Wednesday, April 26, 2017

"Ramblin Wreck from Georgia Tech"

The old Georgia Tech song has significance in the ongoing collapse of transportation into and out of New York. Over 1 million people will be without a means of transportation. I guess there is a "wall" around New York keeping the aliens from without from getting within! It was also a free wall, just let the system collapse! Oh yes, Georgia Tech, that was where the CEO of Amtrak was trained. Economists from MIT and Train Managers from Georgia (getting paid almost $10 million a year!)....the end of civilization as we know it is upon us.

As the NY Times reports:

After two derailments at Pennsylvania Station in New York, Amtrak officials are considering closing tracks at the station for an extended period to make long-term repairs — a drastic move that would cause huge disruptions for tens of thousands of commuters, according to officials who were briefed on the plans. Officials at Amtrak, which owns and operates Penn Station, say the infrastructure at the terminal has become so brittle that it urgently needs an overhaul. The closings would probably prompt extensive delays and route changes for two of the nation’s largest railroads, New Jersey Transit and the Long Island Rail Road, which rely on Penn Station. A decision to upend the lives of so many riders would follow years of failures to invest adequately in aging infrastructure even as ridership boomed in the busiest region of rail travel in the country, and it would be a break from Amtrak’s traditional strategy of trying to minimize disruptions.

Yep, that's it folks, just close Penn Station and allow the in my opinion grossly incompetent Amtrak do its thing! Are these folks out of their minds? No, they apparently have no minds. The Times shows the CEO in a photo op wearing the compulsory green vest and hard hat. The CEO should be out of there, gone, get a new one, someone who has some competence!

And then there is the US DOT! Where is the Secretary of Transportation? Dinner in DC? Get a hard hat and joint the team. 

It is insane to think you can close Penn Station. But not to the Government. The economic costs, direct and otherwise, will be monumental. The lost taxes. Gov. Christie started the process by cancelling the new tunnel. But he is gone soon. Yet not one of his replacements is commenting. Even the NY Governor should be concerned due to the potential loss in tax dollars from lost employment.

On and one more thing. NJ Transit has still not repaired Hoboken station which collapsed months ago when a train engineers apparently went to sleep on approach and crashed into the station and killed a woman. Imagine, half the capacity gone due to Amtrak and 30% of the remaining  capacity gone due to NJ Transit. And you want Government Health Care!

Saturday, April 22, 2017

College Fund Raising Via Politics

From the world of "You Can't Make This Stuff Up!" comes a rather strong request from the MIT Alumni Fund to send in money to defeat the current Administrations Plans! The person sending the request states, among other things:

From the Internet to infant formula to the touchscreen technology that allows you to access all the information in the world from a device that fits in your pocket, public funds have lent support to some of our greatest scientific advancements—but if the proposed federal budget comes to pass, that funding will be significantly cut. Institutions like MIT will be forced to rely even more on the generosity of donors like you to provide the resources necessary for true innovation and progress that benefit the world at large.  Please consider making a gift to MIT today, and together, we can keep marching both science and society forward.

But  what if I like the new Budget. I have no opinion but perhaps I could. Statistically perhaps 50% of Americans do. So what has this person done? Well she apparently told half the Alumni that they are wrong. Not a way to Fund raise. It is the old echo chamber effect. I and my friends think this way so everyone must! Ever look at a voting map?

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Worth a Read

The following in PLOS and in Nature is worth a read. Really. Namely:

In the first broad look at the behaviour of thousands of scientists on Twitter, researchers have found that women are better represented on the social-media site than on scientific papers. The team also noted that scientists tended to stick with researchers in their area of expertise while on the social-media site....“This is a really interesting finding,” ...says. Male scientists tend to have their papers cited more than female scientists, and there are more male full professors than female ones at US universities, she notes. So Twitter “may have more participation from women than we would expect”.

It may be interesting to follow. But just sit in any New York Restaurant and it is obvious.

