"Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he."
-- Proverbs 29:18, King James Bible (KJV)

Monday, February 29, 2016

Nothing is Impossible, Even in Law, as U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thomas Breaks 10-Year Silence and Asks Questions During Oral Argument

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas shocked the American legal world on Monday by asking questions during oral argument. Robert Barnes has the story at the Washington Post in For first time in 10 years, Justice Clarence Thomas asks questions during an argument.

Monday was the first time that the Supreme Court had held oral arguments since the passage of Justice Antonin Scalia, whose Bench Chair was draped in black during the sessions.

Mark Walsh at SCOTUSblog explains the traditional black draping that traces back into the 19th century in Courtroom draping for Justice Scalia.

Despite the traditional honor that is accorded by the U.S. Supreme Court to a Justice who just passed, Scalia will remain a controversial figure among various factions, and one can read positive and negative about him, even from those who were his law clerks and perhaps knew him better than most. Many of the decisions of the Supreme Court in which Scalia was on a 5-4 majority still mark the American political and judicial landscape, for better or worse.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Drones, Laws and Safety: Aerial Drones Banned Without Specific Ski Area Owner Permission

Jeanette DeForge at MassLive.com headlines that Ski areas banning drones in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont unless an operator has specific permission from the ski area owners.

In our private discussions with recreational consumer drone enthusiasts, we have said from the very beginning that the law has been much too slow to adopt sensible regulations governing consumer drone use and operation, a delay which has led to unnecessary dangers and misunderstandings. In the U.S.A. alone, 700000 drones were sold last year. Rather than the laggards in Congress working to obstruct or to shut down the government, they should long ago have worked out comprehensive overall drone regulation legislation.

We think it is inevitable that drone operators in the future will have to obtain a government-defined drone use license and in the course of doing so will have to take a course in drone piloting and operation, including the obtaining of thorough knowledge of the dangers that drones can pose to individuals and to the public as well as a clear understanding of where drones can be operated and where not, and whether drone-made aerial photos and videos can or can not be published in print or posted online, and the extent of and reasons for any restrictions that are said to apply.

Ultimately, drone makers will have to install software and hardware that incorporates maps of no fly zones and makes it impossible for drones to enter such zones, e.g. airspace near airports, certain kinds of public and private property, etc.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Patent Wars at an End? Samsung Wins Final Federal Circuit Appeal Against Apple With Positive Ramifications for Android

LawPundit has posted for years about the obviousness of many of the patents erroneously granted by the USPTO to patent applicants, especially as regards patents involved in the infamous patent cases of the patent troll Apple, Inc. against Samsung. See Apple Inc. v. Samsung Electronics Co. for a summary of the patent war cases between Apple and Samsung.

The virtually last remnants of that string of cases have now been decided by the Federal Circuit (download the .pdf of the court opinion here) and, once again, we are gratified to see that we have been substantiated in almost all points of our own analysis on these patent war cases -- as one patent after another has fallen into the judicially-determined realm of "obvious, invalid", including the absurdly granted now invalid "bounce-back" and "pinch" patents.

We have been right in our analysis on almost all counts, contrary to what was generally posted online initially by others -- with few exceptions -- i.e. by the mainstream news media and by mainstream academics and bloggers.

We are further gratified to see that Kathleen Sullivan, former Dean of Stanford Law School -- our Law School alma mater -- now a partner at Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, LLP, New York, NY, argued the most recent case winningly for the defendant-appellants Samsung.

The Wikipedia writes that Sullivan is the "first and only woman name partner at an Am Law 100 law firm" and cites to Kalia, Jaishree (July 22, 2014). Women in law: Quinn Emanuel’s name partner Kathleen Sullivan and London MP Sue Prevezer QC talk diversity, Legal Business, retrieved July 6, 2010.

Without disputing that Sullivan could be the first and only female "name" partner at an Am Law 100 law firm -- we really do not know, it all depends on your definition -- there are of course other women partners of rank at law firms, and we do want to mention Judith R. Thoyer here, who was at Paul, Weiss when we are an associate at the firm. Thoyer is now "Of Counsel" to Paul, Weiss after having headed the firm's big-time Mergers & Acquisitions Group (M&A). She is surely entitled to a pioneer status!

We must admit that we were somewhat surprised by the wholesale Federal Circuit ruling in favor of Samsung here, given past Federal Circuit patent-happy decision-making. Indeed, we have roundly criticized the Federal Circuit and its judges on many occasions in our postings for their failure to either properly understand or apply patent law -- witnessed by the many U.S. Supreme Court reversals of their decisions, so we hope that this eminently sensible decision is a landmark turning-point for the present Federal Circuit.

The final resolution of these many cases almost totally against Apple, Inc. also brings a sigh of relief to the rest of the high tech community, especially the makers of Android phones faced with the prospect of Apple, Inc. patent trolling about patents now deemed correctly to be obvious and invalid.

The case was argued before Chief Judge Prost, Circuit Judge Dyk and Circuit Judge Reyna, with Judge Dyk writing the opinion in the case. The court holding is a total washout for Apple, Inc., as well it should be, and as the court opinion writes:
"In conclusion, we reverse the district court’s judgment of infringement of the ’647 patent and the judgment of no invalidity with respect to obviousness of the ’721 patent and the ’172 patent.  Samsung was entitled to a judgment of non-infringement of the ’647 patent and a judgment of invalidity as to the ’721 and ’172 patents.  We affirm the judgment of non-infringement of Apple’s ’959 patent, Apple’s ’414 patent, and Samsung’s ’239 patent and affirm the judgment of infringement of Samsung’s ’449 patent.  In light of these holdings, we find that we need not address any of the other issues on appeal.
Apple, Inc. could try to appeal this holding to the U.S. Supreme Court, but, in our opinion, that would be a colossal waste of time for everyone, because it should have become clear to the entire legal community by now that the foregoing patent wars -- as the current purportedly "free speech" smartphone unlocking wars -- are part of the Apple firm's marketing strategy to sell their range of products -- made overseas --to the American public at vastly inflated prices and for commercial profit -- revenues largely not taxed in America but parked in offshore accounts, much to the detriment of the U.S. Treasury.

Judge Learned Hand once penciled to his colleague Judge Clark about the latter's failure to understand why Hand spent so much time in sifting precedents before over-ruling a case (I paraphrase), "it is essential for the law to do this, but you will never learn this from me, never from me!" (I saw that handwritten notice -- without my then copying the actual text -- in a marginal note by Hand to Clark in the papers of the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals during the time that I was the student assistant to Professor Herbert Packer at Stanford and responsible for the task of sorting and indexing the papers.)

So it is with the patent system. There has for years been good reason for the juridical results we are finally seeing in the patent troll cases, but most of the rest of the legal community will never learn this from me, never from me!

Friday, February 26, 2016

Flawed Defense Logic in the Apple-FBI Phone Unlock Case Using the Analogy of Safe Deposit Boxes

A locked phone is directly comparable to a bank safe deposit box in a vault, except that in the former case the "key" is electronic and in the latter case the "key" is physical.

In the case of a safe deposit box, entry to the locked inner vault as well as to the user's safe deposit box is protected by pairs of keys -- the bank has one key and the depositor has the other key. Neither the inner vault nor the safe deposit box can be opened unless both pairs of keys are turned at the same time.

In the case of a locked phone, entry to various phone levels can be protected by encryption and passwords, which function as electronic keys, i.e. they are "keys" just as in the case of bank safe deposit boxes in vaults.

The phone has one key -- i.e. it contains stored the key required to unlock the phone -- and the user has the other key, i.e. the password to be entered to match the one recorded on the phone. When there is a match of keys, the phone can be unlocked, just as the vault and safe deposit box can be opened.

In law, there is absolutely no question -- and it is a settled legal matter -- that bank safe deposit boxes can be forced to be opened via a search warrant, even if it involves the use of "brute force", i.e. "boring" the box. Failure of a bank to abide by a court order or informing the depositor of the search prior to its making could result in the banker being put in jail for obstruction of justice. See, for example, Search Warrants - American Safe Deposit Services.

