Friday, April 16, 2010

"A quoi sert un enfant nouveau-né?"

In response to an inquiry about the value of hot air balloons observed in Paris in 1783, Benjamin Franklin supposedly re-queried:

"A quoi sert un enfant nouveau-né?"

When an invention is in its infancy, all the possible uses are not foreseeable. Ben Franklin understood this in 1783. More than 200 years later, Mark Lemley would suggest that the inventors of the transistor thought it was only good for hearing aids, a conjecture that is simply not true.

[See WHAT THE STORY OF THE INVENTION OF THE TRANSISTOR TEACHES US ABOUT 21ST CENTURY PATENT PRACTICE and articles cited within, including Lawrence B. Ebert, Foreseeing a Not Obvious Future, INTELL. PROP. TODAY, Sept. 2004, at 34, 34–37 (discussing the history of the transistor), and Lawrence B. Ebert, Foreseeability and the Transistor, INTELL. PROP. TODAY, Oct. 2004, at 41
mentioning that Professor Holonyak wrote:

It is “untrue” (not the least correct) that the originators of the transistor foresaw
only hearing-aid applications. That is a totally naive thought-wrong to even
contemplate that scientists so ingenious as to devise a totally new amplifying and
switching element in a semiconductor, uncover an entirely new idea and device (in
a solid substance!) and then would be so limited and think it might have only one
application, only hearing aids. What a naive, ridiculous view! No first rate
scientist, or patent attorney drawing up claims, is that one dimensional. ]

In the meantime, Franklin's clever rejoinder is largely forgotten, but Professor Lemley is the most cited IP professor according to Dennis Crouch at Patently-O, who searched for the number of law review citations associated with each IP-professor using the Westlaw JLR database.

Within an article on Franklin, author Andrew Alden describes Franklin's approach to analysis of the
haze in the Northern Hemisphere in 1783:

All he knew was that this strange fog dimmed the sun, as measured by actual experiment. Nowadays scientists may lay claim to a speculative idea by slipping it into an unrelated paper, but that was not the style in Franklin's time.

One notes that in the Michigan State plagiarism business, one had an initial set of authors slipping their (arguably original) idea into their "review" article, only to have it taken by the referee, who placed the idea into her review article.


Plagiarism by Michigan State professor

The eruption that changed Iceland forever, discussing the Laki eruption of June 8, 1783. Benjamin Franklin had included the Icelandic eruption of 1783 in his thoughts about the haze.

**See Mark A. Lemley & R. Anthony Reese, Reducing Digital Copyright Infringement Without Restricting Innovation, 56 Stan. L. Rev. 1345 (2004)

n160. See, e.g., Richard R. Nelson & Sidney G. Winter, An Evolutionary Theory of Economic Change 130 (1982); AnnaLee Saxenian, Regional Advantage: Culture and Competition in Silicon Valley and Route 128 (1994); Carol
Haber, Electronic Breakthroughs: Big Picture Eludes Many, Electronic News, June 13, 1994, at 46 (detailing numerous examples of fundamental inventions that the inventor herself did not fully appreciate); Nathan Rosenberg, Factors Affecting
the Diffusion of Technology, 10 Explorations in Econ. Hist. 3 (1972). Among the inventors who did not recognize the potential of their ideas are Marconi, who expected the radio to be used only for point-to-point communications
rather than mass broadcast; the inventors of the transistor, who anticipated its use in hearing aids; and the inventors of the VCR, who anticipated it would only be used by television stations. Id.; cf. Michael A. Carrier, Unraveling the Patent-
Antitrust Paradox, 150 U. Pa. L. Rev. 761 (2002) (arguing that innovation should be the paramount concern in setting intellectual property policy, albeit in a different context).

**A further thought on innovation:

From the printing press to instant cameras, from pay-per-view to VCRs, pornographers -- both professional and private -- have been among the quickest to jump on board with newly developed gadgets.

The first public screening of a movie was in 1895. Less than two years later, Coopersmith notes, the first "adult" film was released.

"The classic example is the VCR," said Oliver Marc Hartwich, an economist and senior fellow with Centre for Independent Studies, a conservative Australian think tank. "When it was introduced, Hollywood was nervous because the big studios feared piracy. They were even considering suing the VCR producers.

"Not so the adult industry. They saw it as a big new market and seized the opportunity."

**Winter of 1780

While most people think the 1777-1778 Valley Forge encampment had a bad winter, in reality it was just an average winter. The following winter at Middlebrook [1778-1779] was mild. Weather historians agree that the Morristown winter of 1779-1780 was the worst winter of the 18th century.


Winter of 1779-1780: This winter was so cold that ice was piled 20 feet high along the Delmarva Coast and stayed there until spring! The upper portion of the Chesapeake Bay froze solid south to the mouth of the Potomac River. People were able to walk from Annapolis to Kent Island. Even sleighs and loaded vehicles made the crossing. Even the lower Virginia portion of the bay was frozen across. Jefferson noted that such an extensive freeze of the tidal waters had not been noted before including the hard winter of 1740-1741.

Winter of 1783-1784: This was considered "The Long Winter" and while not as cold as 1780, it lasted longer into the spring making it harder for some of the settlers. The winter was thought to have ranked near the top of the extremes for both cold and snow depth. It began with snow at Christmas and was followed by cold and more snow. Jefferson noted morning temperatures in Annapolis of around 0� for four consecutive days. Later in the month colder days occurred that were too cold to be registered by his thermometer. The prolong cold froze up the harbors and channels of the Chesapeake Bay. Baltimore Harbor was frozen up on January 2nd and did not reopen until March 25th and then only with the assistence of an ice cutter! The Bay was reported to have frozen nearly to its entrance. Many ships were lost from the ice.

Revolutionary Minds[Jefferson & Madison "revolution" against UK weather-monitoring practices]

**Daniel Fahrenheit proposed his scale in 1724. A mixture of ammonium chloride and ice form a frigorific mixture at -17.8 degrees Celsius or 0 degrees Fahrenheit. When salt is placed on ice when the ambient temperature is greater than −17.8 °C (0°F), then the salt melts some of the ice and the temperature drops to −17.8. Since the mixture is colder than the ambient, heat is absorbed and the temperature rises. This causes the salt to melt more of the ice to drive the temperature down again. The process continues until all of the salt is dissolved in the melted ice. If there is enough salt present, then all of the ice will be melted. [from wikipedia ]


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