At The Beat The Time Will Be… 11/11/11 11:11:11

11/11/11 11:11:11

This is providing that my Atomic Clock is correct.

Image Detail

Clocks that do not lose time

Scientists have developed laser clocks that can keep time without missing a beat in nearly two billion years. They are so precise that
they could lead eventually lead to automated cars.

Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) based in Boulder, Colorado have developed an advanced clock which measures the vibrations of electrons in mercury ions and go 1.7 billion years without missing a beat.
Atomic Clock NBS-2 (1960)
 The new clocks are known as optical clocks and use lasers to measure the frequency with which electrons in atoms vibrate. Currently the most accurate clocks are known as atomic clocks which can measure to an accuracy of one second over 80 million years. As a comparison a
normal wristwatch will lose around 15 seconds a month.
The international committee for weights and measures is planning to replace its atomic clocks with optical ones by 2020.
Scientists believe that installing optical clocks on satellites they will be able to track objects within less than a metre leading to automated motorway driving or landing an aircraft without human intervention.
Historical accuracy of atomic clocks from NIST.
The European Space Agency has said that they are considering fitting an optical clock to a satellite as part of its cosmic vision programme. This programme will run from 2015 to 2025 exploring ways of using space for scientific advancement.
Scientists in Britain, US, Germany, France and Japan are now competing to make a clock more powerful time so accurately that it will not have lost a second since the Big Bang 13.7 billion years ago. They believe this clock will be built within a decade.

Read more:


Video: New Atomic Clock Reaches A 100 Quadrillionth Of A Second Accuracy

by Serkan Toto  From

A team of researchers at the University of Tokyo has developed a new type of optical atomic clock that boasts a 100 quadrillionth of a second accuracy (one quadrillion has 15 zeros). The optical lattice clock is the brain child of Professor Katori who says his device observes a million atoms simultaneously whereas conventional atomic clocks measure time by using single atoms.

The Professor explains:

“(…) if one clock is placed one centimeter higher than another clock, the higher clock is affected by less gravity, so it goes faster. That difference could be read out in the 18th decimal place of the clocks in one second averaging time. Until now, clocks have been thought of as tools for sharing a common time. But with clocks like this, conversely, we can understand that time passes at different speeds, depending on the time and place a clock is at.”

The idea is to eventually use the new clock to improve GPS (which is based on atomic clocks delivering 14-or 15-digit accuracy) or to predict earthquakes, for example.

This video (shot by Diginfonews in Tokyo, in English) provides more insight:


Twisted Design: Telling Time With Toys and Bluetooth

 From Gajitz

Who knew that watching a clock work could be so hypnotizing? The Tilted Twister clock from Hans Andersson is composed of two Lego Minstorm bricks connected by Bluetooth. The master brick is in charge of tracking the time and operating the minute digits. The slave brick is responsible for moving the seconds indicator and the hour digits.

Watching the time change ever so slowly from one minute to the next is a surprisingly entertaining venture. The digits all consist of five layers of black and white tiles. The tiles are twisted around by the top layer until they form the appropriate digit.

Staring at the video of this awesome clock is one thing, but it’s so loud that it would probably be a huge pain to live with. Still, it might be worth the irritation just to have such a unique and artful timepiece keeping you grounded in reality.

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Rebuilding The Computing Past For The Future

It Started Digital Wheels Turning

Left: Science Museum Archive/Science & Society Picture Library Punch cards for the never-completed Babbage Analytical Engine, and Charles Babbage, the “father of computing,” who kept refining his design.

Researchers in Britain are about to embark on a 10-year, multimillion-dollar project to build a computer — but their goal is neither dazzling analytical power nor lightning speed.

Indeed, if they succeed, their machine will have only a tiny fraction of the computing power of today’s microprocessors. It will rely not on software and silicon but on metal gears and a primitive version of the quaint old I.B.M. punch card.

What it may do, though, is answer a question that has tantalized historians for decades: Did an eccentric mathematician named Charles Babbage conceive of the first programmable computer in the 1830s, a hundred years before the idea was put forth in its modern form by Alan Turing?

The London Science Museum's working difference...

Image via Wikipedia

The machine on the drawing boards at the Science Museumin London is the Babbage Analytical Engine, a room-size mechanical behemoth that its inventor envisioned but never built.