The argument is therefore flawed that there is or should be a legal difference between a physical bank safe deposit box and a physical locked phone that one has probable cause to believe contains evidence of a crime. The only real difference between the two is that the key in one case is a physical key and in the other case the key is an electronic key consisting of "characters" (which nevertheless must be "physically" received by the phone to be operational).

Modern bank vaults, safe deposit boxes or digital vaults that operate on the basis of electronic passwords rather than old-fashioned physical keys do not therefore somehow become less searchable by law enforcement agencies than they were under preceding non-digital technology.

Quite the contrary, most banks have a policy not to issue safe deposit boxes to known criminals. That is an added screening protection of the public.

In the case of smartphones, the phones are sold to anyone, and there is no prior screening protection of the public at all.

In other words, the case for legally permitting the unimpeded search of smartphones via a search warrant is greater than in the case of bank safe deposit boxes, where an initial screening is conducted, not so with phones.

Forcing a bank via a search warrant to open its vaults and to permit "brute force" opening of safe deposit boxes is no different legally than forcing the unlocking a smartphone. In both cases, more may be found in either the safe deposit box or on the phone than is covered by the search warrant, because vaults and phones are ubiquitous in their facility for containing things, and can and do contain many things. This is not the fault of law enforcement.

The argument that forcing a phone-maker to unlock a phone is a violation of free speech is equally flawed. The settled law is that a banker can not implement "NO" if the search warrant to open a safe deposit box says he must implement "YES". That is not an issue of free speech. The banker can SAY what he wants. The banker, however, must DO what is required to open the vaults and safe deposit boxes of his bank if the court-ordered search warrant requires it.

The same is true for digital vaults in whatever shape or form, including encrypted materials protected by passwords on phones. Company executives are free to SAY whatever their opinion may be about the law -- that is free speech, but they must DO what the court order tells them to unlock phones that have been locked by technology they have devised and which otherwise commit the crime of the obstruction of justice by intentionally hiding and/or destroying evidence according to the so-intended design of the phone-maker.

President Barack Obama Writes a Guest Posting About the Impending Supreme Court Justice Nomination at the SCOTUSblog : Where Can A Nominee With Those Qualifications be Found?

We live in a world of many divergent paths and opinions.

President Barack Obama has written a guest posting at the SCOTUSblog
(SCOTUS stands for Supreme Court of the United States)
under the title,
A Responsibility I Take Seriously.

Given the current battle lines drawn by the obstructing and divergent Senate Judiciary Committee as being unprepared to even hold hearings on ANY new Supreme Court nomination during President Obama's remaining term as President of the United States, it will be quite interesting to see who the nominee will be.

There is a mile of difference between qualifications that President Obama lists in his guest posting for the prospective nominee and the political maelstrom that the nominee will be thrown into once the nomination is made.

President Obama appears to be seeking a benevolent more-or-less liberal soul, but what he needs to nominate is a legal field marshal.

You cannot just throw a normal federal judge or a young U.S. Attorney General to a den of wolves, a political reality which reduces any possible "short list" to maybe one or two persons, not more, and we can think of only one.

The person nominated must be ABOVE the crowd, and must -- in the eyes of the world -- stand ABOVE the political obstructionists.

We are convinced that the only truly brilliant nomination at the present time would be Richard A. Posner, because it would give President Obama the upper hand, an upper hand which would remain intact during his last year as U.S. President, regardless of what the Senate Judiciary Committee did or did not do, and regardless of whether the Senate confirmed Posner or not, or when.

Posner stands ABOVE the Senate, clearly, in terms of his "legal standing". He is a nominee to respect, both by liberal and conservative elements, because he is a judge's judge, the way a judge should be, but seldom is.

All the other prospective candidates that are discussed, e.g. by Tom Goldstein at SCOTUSblog in How the politics of the next nomination will play out, would be caught in a political war for which none of them seems prepared, nor do they have the requisite legal RANK to emerge unscathed. We do not think that any of them has the clout to move the present stalemate one inch.

After all, the prospective candidates are mostly judges, not field marshals.

But a juridical field marshal may well be required to win this particular political war.

Only Richard A. Posner fits that bill, as the most cited jurist of all time -- a real legal field marshal, self-admittedly a political conservative, and yet not a man of judicial dogma, but rather, of common sense, who can be difficult to predict, because he applies the LAW, as a judge should do. Any nomination of a lesser-ranking person, must, by definition, be regarded as a "political" nomination, in which case the political stalemate will not be lifted.

Posner has just published a new book which is well worth a read in terms of understanding the demands faced by modern judges. See Richard A. Posner, Divergent Paths: The Academy and the Judiciary, published this January, 2016 by Harvard University Press, to which this abstract summary is found at the Harvard University Press site:
"Judges and legal scholars talk past one another, if they have any conversation at all. Academics couch their criticisms of judicial decisions in theoretical terms, which leads many judges—at the risk of intellectual stagnation—to dismiss most academic discourse as opaque and divorced from reality. In Divergent Paths, Richard Posner turns his attention to this widening gap within the legal profession, reflecting on its causes and consequences and asking what can be done to close or at least narrow it.

The shortcomings of academic legal analysis are real, but they cannot disguise the fact that the modern judiciary has several serious deficiencies that academic research and teaching could help to solve or alleviate. In U.S. federal courts, which is the focus of Posner’s analysis of the judicial path, judges confront ever more difficult cases, many involving complex and arcane scientific and technological distinctions, yet continue to be wedded to legal traditions sometimes centuries old. Posner asks how legal education can be made less theory-driven and more compatible with the present and future demands of judging and lawyering.

Law schools, he points out, have great potential to promote much-needed improvements in the judiciary, but doing so will require significant changes in curriculum, hiring policy, and methods of educating future judges. If law schools start to focus more on practical problems facing the American legal system rather than on debating its theoretical failures, the gulf separating the academy and the judiciary will narrow."
P.S. This is not a paid ad regarding the above book but rather the opinion of the writer of this posting. We do not know Judge Posner personally and there is no guarantee at all if we would even like him if we met him, but that is not the point. What is required now is to find the best man PROFESSIONALLY for the job, and he appears to be it. We posted about this topic previously at:

Thursday, February 25, 2016

LinkedIn Improved With its More Interactive Graphic Interface but Needs Better Inter-Page Linkage Connectivity

We are a bit late on this but refer to Kia Kokalitcheva (@imkialikethecar at Twitter- "i'm kia like the car") at Fortune Magazine 
in Is LinkedIn's Mobile App Redesign Too Little, Too Late?

We have not used LinkedIn much in past months and were thus surprised today to find that LinkedIn has a new -- and to our way of thinking -- much better interactive graphic interface that now shares some of the more popular intuitive aspects of other social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

LinkedIn still needs to improve the PC desktop version (we are not fans of blindered mobile interfaces) for better inter-page connectivity so that the user is not having to guess where to find the various pages. Simple is best. Just put links to everything in the left column, where there is room. User mobility on a website is important.

We use ClassicShell for Windows because we do not have time to click through all the useless time-wasters in the Windows 10 interface. Time is money. Make things QUICK, EASILY ACCESSIBLE and INTUITIVELY RIGHT.

Put yourself in the place of the USER and what the USER wants to do: e.g. update his or her profile, post material to a given page, post a job offer, look for a job offer, look for new connections, look for an existing connection, etc.

All of that and more -- i.e. what the USER wants -- should be just one click away, no more. A social media presence should not be a hunt and peck exercise.

Drop down menus for accessing essential features if they are placed at the edges of pages is counter-productive timewise and location-wise. Calculate "mouse miles" and reduce them. Why should the user get carpal tunnel syndrome because of bad interface design?

Librarian Carla Hayden Nominated by President Obama as New Head of the Library of Congress

Who runs the world? Well, in the background, it is obviously the librarians!

Carla Hayden was just nominated by President Obama to be the nation's top librarian as the head of the Library of Congress.

See the article at NPR by Elizabeth Blair in Obama Nominates Carla Hayden To Lead Library Of Congress.