Amazon and AMZL

How to really tick off your customers. Create a delivery service that always fails despite being told it is on its way. Amazon has AMZL which seems to consistently lose, misplace, or otherwise get deliveries lost. Yet they tell you that it is on its way. UPS, USPS, FedEx, and even the local independents get to deliver, but NOT Amazon. This is a sign of a serious malignancy! It has been happening for a couple of years and we are now going to other vendors. Even if it costs more reliability is essential. One can excuse a third party but when Amazon takes on full responsibility then the problem falls on their doorstep. We are batting 3:4 lost deliveries in the last two wee4ks on AMZL. The customer complaint blog is exploding. Perhaps a shorting of the stock may be in order! Just my opinion and my experience. Too bad, Amazon was once reliable.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

I Have Good News and I Have Bad News

There is an old WW II joke about a German U Boat Captain who after a long under water journey to avoid the Americans announces to his now terrified crew:

"I have good news and bad news. The good news, we shall surface in ten minutes." A cheer erupts. "Now the bad news. It is either Buenos Aires or New York." The crew was silent.

Now for the latest version of that with our US Navy. Frankly my father would be ashamed of such an event. I report it from a Canadian newspaper, The National Post notes:

A spokesman for the Pacific Command linked the deployment directly to the “number one threat in the region,” North Korea, and its “reckless, irresponsible and destabilizing program of missile tests and pursuit of a nuclear weapons capability.” Defense Secretary James Mattis told reporters on April 11 that the Carl Vinson was “on her way up there.” Asked about the deployment in an interview with Fox Business Network that aired April 12, President Trump said: “We are sending an armada, very powerful.” The U.S. media went into overdrive and Fox reported on April 14 that the armada was “steaming” toward North Korea. But pictures posted by the U.S. Navy suggest that’s not quite the case – or at least not yet. A photograph released by the Navy showed the aircraft carrier sailing through the calm waters of Sunda Strait between the Indonesian islands of Sumatra and Java on Saturday, April 15.

Yes, our very own Navy is sailing not where the bosses said it was but in the opposite direction. And we get this from the Canadians. At least they know who is where.

What Admiral is being demoted to Seaman Third Class for this one?

Now as for the Carrier Group Commander, I suspect a Rear Admiral, perhaps some Seaman Third Class could have seen on the Internet, you know Admiral, that thing they look at all time time when not responding to your commands, and have seen they were on their way to Korea, and that the Palm trees on the islands they were passing were not native to North Korea. There is no radio silence. Or perhaps a Skype call home could have gotten so Petty Officer Second Class to see he was not where he was supposed to be. One more billet for a Rear Admiral! Shame on you folks!

A Well Done Presentation of an Important Movement

The book by Fenton, Religious Liberties: Anti-Catholicism and Liberal Democracy in Nineteenth-Century U.S. Literature and Culture, is an interesting, valuable and well done work discussing the existence of and impact of the anti-Catholicism in the United States. It is the result of a doctoral thesis and as such reads somewhat like one but is is readily accessible and to the point. The author argues that the anti-Catholicism was a major factor in shaping our democracy during this period.

She begins with a summary of the work and that section is well worth the read. Then she discusses the Canadian issue regarding French speaking Quebec and the rules that allowed them to practice Catholicism. On the one hand the "Founders" of the US had considered attracting all of Canada as well as the Colonies but the very presence of a potentially ever expanding Catholic only area was of significant concern. On p 31 the author introduces Thomas Paine and his considerations related thereto. Paine argued that the Inquisition, that Church State chimera, was a problem just because it was a fusing together of the Church and State. Thus because there was a dread among Protestants of the Inquisition, especially as exercised by Spain, then the issue was not the exercise of religion in a private sense, but the politicization of religion in any sense. His conclusion were two fold. First people should be able to practice whatever religion they wanted in private. Second, there must be no nexus between politics and religion, between the state and the church. The author's presentation is exceptionally lucid here and it exemplifies how many of the Enlightenment types were capable of excelling above their inborn prejudices.

The author then moves on to the Constitution and discussion of Madison. On p 43 is the discussion of republics, their size and their viability. Montesquieu is discussed as being the prime source. It can be argued by many, including Ullmann, that these ideas well preceded Montesquieu with 14th century writers such as Marsilius  of Padua. Again on p. 55 Paine is quoted as stating that the American priest is as good a citizen as any.

