Patents and perpetual motion machines

An interesting commentary on a couple of patents that issued from the US Patent Office:

“The US patent office no longer grants patents on perpetual motion machines, but has recently granted at least two patents on a mathematically impossible process: compression of truly random data” (from

Also you might be interested in the topic, there’s a second patent that seems also to be fatally flawed — It is analyzed here.

I am not opposed to software patents as a matter of principle. And of course a patent that describes something that is mathematically impossible is harmless inasmuch no one is forced to use it. But it does shine a light on the problems with Patents in general. Is it mathematically impossible though?

I wonder how the inventors of these patents would respond to the allegations above. Well it turns out that he has devoted a whole web site to the topic: “Michael Cole, Inventor of Recursive Data Compression Patent 5,488,364 created andy utilized a recursive data compression structure.” The site has lots of details and mathematical symbols. I have not taken the time to try to understand either his arguments or the counter arguments.

I mainly got fascinated by the conflict.

Science and Religion

Now there’s a big topic, eh? A magazine that I don’t normally read has a good, in depth, thoughtful article about the debate between Religion and Science (see what I just did?). It comes in the guise of a book review (oddly the author has, himself, recently come out with a competing book, which does undermine his objectivity a little bit.) Still, it’s an excellent overview.

(Funnily enough, the factoid that stayed with me the longest from this article is that Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin were born on the exact same day. Talk about trivia!)

“It is a depressing fact that while 74 percent of Americans believe that angels exist, only 25 percent accept that we evolved from apelike ancestors. Just one in eight of us think that evolution should be taught in the biology classroom without including a creationist alternative. Among thirty-four Western countries surveyed for the acceptance of evolution, the United States ranked a dismal thirty-third, just above Turkey.” (from Seeing is Believing, The New Republic)

And by the way, why does he pick on Turkey? At any rate the article is about much more (it’s long) and in my opinion well worth reading.

p.s. Here’s another example of the unfortunate process which seems to inevitably leading to putting magazines out of business. I read the article, am spreading the word, without looking at any ads as far as I can remember, and certainly not purchasing the magazine. We all want to get everything cheaper and cheaper or even free, and so we get what we want, although in getting it we may be killing the very thing.