Hayden would be the first woman and first black to hold the position.

We intentionally avoid the term "African-American" used in many sources for the same reason that we do not speak of "European-Americans".

Everybody in America came from somewhere else, even the so-called "Native-Americans", the now so-called "First Peoples" in North America, who came via Siberia.

There is also the presence of haplogroup X both in North America and Europe, which could be an even older "Caucasian" migration from what we today call Europe ("Old Caucasian"-Americans?). See Brown et al., mtDNA Haplogroup X: An Ancient Link between Europe/Western Asia and North America?, The American Journal of Human Genetics (AJHG), Volume 63, Issue 6, December 1998, Pages 1852–1861.

Even the use  simply of the label "American" to apply only to the United States has been rightfully challenged by some living elsewhere in North America, Central America or South America.

Using such labels of presumed or even present origin is simply misleading.

In fact, such imprecise labels of origin can be regarded as hidden forms of racial profiling. We think there are at best the people of the United States, a unified nation, ideally regardless of race, gender, origin or personal creed. In trying to force equality, one is often unconsciously emphasizing inequality.

Alva Noë writes at NPR in DNA, Genealogy And The Search For Who We Are:
"And then, there's this tidbit, courtesy of Mark G. Thomas and his friends at University College London: It can be demonstrated that 5,000 years ago everybody alive was either the common ancestor of everyone alive today, or the common ancestor of no one. Thomas captures the startling upshot of this fact: "At this point in history we all share exactly the same set of ancestors.""

May the most competent person for the job -- in our modern world -- win.

Ask your local librarian for resources on this and related issues!

High Price of Academic Journals and Cutbacks by Libraries Leads to Copyright Infringing Open Access Alternatives

ACI reports on a new problem facing academic research, namely, that Expensive Journals Drive Academics To Break Copyright Law. As written there:
"A new pirate website called Sci-Hub [in Russia] allows free access to academic journals behind paywalls. Heather Joseph, an advocate for legal open access, explains the situation to Linda Wertheimer..."
Registration is required at ACI to access the above explanation.

Hat tip to "ACI Focus Posts: Select Posts from the ACI Team" at http://aci.info/.

Judge Richard Posner Suggested by Law Prof Michael J. Broyde as Nominee for SCOTUS Seat Now Vacant by Passage of Justice Scalia

Law Professor Michael J. Broyde suggests Judge Richard Posner as the right nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court seat vacated by the passage of Justice Scalia. We agree.

See CNN at Here's who should replace Antonin Scalia.

Hat tip to CaryGEE.

GOP Has Greatly Mismanaged the Scalia Supreme Court Vacancy

Robert Schlesinger at US News in The GOP Is Blowing the Scalia Supreme Court Vacancy has it right in writing:
"They bungled the politics of this, possibly quite badly."
Read the whole thing.

What if Obama Nominated Conservative Judge Richard Posner, Most Cited Judge of Our Era, to the U.S. Supreme Court?

The battle lines have been drawn.
Obama has said that he will abide by his Constitutional duty and will send a nomination to Congress for Constitutionally required Congressional "advise and consent" to fill the position vacated by the passing of Justice Scalia.
All 11 of the Republican Party members of the Judiciary Committee have grouped together in a joint extreme right-wing refusal to do their job. They not only reject doing their Constitutional duty to vote on the nomination, but say that they will ignore the nominee, period. The US News headline reads: Senate GOP: ‘No Hearings, No Vote’ on Supreme Court Nominee. We call that very bad manners, among other things, quite apart from neglect of the call of duty.

Such a decision by those GOP Senate members also flies fully against the majority wishes of the American people. As noted in that same article:
"A Pew Research Center survey found 56 percent in favor of holding a hearing, compared to 38 percent who said the nomination should be the responsibility of the next president. And 62 percent of respondents in a Fox News poll said current leaders should “take action to fill the vacancy now,” compared to 34 percent who felt the president “shouldn’t get to nominate someone for a lifetime appointment … this late in his term.”"
In our opinion, this would be a nice time for President Obama to nominate the conservative but juridically completely unassailable Judge Richard Posner, the most cited American legal scholar and jurist of our era, a President Reagan appointment to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, who has been passed over in previous Supreme Court nominations, and who in recent years has said that:
"I've become less conservative since the Republican Party started becoming goofy."
For that quotation read Nina Totenberg at NPR in Federal Judge Richard Posner: The GOP Has Made Me Less Conservative.

Sadly, the above fabulously imaginable scenario of a Posner nomination is very unlikely to happen because, as headlined by Debra Cassens Weiss at the ABA Journal, Posner has "absolutely no desire" to join SCOTUS (acronym for "Supreme Court of the United States").

Posner has previously been quoted as saying:
"“First, I’m too old,” Posner said. “I’m 74 [that was in 2013] and they don’t appoint people my age.... ”I don’t think it’s a real court. I think of it as basically … it’s like a House of Lords. It’s a quasi-political body. President, Senate, House of Representatives, Supreme Court. It’s very political."
Under the present "political" circumstances, however, Posner might just be the right man to put in the limelight as a Supreme Court Justice nominee, which might help greatly by the ensuing public discussion to bring people in America back to a saner view of the basic requirements of their political system as inscribed in the Constitution. We imagine that Posner would make legal mincemeat out of the present Senate Judiciary Committee position.

The people of America need to learn that Supreme Court Justices should not be political puppets of special interests in Congress. Rather, their job is to uphold the Constitution of the United States, politics notwithstanding.

Of course, if President Obama were to nominate someone who is quite clearly a "political" left-leaning nomination, then he will only add flames to the fire. Plus, what potential candidate would want to be put into that conflagration. Hence, Obama would be well-advised to nominate someone whose conservatism is unquestioned. Posner would be just the man.

With Posner as the nominee, the Judiciary Committee would be hard pressed to stick to their "no hearings, no vote" position. They could not be THAT stupid -- but we have been wrong before, and this seems to be a very "goofy" group of Senators.

Ultimately, maybe this "Group of 11" would just sail off into the sunset, having lost face completely. America would not be the worse off for it.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Yuneec Typhoon H with Sonar Upcoming, Can Already Be Ordered in Germany for Delivery in April

Things have moved faster than we expected with Yuneec's sonar drone.

The Yuneec Typhoon H consumer drone with sonar is upcoming in the drone universe. See the video at Yuneec Typhoon H.

Amazon.de in Germany has the option to pre-order the Yuneec Typhoon H for expected delivery in April at a price of €1799, but nothing comparable was found yet at Amazon.com.

Addendum: We found three versions of the Yuneec Typhoon H being offered on a pre-order basis at Drohnenstore24.de, with the highest price at €2199 and the lowest at  €1499.

The above are not paid-for ads, but merely information.

Intel Acquisition of German Pro Drone Manufacturer Ascending Technologies (AscTec) and Investment in Chinese Consumer Drone Manufacturer Yuneec International brings "Real Sense" Tech to the Drone Universe

You may wonder what we are doing posting so much about drones -- but drone technology will be an integral part of the world of the future and it is coming sooner than you think, once the legal and regulatory aspects have been settled.

Intel (R) "Real Sense" (TM) Technology is the new kid on the block and it is spectacular for what it will be bringing to the drone universe in terms of  "Real Sense" cameras combined with Intel CPU computing power.

See CNET Gadget News and the article by Carrie Mihalcik at Intel wants to do for drones what it did for PCs: The chipmaker acquires German drone company Ascending Technologies as it expands to technology beyond the PC. "AscTec" is a maker of high-tech drones for professional use.

See the CES 2016 video of Intel CEO Brian Krzanich showing an intelligent professional AscTec drone outfitted with Intel's "Real Sense" technology in action, especially at the end in navigating through a thick forest. See video.

Intel has also invested in consumer drone manufacturer Yuneec (pronounced "unique") in China, a Chinese aircraft manufacturer with a futuristic not yet released "intelligent" CES-exhibited Yuneec drone that incorporates Intel's "Real Sense" technology into its drone camera and navigation system and can, for example, navigate around trees and other objects. See the video.