The author continues discussing the well known 19th century anti-Catholics such as Mark Twain, who seemed to be anti everything, and Nathaniel Hawthorne. Hawthorne's book, The Marble Faun, is a typical example of the aggressive anti-Catholicism of the New England "elite" which infested Boston and its environs.

Overall it is a well written and well argued piece and worth reading to better understand the 19th century and its connection to what the Founders managed to put in the Constitution and why. However it would have been of interest to see this stretched a bit to the 20th century. From the rejection of Al Smith to the election of Kennedy. Also it would have been interesting to examine the same strong anti Catholicism of academics such as Dewey and Hofstadter. There was a whole class of "Intellectuals" whose main focus was the expression and exercise of mass anti-Catholicism. The two aforementioned, both at Columbia, demonstrate the very institutional attitude of that University well through the 1960s. For example, while I got into MIT, I was denied admission to Columbia because I was educated at a Catholic secondary school. That was told me in a three page single spaced letter from the Dean. A far cry from what anyone would do today! Thus this work takes us far, but not all the way!

March for Science

Science funding is very akin to entrepreneurial financing. Really. It is competitive. It is driven by past results. It is assessed by impact. It has a political element. It depends on who you know. It often does not reflect the true value of what is being proposed. Remember that more than 90% of VC investments go nowhere. Oftentimes the same is true with scientific research. The latter is all too often a means to educate doctoral students. Post docs are a means to get lower cost lab help. It used to be a University had Lab techs, possibly with an MS but an employee. Now we have post docs, lower costs, no benefits, and you can fire them at will.

In reality then science funding is the same game, and the measure of success can be even more vague. There are no IPOs in science. Thus winners are far and few between. It is the process that often counts. There is no financial rate of return on pure science. A nexus with some start up may count but little study of this is done since science is done for science, not money, at least that is the mantra.

Now along comes this March for Science. Nature has been one of the promoters as has Science. Nature is the left wing Brits and Science is headed by a former Democratic Congressman with an agenda. In the Nature piece they give voice to some well chosen "science" representatives. They state:

Calls from US President Donald Trump to roll back environmental regulations and slash funding for health, environmental and research agencies have raised alarm in the scientific community. Earlier this year, a commenter on the social-media website Reddit made an off-hand remark about the need for scientists to march on Washington DC. That thread has since grown into an international movement. The March for Science now includes more than 500 events — including marches, rallies and teach-ins — planned for locations around the world.

What will this "March" result in? Some of the commenters noted  it was being co-opted by the Left with Identity Politics being front and center. That can be a serious step backwards. Already any college website appears as an Identity Politics ad and as such has an impact on students and studies. Take foreign students. Many doctoral students are foreign students. Yes they may be very good but on the other-hand we the taxpayers are funding their studies. Is that fair? Should we not be incentivizing our US students first and then selecting the best. We are funding students in such areas as nuclear science and engineering from countries that vow to destroy us. Does that make sense? Did Admiral Yamamoto study Naval Architecture at MIT?

So take the comment by an Irish lecturer:

"I am going so I can stand up for evidence-based policies and the scientific method. I also support robust funding of science and transparent reporting of scientific results. The current wave of ‘anti-science’ rhetoric goes against everything that I am trying to do as a scientist and an educator. I keep telling my students that I’m going because science is worth protecting: for them, and for all of us.”

 Now just what does US research funding have to do with this person? There is no anti science rhetoric in Ireland as best as I can tell, I am an Irish citizen so I do have some first hand knowledge. So are we going to see a bunch of white coats and pink hats waving placards?

Science is often done for the sake of science. But science funding is done on that basis of a complex set of allocation schema; public and private. It is worthwhile every once and a while to reassess that scheme.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Political Science in the 14th Century

Dante and his Divine Comedy have been read and studied for centuries. However to understand its context and complexities one must have a reasonable understanding of the temporal context of the world Dante wrote in. One key element was the battle between the Franciscans and the Papacy regarding the issue of poverty. The book by Havely, Dante and the Franciscans: Poverty and the Papacy in the 'Commedia', is an excellent introduction to this essential dimension.