The project follows the successful effort by a group at the museum to replicate a far less complicated Babbage invention: the Difference Engine No. 2, a calculating machine composed of roughly 8,000 mechanical components assembled with a watchmaker’s precision. That project was completed in 1991.

The new effort — led by John Graham-Cumming, a programmer, and Doron Swade, a former curator at the museum — has already digitized Babbage’s surviving blueprints for the Analytical Engine. But the challenges of building it are daunting.

In the case of the Difference Engine, a complete set of plans existed. The Analytical Engine, by contrast, was a work in progress, as Babbage continually refined his thinking in a series of blueprints. Thus, the hope is to “crowd-source” the analysis of what should be built; plans will be posted online next year, and the public will be invited to offer suggestions.

“There is no single set of plans that design a single machine.” said Tim Robinson, a docent at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif. “It was constantly in a state of flux.”

The project is significant in part because there has been a heated debate over whether — given time and resources — Babbage would have been able to build the machine he foresaw.

The idea was proposed last year by Mr. Graham-Cumming, who suggested a three-step project in which a decision would first be made on which blueprint to focus on, then a three-dimensional computer simulation would be created, and finally the machine would be built.

Part of Charles Babbage's Difference Engine in...

“I hope that future generations of scientists will stand before the completed Analytical Engine, think of Babbage and be inspired to work on their own 100-year leaps,” he wrote.

Babbage, who lived from 1791 to 1871, is rightfully known as the “father of computing.” But it would be left to a fellow scientist, Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace, to fully appreciate that his inventions were more than just tools for automatically tabulating logarithms and trigonometric functions.

Lovelace — daughter of the poet Lord Byron — recognized that the Analytical Engine could be a more generalized media machine, capable of making music and manipulating symbols. And 113 years before John McCarthy coined the term “artificial intelligence,” she considered — and then rejected — the notion that computers might exhibit creativity or even thought.

While Babbage was driven by the desire to automate tabular data for military and related applications, Lovelace wrote a lengthy commentary on the design that would prove deeply influential when it was rediscovered in the middle of the 20th century.

Lovelace is known as the first programmer, because she designed a program for the unbuilt machine. The algorithm appears in a series of notes written by Lovelace after a friend of Babbage asked her to translate an Italian professor’s write-up of a lecture Babbage had given at the University of Turin.

The Lovelace notes are remarkable both for her algorithm for calculating the sequence known as Bernoulli numbers and for what would become known as the “Lovelace objection.” In passing, she commented that the Babbage computer would not originate anything, but rather could do only what it had been instructed. The implication was that machines would not be creative, and thus not intelligent.

Semen Korsakov's punch card he proposed in 1832

The consensus of computer historians is that while Babbage was clearly the first to conceive of the flexible machine that foreshadowed the modern computer, his work was forgotten and was then conceptually recreated by Turing a century later.

In 1936, Turing wrote “On Computable Numbers,” in which he reformulated and advanced ideas first put forward by Kurt Gödel in 1931, positing the existence of what would be called “Turing machines” — an abstract computing device that was intended as an aid to exploring the limitations of what could be computed — and demonstrating that such devices could in principle perform any mathematical computation that was represented as an algorithm.

“The pioneers of electronic computing reinvented the fundamental principles largely in ignorance of the details of Babbage’s work,” said Dr. Swade, the former museum curator. “They knew of him, there was a continuity of influence, but his drawings were not the DNA of modern computing.”

He argues that Turing was a “bridging” figure between Babbage and Lovelace and the modern world of electronic computers.

A Turing biographer, Andrew Hodges, doubts that his subject had seen the Lovelace notes when he wrote “On Computable Numbers.”

“It’s most unlikely that Babbage/Lovelace had any influence on Turing in 1936,” Dr. Hodges, an Oxford mathematician, wrote in an e-mail. “Motivation, means, language, results were all completely different.”

By 1950, however, Turing clearly had come in contact with Lovelace’s work: He responded to her objection to the notion of computers’ thinking in his paper “Computing Machinery and Intelligence.” Indeed, a small element of mystery surrounds the question of when Turing did actually come in contact with Babbage’s plans.

Dr. Hodges acknowledges that no clear point in time is evident, but notes that by 1945 the Analytical Engine had come to prominence.

“Anecdotally, it has been said that Babbage’s name came up in discussions at Bletchley Park after the success of the Colossus in 1944,” Dr. Hodges wrote, in a reference to the machines developed in England during World War II to break German codes.

