Bloomberg Businessweek: World’s Largets Patent Troll Trys to Invent Stuff

The September 8 Issue of Bloomberg Businessweek has an article that describes the attempt by one of the world’s largest patent trolls to actually invent stuff. The company is Intellectual Ventures, which has been paid billions of dollars by tech companies (large and small) for alleged patent infringement. The patent troll is now using that money to actually fund attempts at real innovation.

The article describes the company’s Seattle lab facility. It is a 50,000 square foot facility with 170 scientists that have access to 8,000 different pieces of scientific equipment. The company seems to be having some success with its new lab. Inventions produced there include a small thermos-sized unit that can keep material cold for long periods without electricity.

The article says Intellectual Ventures has filed over 50 patent infringement lawsuits, but that returns on the patent licensing and patent settlement parts of its business have been a meager 2.5 percent. The company recently laid off staff members that work in the patent infringement part of its business.

Kotlin: New Static Programming Language for the JVM

I discovered Kotlin today. It is a new statically type programming language for the Java Virtual Machine. Kotlin is developed by the same company that makes the IntelliJ IDE.

I don’t have any immediate plans to try Kotlin, but from what I read it seems like a cool little programming language. It is too bad it doesn’t have built-in GUI support yet.

At any rate…I wanted to share a link to Kotlin with my blog readers.

Landon Blake

The Economist Magazine: 100 Year Old Pipeline Made Los Angeles Urban Growth Possible

The November 9, 2013 Issue of The Economist Magazine had an article about the 100 year anniversary of the Los Angeles Aqueduct. The 233 mile pipeline carries water from the Ownes Valley to the north tip of the San Fernando Valley. The pipeline made the huge growth in the Los Angeles basin possible. Thanks to water conservation efforts and use of the pipeline water to support the environment, the pipeline now accounts for just a 1/3 of the City’s water supply. Los Angeles now consumes less water per person than any other large American City.

This story is a good example of how Geography Matters, and highlights the important connection between urban growth and water supply in the American Southwest.

Landon Blake

Bloomberg Businessweek Magazine: Saving Elephants In Kenya With Drones and Google Earth

The November 4, 2013 Issue of Bloomberg Businessweek has an article about park rangers using drones and Google Earth to help save elephants in Kenya, where poaching is a serious problem. The rangers use radio collars with GPS to track important members of elephant herds, and then plot this information on Google Earth. When the herds get close to known locations of poachers, one of three drones is sent out to scare the animals in the other direction.

The article quotes James Hardy, the manager of Mara North Conservancy: “Drones are basically the future of conservation…A drone can do what 50 rangers can do.”

This is a great example of the application of GIS, drone technology, and actual decision making based on spatial data.

Landon Blake

Professional Surveyor Magazine: Doctor Ghilani Explains Variations In Gravity Planes and Defines “Datum”

The July 2013 Issue of Professional Surveyor Magazine has an article entitled “Defining Surfaces” By Charles Ghilani that teaches the common surveyor a bit of important geodesy. The article includes a great explanation of a basic reason why gravity planes, or equipotential surfaces vary as you move from the equator to the poles. The article says:

“The entire Earth is composed of an infinite number of gravitational surfaces. These surfaces are defined by their potential to do work and are known as equipotential surfaces; that is, these are surfaces that have an equal ability to do work. Work is defined as force times distance. In the case of the equipotential surfaces, the gravitational attraction applies the force, and the distance is defined as the distance of a point from the mass center of the Earth.

However, as we all know, the Earth rotates once a day. The centrifugal force caused by this rotation, shown as red arrows in Figure 2, works against the pull of gravity, which is shown as blue arrows. It is greatest at the equator and goes to zero at the pole, P. Additionally, as given by Newton’s universal law of gravitation, the force of gravity decreases with increasing distance between two objects.

Because the equatorial axis of the Earth is longer than the polar axis of the Earth, the force of gravity is greater at the poles than at the equator. This combined effect of the varying distances from the mass center of the Earth and the rotation of the Earth means that the force of gravity is less at the Equator than at either pole.

Because equipotential surfaces are defined by both force and distance, the distance between the equipotential surfaces must decrease as the force of gravity increases. Thus, the equipotential surfaces converge at the poles, which means they are closer at the poles than at the equator, as shown with the blue lines. These surfaces also undulate as the moon passes over the Earth and as densities of earth change in localities. (Instead of dieting you could simply go to the equator and stand on the highest mountain if you wish to weigh less! Mount Chimborazo in Ecuador might be a good choice.)”

The article also includes one of the simplest definitions of a geodetic datum that I’ve ever read:

“A datum is also called a reference frame because it is a framework of stations with coordinates related to the particular placement of the ellipsoid on the geoid. For example, modern reference frames are defined by the orientation of the polar axis and the position of the mass center of the Earth.”

There are other good geodetic tidbits in the article. Read it.

Landon Blake

APOGEO Magazine: Applications of GIS for Wildfire, Diamond Mining, and Wind Farms

The Summer 2013 Issue of APOGEO Magazine has multiple articles that highlight the application of GIS technology around the world. These articles include:

  1. An explanation of how GIS technology is used to manage wildfires in the United States. The article explains the phases of a wildfire that GIS can be used to manage and lists the data themes that are important in Wildfire GIS. It also talks about the types of sensors used to collect the data needed to support a Wildfire GIS.
  2. An article that shows how satellite imagery is used to track the location, size, and distribution of illegal diamond mines and mining activity in the alluvial deposits of Africa.
  3. An article that shows how wind farm planners use GIS to track long term studies of wind speed, direction, and duration on potential wind farms sites. It also describes the sonar/LIDAR technology that can be used to collect this wind data.

All of these are great examples of the application of GIS to real world challenges.

Landon Blake