The release date of this drone technology to the consumer public is unknown, but we imagine that this new Yuneec will initially be quite pricey, so that the recently released Yuneec Typhoon Q500 4k quadrotor vz. quadcopter and variants of that drone still look good to us in terms of being DJI competitors.

Be that as it may, Intel's involvement seems destined to propel Yuneec into a "unique" position in drone manufacture very soon down the road.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Will Eero Revolutionize Wi-Fi Networking by Providing Consistent Fast Connections Throughout the Home? A Glowing Review at Fortune Magazine by Eero Tester Jason Cipriani

Eero came on the scene as a start-up one year ago, claiming it had found a way to fix home networking Wi-Fi connectivity problems and to provide consistent (fast) connections in the home.

However, the right build took time.
Now, one year later, Eero has gone on stage.

Eero started shipping today, February 23, 2016,
filling orders in part made already a year ago by early adopters.

Jason Cipriani (@MrCippy), consumer tech writer at Fortune magazine, has a glowing review of Eero, which he installed for testing a week ago.

See Review: Eero Is the Future of Home Networking - Fortune.

Cipriani says it works for him. Take a look.

Five Things to Know Before You Buy a Drone

MyFirstDrone has a very helpful and potentially USEFUL piece for buyers on
5 Things You Should Know Before You Buy a Drone.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Buying a Quadcopter Drone or Similar? MyFirstDrone Has an Updated List of Best Drones

Looking to buy your first drone and need to know where to start? Korey Smith at MyFirstDrone has an updated February 2016 List of Best Drones For Sale.

Legal Aspects of FPV Drone Flight vs. Line-of-Sight Drone Flying

Mark LaFay in Drone Flight Modes For Dummies has a take on the legal difference in the United States between "line-of-sight" drone flying and "first person view" (FPV) drone flying using a camera and a viewing screen to (help) pilot a drone.

LaFay writes that: "The FAA hasn’t placed an official ban on FPV flying, but the law specifically says that if you are hobby flying, you must fly line-of-sight. That said, if your drone offers FPV flight mode and you want to limit your risk of potentially getting busted, you should fly out in the middle of nowhere."

As regards specific laws and regulations applicable to drones in the U.S.A., we refer to a professional view at Current U.S. Drone Law by Peter Sachs at the Drone Law Journal and to our previous LawPundit posting at FAA Announces Mandatory Drone Registration Effective Virtually Immediately ! Get it Done !

The restricted legal status of FPV flying explains in part why "FPV drones" are less frequently offered commercially (for now) than "line-of-sight drones".

Two other reasons for the dominance of line-of-sight drones on the market is of course that FPV camera drones are much more expensive and because the added weight of a proper camera and apparatus cuts down on flying time.

Persons such as myself are, however, not so interested in having a camera on board to help "pilot" the drone as such -- as opposed to using line-of sight for general piloting.

However, we ARE interested in using a camera-enabled FPV drone to better place it in the air in order to make aerial photographs of ancient megalithic or other very old archaeological sites from directly above the megaliths, mounds, earthworks, etc.

Our pre-drone-era models in that regard are some books about prehistoric Britain from the air, which used photographs made from other flight vehicles other than drones. There is much to be done here now in the drone era as regards, e.g. megalithic sites. It is a new aspect in archaeological-type work.

The Wine World Loses a Legend as Peter Mondavi Passes Away at Age 101

Had a glass of wine recently?

Then this obituary should be of interest to you, about the man who, among many other innovations he brought to the U.S. wine business, also brought Pinot Noir and Chardonnay to Napa Valley.

The Drinks Business has the story at
Napa ‘legend’ Peter Mondavi Sr dies aged 101.

Hat tip to CaryGEE.

Jerome A. Cohen of NYU Law School Asks Whether Ideology is Trumping Law in China and Creating a Crisis for China's Legal System

At ForeignPolicy.com, NYU Law School's Jerome A. Cohen writes that there is a A Looming Crisis for China’s Legal System in the offing.

This is a very interesting read because Cohen also summarizes the great advances that the Chinese legal system has made in recent decades.

As Cohen writes:
"Since 1979, despite political changes and sometimes harsh repression, China has witnessed the construction of a comprehensive legal system....

Judicial reform is one of the main challenges now confronting Chinese President Xi Jinping. Despite his emphasis on “rule of law,” Xi wants local courts reliably to submit to the discipline of the central party and judicial officials.
Our question of course is whether that is really any markedly different from the political "Party" meddling taking place in the United States as regards the upcoming nomination of a new Justice to the U.S. Supreme Court to fill the seat vacated by the passage of Justice Scalia.

China is Buying Up Foreign Companies and More: As Goes Wentworth, So Goes the World?

We read at Business Insider via an article by Portia Crowe that
China is buying up American companies fast, and it's freaking people out.

Well, the Chinese have the money to do so.
That's capitalism.

The problem of capitalism, however, is that
whoever has the money, usually calls the shots (somewhere along the line).

As a golfer, we read with interest in this connection about the consequences of a fairly recent sale of the famed professional golf venue, Wentworth Golf Club, the most expensive in the United Kingdom, to a Chinese conglomerate.

Those kinds of cultural and financial clashes mean trouble down the road.

Hat tip to CaryGEE.

Frank Bruni at the NY Times Asks: "Is There Any Stopping Donald Trump?"

Regardless of how you stand politically, Frank Bruni has a marvelous piece of writing at the New York Times at Is There Any Stopping Donald Trump?

Hat tip to CaryGEE.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch Could Be Obama's U.S. Supreme Court Nominee in a Checkmate Move

Queen to ... "you name it". CHECK!

Politics is a bit like chess, even to a political centrist such as ourselves.

At CNBC's NBC News, Corky Siemaszko headlines that Scalia's replacement likely to be Loretta Lynch.

Loretta Lynch is the current U.S. Attorney General and a career prosecutor, so that if she turns out to be Obama's U.S. Supreme Court nomination to replace Justice Antonin Scalia, it will be difficult for conservatives to cast her as a liberal.

Moreover, in this Presidential election year such a nomination would probably be a brilliant political chess move.

Loretta Lynch, as a woman and black, would put conservative Republicans in dire straits in trying to oppose or delay her confirmation in any way, otherwise giving the Democratic Party Presidential candidate strong ammunition to take away many black and women's votes from the Republican Party candidate.

Besides, Lynch has already and recently endured a 166-day delay in being confirmed as the U.S. Attorney General. What more can Congress ask her?

Here is what Emily Bazelon at Vogue magazine wrote in Loretta Lynch’s Tenure as Attorney General Is off to a Dramatic Start:
"After President Obama selected her last November, she waited more than five months to be confirmed, longer than the seven previous nominees for the job combined. Lynch’s record was never the problem: At 56, she’d done two stints as U.S. attorney in Brooklyn for New York’s Eastern District, where she was well liked and oversaw major terrorism, Mafia, and public-corruption prosecutions. Republicans approved of the fact that she had no personal ties to the president—and yet Lynch found herself in Washington’s version of purgatory, as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell held up her nomination in an effort to wring concessions from Democrats on immigration and abortion."
There was no excuse for such a prolonged delay then, and even less now.

Are the conservatives now going to try to take on, e.g. the readers of Vogue magazine, i.e. "the woman's world", not even speaking about politics?

With Hillary Clinton as the likely Democratic Party Presidential candidate, a woman who also has much black support, it would not be very smart.

To put this all into a man's language. Checkmate.

Donald Trump Must Now Battle GOP Establishment Financial Giants to Win the Party Nomination

Anyone who thinks that Donald Trump has an easy path in front of him to obtain the Republican Party Presidential nomination should take a look at Kenneth P. Vogel's posting at Politico.com in Larry Ellison gives another $1 million to boost Marco Rubio.

The name of Larry Ellison is surely well known by most, but what about some of the other names mentioned in that article. Who are they?