Moreover, although Lovelace is now renowned as the first programmer, her more significant contribution was in being the first to comprehend the significance of programmable computers. Her notes, which were signed only with her initials because at the time women were not thought to be authors, gave the reader a clear sense of the broader potential of modern computing.

It was not until the 1970s that the idea of computers as “dynamic” media machines took hold in the work of computer scientists like Alan Kay.

The leaders of the new project argue that the first conceptual leap was Lovelace’s. “The real intellectual triumph of Lovelace is overlooked by most people,” Mr. Graham-Cumming said.

As she put it, “It would be a mistake to suppose that because its results are given in the notation of a more restricted science, its processes are therefore restricted to those of that science.”

From New York Times

Norman Ramsey Dies- Worked On Atomic Clock

Norman Ramsey Dies at 96; Work Led to the Atomic Clock


Norman F. Ramsey, the Nobel Prize-winning physicist who developed a precise method to probe the structure of atoms and molecules and used it to devise a remarkably exact way to keep time, died on Friday in Wayland, Mass. He was 96.

His death was confirmed by his wife, Ellie.

In 1949, Dr. Ramsey invented an experimental technique to measure the frequencies of electromagnetic radiation most readily absorbed by atoms and molecules. The technique allowed scientists to investigate their structure with greater accuracy and enabled the development of a new kind of timekeeping device known as the atomic clock. Dr. Ramsey received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1989 for both achievements.

“If you made a list of the most outstanding physicists of the 20th century, he’d be among the leaders,” said Leon M. Lederman, emeritus director of the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, Ill., which Dr. Ramsey helped found.

Associated Press   Norman F. Ramsey in 1989.
 Early in the 20th century, physicists began to decipher the structure of atoms from measurements of the wavelengths of light they released and absorbed, a method called atomic spectroscopy. In 1937, the physicist Isidor Isaac Rabiof Columbia University developed a means of studying atoms and molecules by sending a stream of them through rapidly alternating magnetic fields. As Dr. Rabi’s student at Columbia in the late 1930s, Dr. Ramsey worked to refine it.

In 1949, when he was at Harvard, Dr. Ramsey discovered a way to improve the technique’s accuracy: exposing the atoms and molecules to the magnetic fields only briefly as they entered and left the apparatus. His new approach — which Dr. Ramsey called the separated oscillatory fields method, but which is often simply referred to as the Ramsey method — is widely used today.

Dr. Ramsey’s research helped lay the groundwork for nuclear magnetic resonance, whose applications include the M.R.I. technique now widely used for medical diagnosis.

But the most immediate application of the Ramsey method has been in the development of highly accurate atomic clocks. Since 1967 it has been used to define the exact span of a second, not as a fraction of the time it takes Earth to revolve around the Sun, but as 9,192,631,770 radiation cycles of a cesium atom.

In 1960, working with his student Daniel Kleppner, now an emeritus professor of physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dr. Ramsey invented a different type of atomic clock, known as the hydrogen maser, whose remarkable stability has since been used to confirm the minute effects of gravity on time as predicted by Einstein’s theory of general relativity. Atomic clocks like the hydrogen maser are also used in the ground-based timing systems that track global positioning satellites.

National Archives and Records Administration

Dr. Ramsey signing the atomic bomb that was dropped on Nagasaki, Japan, in 1945.

Dr. Ramsey did not anticipate that his laboratory technique would have such applications. “I didn’t even know there was a problem about clocks initially,” he said in a 1995 oral history interview. “My wristwatch was pretty good.”

Norman Foster Ramsey Jr. was born on Aug. 27, 1915, in Washington, the son of Minna Bauer Ramsey, a mathematics teacher, and Norman Foster Ramsey, an Army officer. After receiving his Ph.D. under Dr. Rabi at Columbia, he worked at the M.I.T. Radiation Laboratory and served as a radar consultant to the secretary of war. In 1943 he went to Los Alamos, N.M., to work on the Manhattan Project, leading a team that helped assemble the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan.

After the war, he taught for nearly four decades at Harvard, mentoring scores of graduate students, many of whom went on to start their own research groups. Although he officially retired in 1986, he continued his work through his early 90s. In recent years, he collaborated with a team of British physicists to study the symmetry of the neutron, searching for evidence that it was not perfectly spherical.