The Franciscans in the early 14th century were divided into two camps; the Spirituals and the Conventionals. The Spirituals had a view of poverty which was in the extreme. That is no Franciscan could “own” anything or it was a breach of their vow of poverty. Even to the extent of their tunics, which were communal and limited in number to  what they wore and a possible clean spare. The Conventionals on the other hand limited poverty to actual ownership, such as a horse or even a book. They horses and books were communal and the ownership was in the name of the Pope and not the order per se.

By the late 13th century and early 14th several trends tended to collide, with poverty being a focal point. The major tendency was that of the increasing opulence of the Papacy and its alignment with France and its ultimate move to Avignon from Rome. Too many, and Dante included this was a breach of duty of the Pope and the excesses of these erstwhile Popes were a denial of their prime duty as Bishops of Rome. Pope after Pope were handing out favors for money, and some of these favors were forgiveness of sins. Popes were appointing massive numbers of family members to key positions in the Church, so that what had been a fundamental religious position was not a secular organization taking money for the issuance of religious gifts.

Add to this the city states in Italy, such as Florence from whence Dante came and was expelled, and Bologna, Milan, Venice, Ravenna. Across Italy there were Guelphs and Gibberllines, supporters of the Holy Roman Emperor or Pope.

In a sense these three waves of conflict, poverty and its Christ and Apostle like adherence, the Pope and his legitimacy as Bishop of Rome, and the conflict between Church and State as to secular rule. The contrasts led to massive conflicts in society.

The author then takes the reader through Dante’s Divine Comedy laying out how the three parts of it reflect his view of these conflicts. In the Inferno, home to evil Popes and public figures who have betrayed the trust that people put in them are shown to suffer the pains of Hell.

Chapter 1 is a superb discussion of Franciscan poverty. It is essential to understand some of the elements since Dante came from Florence and Santa Croce in Florence was a Franciscan school which Dante may very well have attended. It was also a hot bed of many of the Spirituals of the time.

Chapter 2 is the core chapter on Inferno. As Virgil takes Dante around the Inferno, he stumbles, literally as well as figuratively, upon Popes whose presence is there as a result of avarice. Pure abject greed and use of the office for personal gain and aggrandizement, which is what Dante relates over and over. The second theme is authority after avarice. This is a key combination. For when Dante ages thinkers like Marsilius of Padua has begun promoting his ideas of leadership and political science. Marsilius sees the Pope as a religious leader, separate from the world, and further see the secular leaders as serving those to whom they lead, and furthermore selected by those very people. Marsilius introduces into the political thought the construct of the individual, the individual as a separate and autonomous agent and not as a subject of any king or Pope. William of Ockham was soon to take this further in his battles with John XXII. One can see many of these ideas starting to come forth in Dante and his Inferno.

Chapter 3 is Purgatorio is driven by the theme of poverty in spirit. Chapter 4 is Paradiso and its theme is poverty and authority. Chapter 4, Epilogue, is a superb summary of all the issues the author considers.

To understand Dante, in my opinion it is essential to understand his time and the issues which drove him. Estranged from Florence, he spends time throughout the city states of northern Italy, writing in his Divine Comedy about the issues of his time, but they are also issues which rise above what he sees. The issue of poverty and the Franciscan Spirituals is truly an issue of authority. It is also an issue of what responsibilities those who rule have, not just what powers they can exert. What one sees in the Inferno are not just evil people being punished, but evil deeds which must be corrected.