Looking at those names, we can see that after Trump's strong victory in South Carolina, he will increasingly be battling some of the financial giants of the Grand Old Party (GOP) and the super PAC supporting Marco Rubio's presidential campaign, Conservative Solutions PAC at http://conservativesolutionspac.com/.

Here are some of those names:
  • Rich DeVos, born March 4, 1926, Amway founder - now Alticor, Orlando Magic owner, once among top 10 richest people in the USA, former GOP financial chairman, Grand Valley State donor)
  • Sheldon Gary Adelson, born August 4, 1933 (Las Vegas magnate, 18th richest person in the world)
  • The Koch brothers. Charles G. Koch November 1, 1935 (Koch Industries, 2nd largest U.S. conglomerate, 9th richest person in the world) and brother David Koch May 3, 1940 (tied at 9th richest person in the world with brother Charles)
  • Larry Ellison August 17, 1944 (head of Oracle, 3rd richest in US, 5th richest person worldwide)
  • Harlan Crow January 1, 1949 (father was biggest U.S. real estate landlord)
  • not a Rubio supporter is clearly
    Michael Bloomberg, born February 14, 1942 (8th wealthiest person in the world -- Bloomberg is not a Rubio supporter, rather Rubio is quoted as saying that Bloomberg is - "just a private citizen that owns a big company". Indeed, Bloomberg has been thought to be considering running for the Presidency himself)
Those are the realities. Money talks, any way you look at it, and regardless of your political persuasion, it will be interesting to see how all this develops.

How to Get Rich? 25 Top Hedge Fund Managers Earn More than Top 500 CEOs

Want to get rich? Are you in the right field and in the right position?

At Forbes, Robert Lenzner in a somewhat dated but surely still "current" article, writes that The Top 25 Hedge Fund Managers Earn More Than All the 500 Top CEOs Together.

And, we might add, those CEOs are already vastly overpaid.

Why does society permit these gross inequalities and what does it gain us?

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Donald Trump Has it Right and Calls for a Boycott of Apple Products

Donald Trump Calls for Boycott of Apple in Dispute With Government is the headline at the New York Times.

Trump is an Apple and Samsung user but says he will ditch Apple if they do not get this national security matter right.

We note that the choice of wording of the New York Times headline above is a good example of what we call "twisted journalism".

This is not an Apple "dispute" with the government.

Rather, it is the failure of Apple, Inc. to abide by a court order, which Apple thinks it is big enough to pull off under the theory that different rules apply to them than to normal citizens, and indeed, they have called on a bunch of high-priced legal hired guns to help them with the dirty work. They have plenty of money for that, but none for the cause of national security.

At the same time, the increasingly weak Obama administration -- for which our respect has plummeted in recent years because of its timid leadership -- has already narrowed down their request to eliminate any possible blanket data intrusion dangers to anyone. See US Would Let Apple Keep Software to Help FBI Hack iPhone. See also our previous posting on New York Times Editorial Board Wrong Once Again As Regards Apple, Inc. Failure to Abide by Court Order, in which we previously raised some of the points found there.

Sane users realize that they are not important enough to be subjected to surveillance and that the odds that normal citizens have anything to fear from government "hacking" of their electronics is next to zero. Surveillance is directed toward criminal activities, and well it should be.

During my Stanford Law School days, I was the assistant, prior to his untimely passage, to Herbert Packer, author of The Criminal Sanction, who saw criminal law as the tension between law enforcement needs (the "crime control" model) and civil rights considerations (the "due process" model). This conflict is nothing new. The Apple case really raises no great new issues, contrary to the mainstream media presentation of the case. There is apt precedent.

Several sources online have pointed out that about 70 phone hacking requests by the government on the basis of the All Writs Act have been carried out since 2008 (about 10 cases a year). Why Apple is now refusing to comply is anyone's guess, but at 10 cases a year, the odds that any U.S. inhabitant's privacy could be "intruded" in any given year is 10 divided by 300 million, i.e. 1 in 30 million, or, if you take the world's population, 10 divided by 7 billion, or 1 in 700 million.

TechCrunch has a totally misleading article at No, Apple Has Not Unlocked 70 iPhones For Law Enforcement, trying to make a big deal out of the difference between Apple "extracting data" from a phone as opposed to "unlocking" a phone, a distinction which we see as having zero legal relevance. The fact is that the All Writs Act has been used for many years, and very sparingly so by the government, to force the hacking of a specific phone, in our view a quite legitimate law enforcement interest.

That such an outcry about the invasion of civil rights has been raised can be attributable to the fact that mainstream media mostly have nothing more sensible to do than to stir up trouble about marginal issues of society, rather than concentrating on modern problems and their solutions.

The phone in question belongs to an employer who has assented to that hacking, so it is not the phone owner who feels threatened in its civil liberties but rather the phone manufacturer who sees a threat to its sale, or, more correctly in the case of Apple, who manufacture nothing, it is a phone marketing conglomerate that is raising civil rights issues for purely commercial reasons, without any concern for the nation's security interests.

Indeed, it is in fact quite possible that even if the phone in question here would be hacked, that nothing of any value will be found. Hence, this could all just be a tempest in a teapot (American English) viz. storm in a teacup (British English version), or as Shakespeare (Christopher Marlowe) wrote, all "sound and fury, signifying nothing".

The only people who stand to reap a profit from their refusal to carry out the court order are a few executives and stockholders at Apple, for whom this is all free advertising and more money in the bank. The rest of the world gains nothing, and stands to lose a lot, if national security is actually at stake.

We might add that making Apple executives civil rights heroes in this case has to be about the most ridiculous thing we have heard in a long time. A tough prosecutor might indeed charge them with "obstruction of justice", because a phone that can not be unencrypted without the direct help of the commercial enterprises who markets it, and who refuses to unlock such a phone, is therefore a phone intentionally designed and made "to alter, conceal and/or destroy physical evidence", and that is the material test of the obstruction of justice charge. Not heroes, but candidates for jail.

Addendum: The jail option was discussed at CNN Money in Apple's next move in its privacy fight against the FBI, concentrating there, however, on the idea that Apple could be held in contempt of court for non-compliance with a court order, noting that the person who would be jailed in such a case would be the one who makes the ultimate decision not to comply with the court order.

Friday, February 19, 2016

New York Times Editorial Board Wrong Once Again As Regards Apple, Inc. Failure to Abide by Court Order

What is it about the current New York Times Editorial Board that they sometimes seem so demonstrably misguided in their main editorials?

What has happened to the common sense of this group?

They have done it again in their editorial about Why Apple Is Right to Challenge an Order to Help the F.B.I.

One of the reasons that we do not subscribe to the NY Times is because we do not want to support this kind of errant thinking and surely well-meaning but clearly misguided newspaper publishing and editorializing.

What is the argumentative basis for the editorial? Is there any?!

In fact, the Editorial Board has a very weak position in thinking that it is UNREASONABLE to require Apple, Inc. to abide by the court order. The Editorial Board alleges that it would place an undue BURDEN on the giant commercial profit-making company that is rolling in cash.

Really? a BURDEN? More unreasonable than when the government compels a normal citizen to do any number of things ? that we do not list here, because everyone knows good examples of government compulsion.

Are the big guys exempt from obeying court orders? Not in our book.

We have read over past years in the mainstream media that Apple has more cash in the bank than even the U.S. federal government, which is no surprise. Apple pays virtually no domestic taxes, exploits labor overseas which would be contrary to child and other labor laws in the USA and stores its profits overseas, so that taxes do not have to be paid into the U.S. Treasury. Rather, the company is systematically plundering the nation.

All of that has not prohibited Apple at the same time from shamelessly using American legal infrastructure profusely to further its own profit-making ends, a costly endeavor paid for by your average and we think quite clueless taxpayer.

Just what "unreasonable" BURDEN is the Editorial Board talking about?

In fact, the editorial board has NO IDEA AT ALL how easy or difficult it would be for Apple, Inc. to abide by the court order, a fact which does not keep the writers of the editorial from engaging in all kinds of idle speculation about what Apple would have to do to abide by the court's order.


