to revive the fashion for blank pages? Justify your answer.

Also see: Empty Photographic Frames : Punctuating the Narrative