This book is an essential reference for anyone studying Dante. Dante can be read as a student in the context of a compulsory exercise or as an educated adult as insight to the cruelties of abused power. Dante, in focusing on the Franciscan issue of poverty, sets a sounding board for the developing change in governance, spiritual as well as temporal. This book is a brilliant light on those issues and is essential not only for understanding Dante but also in understanding the early development of political change. The centuries before Montesquieu, Locke, Mill, were started by the arguments of poverty, and then authority and its source.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

The Other Left

The NY Times has some author bemoaning the lack of precision in the use of the English language. The author states:

Americans can’t agree on much these days. They’ve obviously fallen out over politics. They can’t even agree on the facts. Now they’re fighting over words. For years, we mild-mannered lexicographers have been posting online about the most common lookup of the moment on our website. So when, in January, the White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, told reporters he wasn’t going to define the word “betrayal,” and lookups spiked, we saw it as our duty to post a definition. But all of a sudden, people were furious, usually because of something related to Donald Trump:  “facts,” after the presidential adviser Kellyanne Conway created alternative ones, and “Svengali,” when this paper’s editorial board wrote that Stephen Bannon, the White House strategist, was “positioning himself not merely as a Svengali but as the de facto president.”

I am reminded of a friend of my wife, let us call her "Gracie" who had this habit, before GPS was common, of giving directions like, "Turn left" and then shout out "the other left". For those of you who missed the point she meant right.

Then there are those who keep saying I was born in Staten Island. In 1969 I found out I was born "on" Staten Island. Otherwise perhaps I was a worm of chipmunk. 

Having picked up five other languages in my lifetime, mostly to speak to cab drivers and hotel staff, although my French is not that bad, one learns a great deal about English. Namely, no one uses a dictionary, and we all are flexible enough to get the point across. 

Now words mean something. Take laws that are written. Take contracts. In each case there is often a section on definitions. Not the ones in a dictionary. Rarely is one used, especially since there are many dictionaries and they may conflict. Thus a law or a contract defines say a specific term which  is them some how restricted in the body of the law or contract. 

Does that solve the problem? Ever been to court? Most trials are about definitions. What was really meant.

Now take wiretapping. I have seen some in my life. It was on a pair of copper lines, indicated by a "red block" and carefully segregated. It was old fashioned telephony, analog calls on copper. Now we have all digital calls on IP and they are just as easily intercepted and wiretapped. Not the same technique but the same outcome.

Having been around the world several time what I also found is that English is the most flexible language out there. A cab driver can survive with say 100 words, prosper with 1,000. The syntax may be rudimentary but we somehow manage to "get the idea". 

So I would ask, when was the last time any one used a dictionary? Like libraries they are artifacts of the past. The keepers of the definitions like the author the the piece mentioned above want us to believe they are the holders of truth. In fact, truth is what we meant to say, not necessarily how it may have come out. After a couple of years I understood "Gracie". Somehow we all can do that, humans are rather interesting non AI machines! Let's see the Silicon Valley guys replace that one! Good for "Gracie"!

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The USPSTF is at it Again!

The USPSTF has been at it again and again especially in suggesting that prostate cancer screening be denied.

First let us examine just who these folks are:

Task Force members come from the fields of preventive medicine and primary care, including internal medicine, family medicine, pediatrics, behavioral health, obstetrics and gynecology, and nursing. Their recommendations are based on a rigorous review of existing peer-reviewed evidence and are intended to help primary care clinicians and patients decide together whether a preventive service is right for a patient's needs.

Namely they generally are NOT specialists in the area upon which they are opining. Frequently they are administrators or academics.

Second, they have now modified their PSA recommendation from a D to a C. D means useless and C means a toss up. As Healio notes:

5 years after the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force issued a recommendation against PSA screening for prostate cancer in all men — the task force amended its stance in a draft statement, determining that the decision about whether to be screened should be an individual one.
The new recommendation — which changed the grade for PSA screening from D to C — states the potential benefits and harms of PSA–based screening are closely balanced in men aged 55 to 69 years. As a result, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends clinicians talk to these men about the potential benefits and harms of screening. For men aged 70 years and older, the USPSTF maintained the D recommendation, based on the position that the potential benefits of PSA–based screening do not outweigh the harms, and these men should not be screened for prostate cancer.

What changed the recommendation? Dead bodies one could presume. Dead male bodies. But under the ACA that was irrelevant.