We think it very likely that Apple already has the technical means and knowledge on hand to obey the court order virtually immediately, but they refuse to do so, for greedy profit-making motives, that is all.

People do not sincerely think that companies on the scale of Apple, Inc. devise encryption methods that even they themselves do not know how to break, and even to accomplish that quickly. They know its ins and outs.

Obviously, any encryption method has to be tested thoroughly by a company before it is implemented. They know where and how to bypass the encryption, if necessary. There is always a back door -- in case something goes wrong, and a back door has to exist during software and hardware development, otherwise they would lock themselves out and could not finish the project.

Why not ask point blank just how much time it would take to comply with the court order and what it would cost -- with an honest answer demanded, and with perjury as the penalty for lying.

An "unreasonable burden" for Apple, Inc.?

Not on this planet.

Besides, a strong President of the United States could easily issue an executive order and nationalize the company Apple, Inc. for as long as it takes to comply with the court order, thus putting the company under government auspices and rendering any private Apple, Inc. contrary arguments moot. A strong executive has that power -- courts and legislatures notwithstanding.

There is a reason why outsiders are dominating the Presidential election process thus far. People are fed up with our weak political leaders and with a legal system that has lost all semblance of common sense.

A Question of Prestige: The ATL 2016 Top Transactional Law Firms by Pedigree of Law Schools (via Above the Law)

How can one measure the relative "prestige" of the top "big law" firms?

Above the Law has a list of The ATL 2016 Top Transactional Law Firms by Pedigree, which is a fancy way of saying that the top law firms are ranked more or less by the composite rank of the law school of attendance of a given law firm's "relevant" lawyers (see that link for more information about how law firms were vetted for eligibility in the rankings).

To make sure there is no misunderstanding, we note that Above the Law presents the calculation of the two ranking criteria used as follows:
"Median School Rank”: Median US News ranking of law schools attended by firm's relevant lawyers.
 “Mean School IQR”: Mean of middle 50% of US News rankings of law schools attended by firm's relevant lawyers.
We were gratified to see as an alumnus associate of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison that the firm ranked in the top 10 (7th and 8th respectively) and that there was a definite cut-off point at position nine.

Is that kind of a ranking relevant?

We might say that we did something similar some years ago just for fun in privately assessing some of the nation's highest courts by the rank of the law schools of the judges, and, yes, there was a great deal of difference, for example, between the median rank of the law schools of the Justices of the U.S. Supreme Court as compared e.g. to the Federal Circuit, which wound up in relative mediocrity, which was what we were checking to confirm at the time.

Supreme Court Nominations and the Politicization of the Judiciary in an Era in which Laggards and "Half Truths" Hold (back the) Court

"Hold Court" or "Hold Back the Court"? What are the laggards up to?

Several years ago John M. Walker Jr., senior judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, wrote a piece at The Atlantic titled The Unfortunate Politicization of Judicial Confirmation Hearings, which he began as follows, and his words ring quite true today:
"The nomination and confirmation process for federal judges is broken. It politicizes the judiciary, misrepresents the judiciary's role in our democracy, demeans highly qualified nominees, and unjustifiably delays or jettisons confirmations altogether. Such political theater trivializes a decision of considerable magnitude -- the lifetime appointment of a federal judge -- and has no hope of accomplishing its stated aim: the vetting of a candidate for the performance of the judicial function as it actually occurs."
The ignorant NEGLIGENCE with which the judicial selection process is being bantered about currently in political circles after the passage of Justice Scalia ignores a telling statement that Walker makes in that same article.

Walker criticizes the idea that the nomination and confirmation of judges should be made on the basis of the judge's political persuasion:
"[It is a position, says Walker, which] relies on the assumption that judges rule based on their political views (after nearly 30 years on the federal bench, I can say that this almost never occurs)."
A good example of the truth of that statement is the deciding vote cast on Obamacare by U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Roberts, a staunch conservative who nonetheless proved thereby that he is not a political puppet of some faction of some political party.

The trouble with U.S. politicians in our era is that they are not doing what they are supposed to be doing and are instead meddling in the work of the executive and judicial branches. This applies particularly to the members of Congress, a legislative body which has the job to legislate for the good of the nation and as far as possible, for the good of all Americans.

Too many Congressional legislators (LEGISLATION is THEIR job) want to play chief executive or judge (and spend a lot of their paid time doing so), while important legislation is neglected, or, as in the case of the ill-famed government shutdown, the legislators simply refuse to work altogether.

We call such people laggards, and they have no business being in public office.

This state of affairs will only stop when the voting populace starts to elect alternative candidates and reject the laggards, and as we see in the surge of Donald Trump for the Republicans and Bernie Sanders for the Democrats, that is beginning to happen.

A lot of smart people in the country, especially those in the political center -- and yes, we are political centrists, those who decide the elections -- are fed up with all of those laggards in Congress who are not doing the job for which they were elected, while the country is beset with manifold problems that need to be solved, but which are being neglected for political reasons.

The job of nominating a Supreme Court Justice is the job of the President of the United States.

The job of Congress is to confirm the nomination if the nominee possesses the requisite character, legal skills and knowledge to exercise that high office.

Whether the nominee thinks politically like "Half Truth" Senator Cruz, for example, is irrelevant, though, God forbid, we could all pray that she or he does not. Amen.

The Upshot at the New York Times in Where the Senate Stands on Nominating Scalia’s Supreme Court Successor has a list of Republican and Democratic Senators showing their attitude toward whether President Obama in this election year should at all nominate a Supreme Court Justice to replace the deceased Justice Scalia. All 46 Democratic Senators said "yes", while 30 of 54 Republicans said "no", although some of those have since changed their mind, hopefully realizing the Constitutional absurdity of their position.

Nevertheless, 30 or fewer laggards wallowing in "half truths" is way too many in a Congress that needs to get back to work and do THEIR job.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Who Governs the USA: The Federal and State Governments or Apple, Inc. ???

of Fortune magazine reports on an important current legal case in the courts under the headline Does the FBI Have a Strong Legal Case Against Apple? Here's an Analysis.

The problematical underpinnings of this case have been brewing for years in the legal system because the basic question involved is whether the United States of tomorrow is to be governed by federal and state governments or rather by wealthy private profit-oriented commercial enterprises and their executives, such as are represented in extreme by Apple, Inc.

Some lawyers, legal commentators and judges would have the reader believe that this is a case about civil rights and freedom of speech, but in fact it is a case about the future of America. It squarely asks us: Who has the ultimate sovereignty to govern the nation and to exercise the necessary powers granted to the legislative, executive and judicial branches of government?

If the federal and state governments of the USA can be blocked and hampered in exercising their essential duties in order to give special unnecessary rights to commercial enterprises that are nowhere specifically granted in the U.S. Constitution, then the country is on the inevitable road to becoming a group of "company towns" ruled by the arbitrary discretion of commercial persons rather than by elected legal representatives governed by the rule of law.

This is a case about which we would question current Presidential candidates intensely, because it can not be resolved by normal politically partisan platitudes or answers, but can only be answered by simple COMMON SENSE, something too often lacking in the political world today.

Late Addendum
To underscore the motivation for this dispute, it is of course clear that Apple, Inc. is not involved in this suit as a champion of civil rights to make America a better place but rather in order to sell as many of its gadgets as possible -- unobstructed -- and is thus opposing any action that could impact their sales. We already know this from Apple's many years of patent trolling in the courts. That is what we mean by "arbitrary discretion of commercial persons". Companies will take positions on such issues that are good for THEM, but not necessarily those that are good for the nation. That is elementary wisdom.

Know Your Politics? Observation Skills Good? See Delanceyplace Video & Count Basketball Passes by Players in White T-Shirts - Go!

How good are your observation skills, especially in politics?

Go to the video at the article at Delanceyplace.com and count the number of basketball passes made by the players in white t-shirts only. 

Do not read the article until you have counted the basketball passes by the players in white t-shirts only in that video there.

Watch those players in white t-shirts intensely, they are quick!
Watch the video now. How many passes? The video will tell you how many passes were made at the end. Were your right?

