Archive for March 22nd, 2012

Follow That Law!

Justices Back Mayo Clinic Argument on Patents

In his opinion for the court in the case, Mayo Collaborative Services v. Prometheus Laboratories, No. 10-1150, Justice Breyer started with first principles.

“Einstein could not patent his celebrated law that E = mc2[sic]; nor could Newton have patented the law of gravity,” he wrote.

In general, Justice Breyer wrote, an inventor must do more than “recite a law of nature and then add the instruction ‘apply the law.’ ”

“Einstein, we assume, could not have patented his famous law by claiming a process consisting of simply telling linear accelerator operators to refer to the law to determine how much energy an amount of mass has produced (or vice versa),” he wrote.

I wonder if some savvy lawyer would interpret the specific mention of linear accelerators to mean that cyclotrons are to be treated differently…

It Doesn't Take a Physicist to Correct a Physics Mistake

Comparing Temperatures

An article claimed — in its headline — that a ~5ºC (~10ºF) increase in temperature was an increase of 18.7 percent, by calculating using the relative temperature scale. Which is wrong, of course; e.g. 2ºC does not represent twice as much thermal energy as 1ºC. The site has since made a correction.

If you really want to do a percentage based comparison, you need to convert to an absolute temperature scale like Kelvin, which shows you that it’s actually a 1.8 percent increase in temperature (306.75 / 301.45). This is middle school science.

Sadly, I don’t think that this is generally taught in middle school. Or possibly even high school, except to a few students.