The data upon which the based their analysis is in my opinion flawed. They state that of 1,000 men screened, 240 received a positive result and 100 were found to have PCa. If screening had been done then 2 lives would be saved. First the screening was done several years apart! That is non-sense. PSA testing demands annual tests with velocity being measured. The analysis grossly misrepresents the facts in my opinion. No genetic analysis is performed. It is well known that about 5-10% of PCa is aggressive, the remaining is non life threatening. Thus one would expect a small percent death but  finding that small but critical segment is not done by random and intermittent testing.

At some point those who deal with this every day on both the clinical and research level should become part of the panel, and a key part. We are in my opinion poorly served by this organization.

Finally, the USPSTF again disregards anyone over 70! That is just another way to "let the old folks die!" of the ACA.

If All Else Fails Listen to the Customer!

United Airlines has in my opinion and in my experience been one of the worst carriers in the world. And I used Aeroflot! Flew at 4,000 ft from Moscow to Prague one day, hopping over corn stalks.

But the recent United handling of a customer goes beyond the pale. The Guardian notes:

In one video clip guards aggressively grab then dra the passenger down the aisle of the plane as other passengers shout: “Oh my God” and “Look what you did to him”. On Tuesday chief executive Oscar Munoz attracted criticism after calling the passenger “disruptive and belligerent” and saying that the airline’s employees “followed established procedures”. The passenger is overheard in one video claiming he was being profiled for being Chinese, and the video has caused outrage in China and calls for a boycott. Ahead of the market’s open, United shares had been down by as much as 6% in premarket trading.

Perhaps they should place a sign akin to Dante's Inferno, "Abandon all hope ye who enter" above any United facility. The CEO clearly seems in my opinion to be clueless and heartless (see bio). Perhaps a 50% or 60% stock drop would be useful. Add TSA and then add Chicago, and well, the KGB was kind, really it was!

Monday, April 10, 2017

Snatching Defeat from the Jaws of Victory

Like so many people I am a significant user of Amazon. However one of the things they must learn to do is to deliver on their promises. I have been seeing significant breaks recently. Namely with Amazon's own delivery services. The have in my experiences a significant failure rate. Amazon conditions customers to accept a certain level of service but then tries to expand well beyond their competence. The result in my experience is failure. If I were running the company, or at least that part, I would be exceedingly careful not to drop the ball. However it appears that whoever is in that position seems in my opinion to be clueless.

The result. You create a customer looking for an alternative. Not really a good idea. But unfortunately there is no way to let the folks at Amazon know this, ore perhaps arrogance leads to just not caring?

Sunday, April 9, 2017


What is an amateur? On the one hand it is someone skilled in a certain area but not compensated for what they do. Thus an amateur botanist may be someone who on their own funding performed certain botanical science works, such as hybridizing plants and analyzing plant genetics. Likewise an amateur is used as a dilettante, one who feigns to be a botanist, one who has the use of words but never got their hands dirty. Thus an amateur ranges from a competent person not compensated by some entity, thus having no reliance on a third party, to someone pretending to be competent but not.

So what definition do we use. Take the NY Times. In a recent article they state:

....a 1997 work by two amateur historians....

So what definition do they use? It is after all the Times so it must be the most derogatory! What is a historian? Does a historian have to be compensated by some entity? Such as a Harvard? Not really. An historian is one who uses original sources to present what happened in some specific period. It is after all still an interpretation but referenced to the original source. Is Edmund Wilson an historian in his work, To the Finland Station? No, he was a Communist sympathizer telling a tale to promote his personal views. Was Gibbon an historian? He used some original sources but he interposed his own personal view so strongly and ignored other historical facts that one seriously questions his presentation no less than his integrity.