Then read that article and go to http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2016/01/donald-trump-2016-black-swan-213571, which many readers can perhaps now understand better. You see what you see!

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The Internet Billionaires: The 1 Billion MAU Monthly Active User Club Adds WhatsApp and Gmail

WhatsApp and Gmail have joined the exclusive 1 billion monthly active user (MAU) club, according to the Guardian.

The exclusive MAU club includes Facebook, Google Search, Chrome, Google Maps, YouTube, Google’s Android and Google Play, all of the latter now under the head name "Alphabet, Inc."

In this club, one should probably also include Google News, which is surely the ultimate MAU billionaire champion, but no official stats have been released about the number of monthly active Google News users since the year 2013.

Monday, February 15, 2016

A Surprising Request from Justice Scalia Some Years Ago

In contrast to the climate of extreme partisanship that pervades the US political scene today, David Axelrod has a surprising story showing that Supreme Court Justices may be cut from a finer cloth. See CNN at A surprise request from Justice Scalia.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Ligo! Ligo! Gravitational Waves Have Been Detected by LSC, LIGO Scientific Collaboration, Confirming Einstein’s Theory

Ligo, ligo! The Baltics knew this all along, did we not ;-)

As reported in an article by Dennis Overbye at the New York Times, Einstein's theory of the existence of gravitational waves has now been confirmed by LSC, LIGO Scientific Collaboration, in Gravitational Waves Detected, Confirming Einstein’s Theory - The New York Times.

Do we have ESP? Apparently, given our last posting at Einstein's Voice in November, 100 Years of Relativity Theory - Is the Universe its Own Singularity? - What is the Speed of Gravity at Work and is Gravity the same as Dark Matter?

The gravitational waves themselves are said to travel at the speed of light, but how fast is the actual speed of gravity itself? Instantaneous?

Here is the offical press release by LIGO:

"Gravitational Waves Detected 100 Years After Einstein's Prediction

News Release • February 11, 2016

Visit The Detection Portal

See also: LIGO Hanford Press Release

LIGO Opens New Window on the Universe with Observation of Gravitational Waves from Colliding Black Holes

WASHINGTON, DC/Cascina, Italy

For the first time, scientists have observed ripples in the fabric of spacetime called gravitational waves, arriving at the earth from a cataclysmic event in the distant universe. This confirms a major prediction of Albert Einstein’s 1915 general theory of relativity and opens an unprecedented new window onto the cosmos.

Gravitational waves carry information about their dramatic origins and about the nature of gravity that cannot otherwise be obtained. Physicists have concluded that the detected gravitational waves were produced during the final fraction of a second of the merger of two black holes to produce a single, more massive spinning black hole. This collision of two black holes had been predicted but never observed.

The gravitational waves were detected on September 14, 2015 at 5:51 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time (09:51 UTC) by both of the twin Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) detectors, located in Livingston, Louisiana, and Hanford, Washington, USA. The LIGO Observatories are funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), and were conceived, built, and are operated by Caltech and MIT. The discovery, accepted for publication in the journal Physical Review Letters, was made by the LIGO Scientific Collaboration (which includes the GEO Collaboration and the Australian Consortium for Interferometric Gravitational Astronomy) and the Virgo Collaboration using data from the two LIGO detectors.

Based on the observed signals, LIGO scientists estimate that the black holes for this event were about 29 and 36 times the mass of the sun, and the event took place 1.3 billion years ago. About 3 times the mass of the sun was converted into gravitational waves in a fraction of a second—with a peak power output about 50 times that of the whole visible universe. By looking at the time of arrival of the signals—the detector in Livingston recorded the event 7 milliseconds before the detector in Hanford—scientists can say that the source was located in the Southern Hemisphere.

According to general relativity, a pair of black holes orbiting around each other lose energy through the emission of gravitational waves, causing them to gradually approach each other over billions of years, and then much more quickly in the final minutes. During the final fraction of a second, the two black holes collide into each other at nearly one-half the speed of light and form a single more massive black hole, converting a portion of the combined black holes’ mass to energy, according to Einstein’s formula E=mc2. This energy is emitted as a final strong burst of gravitational waves. It is these gravitational waves that LIGO has observed.

The existence of gravitational waves was first demonstrated in the 1970s and 80s by Joseph Taylor, Jr., and colleagues. Taylor and Russell Hulse discovered in 1974 a binary system composed of a pulsar in orbit around a neutron star. Taylor and Joel M. Weisberg in 1982 found that the orbit of the pulsar was slowly shrinking over time because of the release of energy in the form of gravitational waves. For discovering the pulsar and showing that it would make possible this particular gravitational wave measurement, Hulse and Taylor were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1993.

The new LIGO discovery is the first observation of gravitational waves themselves, made by measuring the tiny disturbances the waves make to space and time as they pass through the earth.

“Our observation of gravitational waves accomplishes an ambitious goal set out over 5 decades ago to directly detect this elusive phenomenon and better understand the universe, and, fittingly, fulfills Einstein’s legacy on the 100th anniversary of his general theory of relativity,” says Caltech’s David H. Reitze, executive director of the LIGO Laboratory.

The discovery was made possible by the enhanced capabilities of Advanced LIGO, a major upgrade that increases the sensitivity of the instruments compared to the first generation LIGO detectors, enabling a large increase in the volume of the universe probed—and the discovery of gravitational waves during its first observation run. The US National Science Foundation leads in financial support for Advanced LIGO. Funding organizations in Germany (Max Planck Society), the U.K. (Science and Technology Facilities Council, STFC) and Australia (Australian Research Council) also have made significant commitments to the project. Several of the key technologies that made Advanced LIGO so much more sensitive have been developed and tested by the German UK GEO collaboration. Significant computer resources have been contributed by the AEI Hannover Atlas Cluster, the LIGO Laboratory, Syracuse University, and the University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee. Several universities designed, built, and tested key components for Advanced LIGO: The Australian National University, the University of Adelaide, the University of Florida, Stanford University, Columbia University of the City of New York, and Louisiana State University.

“In 1992, when LIGO’s initial funding was approved, it represented the biggest investment the NSF had ever made,” says France Córdova, NSF director. “It was a big risk. But the National Science Foundation is the agency that takes these kinds of risks. We support fundamental science and engineering at a point in the road to discovery where that path is anything but clear. We fund trailblazers. It’s why the U.S. continues to be a global leader in advancing knowledge.”

LIGO research is carried out by the LIGO Scientific Collaboration (LSC), a group of more than 1000 scientists from universities around the United States and in 14 other countries. More than 90 universities and research institutes in the LSC develop detector technology and analyze data; approximately 250 students are strong contributing members of the collaboration. The LSC detector network includes the LIGO interferometers and the GEO600 detector. The GEO team includes scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics (Albert Einstein Institute, AEI), Leibniz Universität Hannover, along with partners at the University of Glasgow, Cardiff University, the University of Birmingham, other universities in the United Kingdom, and the University of the Balearic Islands in Spain.

“This detection is the beginning of a new era: The field of gravitational wave astronomy is now a reality,” says Gabriela González, LSC spokesperson and professor of physics and astronomy at Louisiana State University.

LIGO was originally proposed as a means of detecting these gravitational waves in the 1980s by Rainer Weiss, professor of physics, emeritus, from MIT; Kip Thorne, Caltech’s Richard P. Feynman Professor of Theoretical Physics, emeritus; and Ronald Drever, professor of physics, emeritus, also from Caltech.

“The description of this observation is beautifully described in the Einstein theory of general relativity formulated 100 years ago and comprises the first test of the theory in strong gravitation. It would have been wonderful to watch Einstein’s face had we been able to tell him,” says Weiss.

“With this discovery, we humans are embarking on a marvelous new quest: the quest to explore the warped side of the universe—objects and phenomena that are made from warped spacetime. Colliding black holes and gravitational waves are our first beautiful examples,” says Thorne.

