Google gives Lick Observatory $1 million

Reblogged from http://phys.org

Google Inc. has given $1 million to the University of California’s Lick Observatory in what astronomers hope is the first of many private gifts to support an invaluable teaching and research resource for the state.

The unrestricted funds, spread over two years, will go toward general expenses, augmenting the $1.5 million the UC Office of the President gives annually to operate the mountaintop observatory for the 10-campus UC system.

“Lick Observatory has been making important discoveries while training generations of scientists for more than 100 years,” said Chris DiBona, director of open source for Google. “Google is proud to support their efforts in 2015 to bring hands-on astronomical experiences to students and the public.”

“This is very exciting,” said UC Berkeley astronomy professor Alex Filippenko, who has been beating the bushes for funds to operate the observatory after UC support dropped as a result of the recent recession.

“Astronomy is the ‘gateway science’ – kids are enthralled by cosmic discoveries, spectacular images, and far-out concepts, which can inspire them to pursue technical fields such as applied physics, engineering and computer science,” Filippenko said. “So there’s a real opportunity to make a difference, through the research, education and public outreach we do at Lick Observatory.”

“I am delighted that Google is supporting the Lick effort and thus helping provide UC students with unique hands-on experiences in valuable astronomy research,” said UC Berkeley Vice Chancellor for Research Graham Fleming.

“We at UC highly value Lick Observatory’s unique capabilities,” said Claire Max, interim director of the University of California Observatories (UCO), which operates Lick, and which manages UC’s share of the twin 10-meter W. M. Keck Telescopes in Hawaii and the planned Thirty Meter Telescope that broke ground last year close to Keck on Mauna Kea. “For example, Lick’s telescopes enable science projects that need lots of repeated observations during the course of a year or more; these can be done much more successfully at Lick than at the 8?10-meter telescopes, where observing time is extremely tight. Google’s very generous gift will make it possible for Lick to provide these opportunities and to continue to develop forefront tools such as adaptive optics, which removes image blurring caused by turbulence in Earth’s atmosphere.”

Lick Observatory, located atop Mt. Hamilton east of San Jose, was established in 1888 and currently houses seven telescopes, including the Katzman Automatic Imaging Telescope run by Filippenko that scans the sky each night in search of exploding stars (supernovae), which help astronomers understand the accelerating expansion of the universe and dark energy. Another robotic telescope, the Automated Planet Finder, closely examines many stars each night to find planets that may be orbiting them.

Faculty, researchers, postdoctoral scholars and students throughout the UC system can observe remotely on the main general-use telescopes, the three-meter Shane telescope and the one-meter Nickel telescope. “These telescopes provide undergraduates with a unique opportunity to participate in substantial astronomical research,” Filippenko said. “I have about a dozen undergraduate students doing Lick research now, many more than ever before.”

Defining the cutting edge

Before the recession, Lick’s budget was about $2.5 million annually to support astronomers and students from eight of the 10 UC campuses as well as the UC-managed Department of Energy labs. Most of the first 100 planets orbiting other stars were discovered at Lick using a forefront instrument that was the best of its kind at the time. Lick observations also helped reveal the presence of giant black holes in the centers of galaxies. In part thanks to large numbers of relatively nearby supernovae found or studied at Lick, astronomers discovered and verified the accelerating expansion of the universe, a feat recognized with the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics to the leaders of two competing teams and the 2015 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics to all team members.

The telescopes are used not only for original observing in the optical and infrared, but also to design and test new instruments destined for larger telescopes, such as the 10-meter Keck telescopes. For example, laser guide star adaptive optics, which allows the world’s largest telescopes to stabilize their images to improve sharpness and achieve results in some ways superior to those of the Hubble Space Telescope, was pioneered at Lick.