So what does the term really mean. The only way is to examine who they are commenting on and about. Thus in this case we are again in the middle of news which is colored by the political opinions of the medium through which it is presented. Amateurs after all are both free and unbiased by their sponsors.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Funding, Patents, and Monetization

There is a new MIT study which alleges:

To conduct the study, the scholars examined 365,380 NIH grants funded between 1980 and 2007 — nearly every NIH grant awarded for decades. Exactly 30,829 were the direct basis for patents; 17,093 of those were so-called “Bayh-Dole” patents issued to universities and hospitals, something federal legislation made possible starting in 1980. Of the NIH grants, 112,408 were additionally cited in a total of 81,462 private-sector patents. And as the authors put it in the new paper, even these NIH-backed research projects that are indirectly cited in later patents “demonstrate the additional reach that publicly funded science can have by building a foundation for private-sector R&D.” Azoulay, an economist who studies the production and dissemination of scientific knowledge, says the bottom-line figures in the study — the 31 percent and 8 percent of NIH grants that contribute to and more directly generate patents — strike him as being significantly large because of the broad scope of research the NIH supports.

Now let us examine this a bit.

First, under the Dole Law the beneficial ownership of patents resulting from Government work  go to the sponsoring institution. Some interest accrues to the Principal Investigator and Patent filer.

Second, patents are not always filed and not always issued. CRISPR is a real counter example. Universities file for patents if the IP Office believes it is worth the effort. That determination varies widely from institution to institution.

Third, patents are not businesses. Patents are often over turned or contested and thus are no assurance of anything. Patents are also an invitation for litigation, lots of expensive litigation.

Fourth, patent portfolios really do not generate that much money, on average. Sometimes one patent can be great but most of the time they are not money generators.

Fifth, dealing with a university IP Office can be near impossible because they are trying to maximize their return with no understanding of the risk in monetizing the patent.

Sixth, many patents are used solely to block others. Namely a patent may be licensed just to stop a competitor. That means that the patent is shelved and is dormant.

The Scientist notes:

They also found that basic research was nearly as likely to contribute to a patent as applied projects. The authors separated grants awarded through a request for applications (RFA)—indicating a focus on addressing a particular disease—from those that were unsolicited—likely representing more basic science—and discovered a similar citation rate in associated patents.

Given what was noted above, one must wonder to what use the patent was licensed for. The study, supposedly to be released, may or may not contain any details. One is left wondering.

EurekaAlert notes:

A 2015 working paper released by Azoulay, Li, Sampat, and Joshua Graff Zivin, a professor at the University of California at San Diego, estimated that every $1 of public NIH funding yielded between $1.5 and $2 in private-sector pharmaceutical drug sales. That study is still undergoing peer review.

 This above connection seems quite difficult to ascertain. First the result is drug sales. That is the gross output for the pharma industry. The input alleged is NIH funding. Just consider the following:

1. A single patent is but one part of a new drug.

2. A new drug has about a 1:100 chance of ever getting FDA approval.

3. A successful FDA drug may also be problematic in total market acceptance.

Thus the claim as noted above seems highly unlikely. It may also lead to negative criticism of NIH. That often is the problem with academics.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Where is the Armada?

Spain is willing to support a separate Scotland and it wants Gibraltar back. So says the Guardian.  It states:

Spain has said it would not veto an attempt by an independent Scotland to join the EU, in a boost to Nicola Sturgeon’s campaign for a second independence referendum and the clearest sign yet that Brexit has softened Madrid’s longstanding opposition. Alfonso Dastis, the Spanish foreign minister, made it clear that the government would not block an independent Scotland’s EU hopes, although he stressed that Madrid would not welcome the disintegration of the UK.

As for Gibraltar, again the Guardian,

Theresa May would be prepared to go to war to protect Gibraltar as Margaret Thatcher once did for the Falklands, former Conservative leader Michael Howard has suggested, in comments that were immediately criticised as inflammatory. Lord Howard’s suggestion that the prime minister would be ready to follow in the footsteps of her predecessor 35 years ago came alongside a government pledge to protect the sovereignty of Britain’s overseas territory.

First, Scotland by itself really is not much. A golf course and sheep, lots of sheep. If Northern Ireland also leaves, it has three options. First, go alone. Like that would work. Go with Scotland. Now frankly all the Protestants were sent from there by Cromwell so if you think the Troubles were bad just wait. Go with Irish Republic, and live with Catholics. The latter may ironically be the safest.

Now as for Spain, remember Elizabeth I. But now Britain has a wimpy Navy. But Spain has nothing! Spain most likely could not raise ferry fare to get to Gibraltar.