Virgo research is carried out by the Virgo Collaboration, consisting of more than 250 physicists and engineers belonging to 19 different European research groups: 6 from Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) in France; 8 from the Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare (INFN) in Italy; 2 in The Netherlands with Nikhef; the Wigner RCP in Hungary; the POLGRAW group in Poland; and the European Gravitational Observatory (EGO), the laboratory hosting the Virgo detector near Pisa in Italy.

Fulvio Ricci, Virgo Spokesperson, notes that, “This is a significant milestone for physics, but more importantly merely the start of many new and exciting astrophysical discoveries to come with LIGO and Virgo.”

Bruce Allen, managing director of the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics (Albert Einstein Institute), adds, “Einstein thought gravitational waves were too weak to detect, and didn’t believe in black holes. But I don’t think he’d have minded being wrong!”

“The Advanced LIGO detectors are a tour de force of science and technology, made possible by a truly exceptional international team of technicians, engineers, and scientists,” says David Shoemaker of MIT, the project leader for Advanced LIGO. “We are very proud that we finished this NSF-funded project on time and on budget.”

At each observatory, the two-and-a-half-mile (4-km) long L-shaped LIGO interferometer uses laser light split into two beams that travel back and forth down the arms (four-foot diameter tubes kept under a near-perfect vacuum). The beams are used to monitor the distance between mirrors precisely positioned at the ends of the arms. According to Einstein’s theory, the distance between the mirrors will change by an infinitesimal amount when a gravitational wave passes by the detector. A change in the lengths of the arms smaller than one-ten-thousandth the diameter of a proton (10-19 meter) can be detected.

“To make this fantastic milestone possible took a global collaboration of scientists—laser and suspension technology developed for our GEO600 detector was used to help make Advanced LIGO the most sophisticated gravitational wave detector ever created,” says Sheila Rowan, professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Glasgow.

Independent and widely separated observatories are necessary to determine the direction of the event causing the gravitational waves, and also to verify that the signals come from space and are not from some other local phenomenon.

Toward this end, the LIGO Laboratory is working closely with scientists in India at the Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics, the Raja Ramanna Centre for Advanced Technology, and the Institute for Plasma to establish a third Advanced LIGO detector on the Indian subcontinent. Awaiting approval by the government of India, it could be operational early in the next decade. The additional detector will greatly improve the ability of the global detector network to localize gravitational-wave sources.

“Hopefully this first observation will accelerate the construction of a global network of detectors to enable accurate source location in the era of multi-messenger astronomy,” says David McClelland, professor of physics and director of the Centre for Gravitational Physics at the Australian National University. 

Additional video and image assets can be found here: http://mediaassets.caltech.edu/gwave

Kathy Svitil
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Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics Hannover
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Thursday, February 11, 2016

Litigation by Legal Publishers about Whether Laws Can Be Copyrighted

We posted about this topic previously at Who Owns the Law? EFF and Public Resource in Intellectual Property Copyright Battle Over Privately Developed Standards Incorporated In Laws.

David Kravets at ArsTechnica Law & Disorder / Civilization & Discontents has a posting about ongoing litigation as Online legal publishers squabble over the right to copyright the law.

Kravets quotes Carl Malamud of Public.Resource.org as saying:

"It's a big deal."

... and that it is!

Locata Terrestrial Network as a New Ground-Based Geographic Positioning System to Eliminate Outdoor GPS Blind Spots and Promote Indoor Maps

The global positioning system GPS relies on line of sight satellite-based positioning and thus has drawbacks due to the existence of outdoor blind spots and greatly limited indoor mapping potential.

In NASA and the U.S. Air Force Test a New Ground-Based GPS, Corinne Iozzio reports at the Scientific American about the Australian Locata terrestrial network, a ground-based geographic positioning system, "that could eliminate the GPS’s blind spots and advance indoor mapping".

Read more here.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Experts and Expertise: How Much Does an Expert Really Know? As Knowledge Increases, So Does Overclaiming of What is Actually Known

You Don't Know as Much as You Think: False Expertise is the title of an article by Jessica Schmerler at Scientific American reporting on a study by researchers at Cornell University and Tulane University published in Psychological Science.

The study found that people with a self-perceived "knowledge" of a subject tend to "overclaim" their actual knowledge in that subject. The more they know or think to know, the more they overclaim what they actually do know.

That research explains a phenomenon we have encountered repeatedly in our own research work, which is the vast overclaiming of knowledge in archaeological disciplines and related historical fields by so-called mainstream "experts". After all, who can check them for things that happened in the past?

One can see this overclaiming demonstrated particularly in so-called historical TV "documentaries", where much of the material presented often consists of nothing more than pure guesses and unsubstantiated suppositions and "overclaims" of knowledge. Things are presented as if they were "true", whereas much of what is communicated is simply the fantasy of the experts.

Given the findings of the Cornell study, one might conclude that this phenomenon of overclaiming applies to all fields of human knowledge and activity. We see this particularly among "Presidential candidates".

The "free" Abstract of the study by Stav Atir, Emily Rosenzweig and David Dunning is titled "When Knowledge Knows No Bounds: Self-Perceived Expertise Predicts Claims of Impossible Knowledge" and is found at Sage Journals at http://pss.sagepub.com/content/early/2015/07/14/0956797615588195.abstract

The price to download the full article ($35) seems to be "anti-knowledge". The next step from a study of "overclaiming" might be a study of "overpricing", and whether the same human psychology is at work in both cases.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Classic Shell Instead of the Badly Designed Microsoft Windows 10 Explorer: e.g. Greater File Sub-Folder Indents DO Make a Difference for Readability

Boris Hofferbert at Der Tutonaut in http://www.tutonaut.de/tipp-klassisches-startmenue-fuer-windows-10-einrichten.html provided us with the impetus to install Classic Shell http://www.classicshell.net/, at whose pages it is written about the system requirements:
"Classic Shell works on Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 8.1, Windows 10 and their server counterparts (Windows Server 2008 R2, Windows Server 2012, Windows Server 2012 R2, Windows Server 2016). Both 32 and 64-bit versions are supported. The same installer works for all versions. Note: Windows RT is not supported."
The graphic user interface of Windows 10 has many inexplicable design flaws. Some of the flaws are "small" but have a large impact on user usability.

As an example, the file sub-folder indents in Windows Explorer in Windows 10 are simply too small for good differentiation in viewing. We find that peering for hours per day at a screen is made even more tiresome by navigating the overly "tightly placed" files in Windows 10, especially if there are many of them to be used. Design should primarily follow FUNCTION, rather than form.

Thankfully, there is a solution at the program Classic Shell which provides this menu option:
"Full-size offset for sub-folders
("When this is checked, the subfolders will be offset by the full size of the [folder] icon, instead of the half of the size")".
That "small" change makes a "big" difference and is essential to those of us who may be somewhat older and no longer have the eyes of an eagle. Greater offsets make working with sub-folder files in Explorer much, much easier.

"Better readability" is why text paragraphs in books are normally indented more than just one letter. It makes reading easier. Indeed, we are waiting for Blogger to come to this recognition as well, as there is no provision at all for indents. Instead, we separate paragraphs by empty lines. It reads better.

The entire file Explorer interface pays little attention to user comfort and is especially flawed in taking the protection of user eyesight into account. Good examples are the teeny-tiny "forward" and "back" arrows in Windows Explorer, which by their poor placement, minuscule size and hard-to-spot gray color are hard to spot in practical daily usage and one is constantly "looking" for them.

Design "amateurs" in Redmond wrongly opted for minimalist "form" rather than proper function, and that flaw permeates Windows 10.

We need arrows that are immediately spotted and are ergonomically placed. Frequently used, operational image icons must be readily VISIBLE!

We do not know if it will work for you, but Classic Shell definitely has numerous sensible features that -- for us -- are vast improvements over the flawed Windows 10 graphic user interface and design.

Addendum: Classic Shell also has an option -- Tree Item Spacing -- for the file Explorer to make the spacing between the files larger, thus putting more white space between the entries. We set this value at "1" rather than "0" and for us, it makes it much easier to navigate the files.