“At this time, UC is providing basic support at $1.5 million per year, but we really need at least $2.5 million per year to improve the observatory, moving forward vigorously at the cutting edge of research and education. To maintain and expand Lick in the long run, we seek an endowment of about $50 million,” Filippenko said. The interest on that endowment would be used to provide annual operating funds. “This major award from Google should go far, giving us time to raise additional funds.”

“I was delighted to learn of this wonderful gift from Google,” said Aimée Dorr, UC provost and executive vice president for academic affairs. “It will do great things for the astronomical research and education that can be carried out at Lick Observatory. Congratulations to Professor Filippenko, who knows firsthand how valuable Lick is and has dedicated his considerable energy and expertise to ensuring it is available far into the future.”

“I’m pleased that this generous award will help Lick Observatory keep its doors open to the public, to future astronomers and to the scientific community in a capacity that is simply unavailable anywhere else,” said U.S. Rep. Zoe Lofgren, who previously spearheaded two letters of congressional support for Lick to the UC Office of the President. “Lick is an historic Santa Clara County landmark, and the facility has proven invaluable for students, researchers and the Bay Area community. I hope this is the beginning of many gifts recognizing Lick Observatory’s important role in inspiring future scientists and adding to our understanding of what lies beyond our solar system.”

U.S. Rep. Mike Honda, a longtime supporter and advocate for the observatory, added, “I am delighted that Google has decided to give $1 million to Lick Observatory. For 127 years, Lick Observatory has been vital in fundamental astronomical research, the development of new observational techniques, training students and connecting the general public to the heavens. I am pleased to see private companies step up and invest in America’s scientific leadership. I look forward to others joining Google to ensure that Lick Observatory will continue to explore the universe for years to come.”

“Lick Observatory has provided critical data for University of California researchers, and Google’s major support will ensure that the observatory will continue to serve as the foundation for countless scientific discoveries to come,” said state Assemblymember Mark Stone.

One of the first uses for the money, which comes through the UC Berkeley Foundation, will be to hire another telescope operator for the Shane three-meter telescope to eliminate periodic closures caused by the current shortage of staff, Filippenko said. Interim UCO director Max said that another probable use of the funds will be to continue the development of laser guide star adaptive optics, which is breaking new ground at Lick Observatory.

Lick also recently received $350,000 in combined grants from the Heising-Simons Foundation and donors Bill and Marina Kast to enable an upgrade of the Kast spectrograph on the three-meter telescope, used to analyze faint celestial objects – including supernovae – at distances ranging from our own solar system to the far reaches of the universe.

“Graduate students and postdoctoral scholars can be leaders of research done at Lick,” Filippenko said. “They conceive, propose, execute and complete their own projects, thereby adding immensely to their development as strong, skilled, independent research scientists. We have to keep this unique research and educational institution, a Bay Area treasure and California landmark, thriving.”

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California and I am a Rising Star as rated by Super Lawyers Magazine.  As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +, or by email.

Norman

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Teaching An Old Spacecraft New Tricks.

You are never too old to still be useful.  Look at Kepler, crippled, too far away for repair, yet still doing science, albeit a different type than it was sent out to space for, but science still.

But the 36-year-old International Sun-Earth Explorer 3  (ISEE-3), is probably one of the oldest to be tasked with a new mission.  The spacecraft flew by the Moon yesterday evening while a private team of engineers (who took control of the spacecraft earlier this year from NASA) will try to reboot the spacecraft for an interplanetary science mission.

The long, and complex path of the spacecraft is very interesting.

The private team was hoping to bring the craft into orbit around Earth, but there wasn’t any fuel left, so on to plan B (no, not Plan 9 from outer space, Plan B).

google-logo-682-571408a

Google has offered to help and held a Hangout and assisted with providing  live spacecraft data at the site SpacecraftForAll.com and access to the mission.

credit http://onlinescienceeducatorbylabpaq.com/2013/01/08/citizen-science-in-distance-learning/

As time moves forward, I am seeing a lot more citizen science projects.  With the Maker movement and access to technology, it seems that the sky is really not the limit for what you can accomplish.

 

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California and I am a Rising Star as rated by Super Lawyers Magazine.  As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +

Norman

Computer Scientists Speak Out Against Copyrighting of Java APIs

The ongoing copyright battle between Google and Oracle does not just impact the two computer giants. As the case heads before the Federal U.S. Circuit of Appeals, 32 computer scientists and software developers have weighed in on whether copyright law should protect application-programming interfaces (APIs).

Oracle recently appealed last year’s decision that Google did not commit copyright infringement when it copied Oracle’s software code to build the Android mobile operating system. U.S. District Judge William Alsup concluded that the software code was not protected under copyright law as a matter of law, finding that the APIs were a functional part of the Java platform and should be available to others using it.

In the brief filed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a number of well-known computer scientists, including MS-DOS author Tim Paterson and ARPANET developer Larry Roberts, argue that Alsup got it right.

“The freedom to reimplement and extend existing APIs has been the key to competition and progress in the computer field—both hardware and software,” the brief states.
”Should the court reverse Judge Alsup’s well-reasoned opinion, it will hand Oracle and others the ability to monopolize any and all uses of systems that share their APIs. API creators would have veto power over any developer who wants to create a compatible program,” the brief further argues.

Given the potential implications on software copyrights, I will continue to monitor the case and provide updates as they become available.

How Can I Help?

If you, or someone you know, need any help with Intellectual Property issues, from filing a patent, trademark or copyright, or just need advice regarding how best to protect your inventions, ideas or your brand, please contact me for a free 30 minute consultation at nvantreeck@usip.com or call TOLL FREE at 1-855-UR IDEAS (1-855-874-3327) and ask for Norman.

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California and I am a Rising Star as rated by Super Lawyers Magazine.  As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +

Norman

What Are Standard-Essential Patents?

Motorola (now owned by Google, Inc.) and Microsoft Corp. are the latest high-tech companies to square off in the so-called “patent wars.” In the lawsuit, Microsoft alleged Motorola tried to excise excessive licensing fees, while Motorola claimed that Microsoft infringed its standard-essential wireless technology patent.

A standard-essential patent is a patent that claims an invention that must be used to comply with a technical standard. Standard-essential patents are integral to the tablet and smartphone industry because they form the backbone of the basic technology they need to operate. While most owners of these patents have voluntarily pledged to grant licenses to other companies on “reasonable and nondiscriminatory” (RAND) terms, it is often easier said than done.

In a recent decision, U.S. District Judge James Robart established some useful guidelines for determining reasonable royalties for standard essential patents (SEPs). Since his opinion runs over 207 pages, it is impossible to outline all of them here. However, there are a few key takeaways.

To arrive at “reasonable” royalty, Robart conducted a hypothetical, bilateral negotiation between the parties. In doing so, the judge highlighted the need to consider the importance of the SEPs to the standard as well as the importance of the standard and the SEPs to the products at issue. The specific “economic guideposts” he cited included the following:

  • A RAND royalty should be set at a level consistent with the standard setting organization promoting widespread adoption of their standards.
  • In the context of a dispute concerning whether or not a given royalty is RAND, a proper methodology used to determine a RAND royalty should therefore recognize and seek to mitigate the risk of patent hold-up that RAND commitments are intended to avoid.
  • Likewise, a proper methodology for determining a RAND royalty should address the risk of royalty stacking by considering the aggregate royalties that would apply if other SEP holders made royalty demands of the implementer.
  • To induce the creation of valuable standards, the RAND commitment must guarantee that holders of valuable intellectual property will receive reasonable royalties on that property.
  • From an economic perspective, a RAND commitment should be interpreted to limit a patent holder to a reasonable royalty on the economic value of its patented technology itself, apart from the value associated with incorporation of the patented technology into the standard.

How Can I Help?

If you, or someone you know, need any help with Intellectual Property issues, from filing a patent, trademark or copyright, or just need advice regarding how best to protect your inventions, ideas or your brand, please contact me for a free 30 minute consultation at nvantreeck@usip.com or call TOLL FREE at 1-855-UR IDEAS (1-855-874-3327) and ask for Norman.

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California and I am a Rising Star as rated by Super Lawyers Magazine.  As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +

Norman

Google’s Patent Pledge.

Google Inc. recently pledged that it would not pursue legal action against open source developers that use its patented technology. It also expressed hope that other high-tech companies would follow suit.

Under the Open Patent Non-Assertion (OPN) Pledge, Google agrees not to sue any user, distributor, or developer of open-source software on specified patents, unless first attacked.  According to post on its blog, the OPN pledge will initially cover 10 patents relating to MapReduce, a computing model for processing large data sets first developed at Google. Over time, it plans to expand the set of Google’s patents covered by the pledge to other technologies.

As outlined by Google, the pledge may be terminated, but only if a party brings a patent suit against Google products or services, or is directly profiting from such litigation. The agreement also remains in force for the life of the patents, even if Google transfers its rights.

Google’s pledge follows a similar initiative announced by Twitter last year. As we previously discussed on this IP Law Blog, Twitter Innovator’s Patent Agreement (IPA) promises that it will not use the patents from employees’ inventions in offensive litigation without their permission.

Like Twitter’s IPA, it will be interesting to see how Google’s patent pledge plays out in the real world. While it may help curb the negative criticism surrounding the so-called “patent wars” among competitors in the tech industry, there are still circumstances where it is necessary for companies to use patents offensively to protect themselves from litigation.

How Can I Help?

If you, or someone you know, need any help with Intellectual Property issues, from filing a patent, trademark or copyright, or just need advice regarding how best to protect your inventions, ideas or your brand, please contact me for a free 30 minute consultation at nvantreeck@usip.com or call TOLL FREE at 1-855-UR IDEAS (1-855-874-3327) and ask for Norman.

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California and I am a Rising Star as rated by Super Lawyers Magazine.  As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +

Norman

Oracle Vs. Google, Copyright War Round 2.

If you thought the copyright war between Google and Oracle was over, think again. Oracle  appealed last year’s decision that Google did not commit copyright infringement when it copied Oracle’s software code to build the Android mobile operating system.

On appeal, the Federal U.S. Circuit of Appeals will be asked to reconsider whether application programming interfaces (APIs) can be copyrighted.

U.S. District Judge William Alsup previously concluded that the software code was not protected under copyright law as a matter of law.

On appeal, Oracle contends that the decision was “decidedly unfair.” Interestingly, to illustrate its point, Oracle took a page from Harry Potter.

“Ann Droid wants to publish a bestseller. So she sits down with an advance copy of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix — the fifth book — and proceeds to transcribe. She verbatim copies all the chapter titles—from Chapter 1 (‘Dudley Demented’) to Chapter 38 (‘The Second War Begins’). She copies verbatim the topic sentences of each paragraph, starting from the first (highly descriptive) one and continuing, in order, to the last, simple one (‘Harry nodded.’). She then paraphrases the rest of each paragraph. She rushes the competing version to press before the original under the title: Ann Droid’s Harry Potter 5.0,” the brief reads.

“Google Inc. has copied a blockbuster literary work just as surely, and as improperly, as Ann Droid—and has offered the same defenses.”

Sot the battle between Oracle and Google is heating up again. Given the potential implications on software copyrights, I  will continue to monitor the case and provide updates as they become available.

How Can I Help?

If you, or someone you know, need help with any Intellectual Property issue, from filing a patent, trademark or copyright, or just advice regarding how best to protect your ideas and your brand, contact me for a free 30 minute consultation at nvantreeck@usip.com or call TOLL FREE at 1-855-UR IDEAS (1-855-874-3327) and ask for Norman.

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California and I am a Rising Star as rated by Super Lawyers Magazine.  As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +

Norman