Chip-scale atomic clock unveiled by NIST

Dr. Ramsey presided over the founding of Fermilab and another major particle accelerator laboratory, the Brookhaven National Laboratory on Long Island, where he was the first head of the physics department in the 1940s.

As the first science adviser to NATO, he initiated summer school programs to train European scientists. He led a National Research Council committee that concluded in 1982 that contrary to the findings of the House Select Committee on Assassinations, acoustical evidence did not support the existence of a second gunman in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

Dr. Ramsey had an athletic flair. He learned to ski in Norway in the 1930s. Later, he took up long-board surfing and ice sailing, and he traveled with his second wife, Ellie Welch Ramsey, from the Himalayas to Antarctica. After having a knee replaced in the 1980s, he continued to ski.

Dr. Ramsey’s first wife, Elinor, died in 1983. In addition to his wife, he is survived by four daughters, Margaret Kasschau, Patricia Ramsey, Winifred Swarr and Janet Farrell; two stepchildren, Marguerite and Gerard Welch; eight grandchildren; and nine great-grandchildren.

Colleagues said Dr. Ramsey was a tall man with bright white hair who gestured energetically and walked briskly. “He had a messianic quality when talking about his work,” said Gerald Gabrielse, a physics professor at Harvard.

William Phillips, a physicist at the University of Maryland, said Dr. Ramsey’s forceful presence and as his contributions “set the tone for a generation of physicists.”

Browser Wars- The End Of An Era

The end of an era: Internet Explorer drops below 50% of Web usage

The end of an era: Internet Explorer drops below 50% of Web usage

A couple of interesting things happened in the world of Web browser usage during October. The more significant one is that Internet Explorer’s share of global browser usage dropped below 50 percent for the first time in more than a decade. Less significant, but also notable, is that Chrome for the first time overtook Firefox here at Ars, making it the technologist’s browser of choice.

Internet Explorer still retains a majority of the desktop browser market share, at 52.63 percent, a substantial 1.76 point drop from September. However, desktop browsing makes up only about 94 percent of Web traffic; the rest comes from phones and tablets, both markets in which Internet Explorer is all but unrepresented. As a share of the whole browser market, Internet Explorer has only 49.58 percent of users. Microsoft‘s browser first achieved a majority share in—depending on which numbers you look at—1998 or 1999. It reached its peak of about 95 percent share in 2004, and has been declining ever since.

Where has that market share gone? In the early days, it all went Firefox’s way. These days, it’s Chrome that’s the main beneficiary of Internet Explorer’s decline, and October was no exception. Chrome is up 1.42 points to 17.62 percent of the desktop browser share. Firefox is basically unchanged, up 0.03 points to 22.51 percent. Safari grew 0.41 points to 5.43. Opera has been consistently falling over the last few months, and it dropped again in October, down 0.11 points to 1.56 percent.

In spite of Android sales now outstripping iOS sales, iOS users are far more abundant on the Web. Mobile browsing is currently a much smaller market, with 5.5 percent of Web usage conducted on smartphones and tablets. This small market is also a lot more volatile than the desktop market. Mobile Safari was up by 6.58 points last month to 62.17 points. The biggest single loser was the Android browser, dropping 2.91 points to 13.12 percent. Symbian, BlackBerry and Opera Mini also registered falls, down 2.15 points to 2.55 percent, 0.64 points to 2.04 percent, and 0.27 points to 18.65 percent, respectively.

The upgrade trends show a familiar story. Chrome users, who for the most part receive updates automatically, switch to new versions quickly and efficiently. Chrome’s “tail” is growing ever longer, though, with about 2 percent of desktop browser users—about 14 percent of Chrome users—using old versons. That number is growing every month, and it appears to be resilient.

Firefox retains its clean split between people on the new, rapid release versions (4-9) and those on the old stable version (3.6). The rapid release users are upgrading fairly quickly, though the cut-overs are neither as rapid nor as automated as those of Chrome. However, almost a quarter of Firefox users are sticking with version 3.6. Until and unless Mozilla produces a stable edition with long-term support, this is unlikely to change.

Internet Explorer, however, continues to see major usage of old versions. Internet Explorer 6 and 7, which aren’t current on any supported version of Windows, are still the version used by 25.4 percent of Internet Explorer users, 13.38 percent of desktop users as a total. These are people that can upgrade to either Internet Explorer 8 (if they’re using Windows XP) or Internet Explorer 9 (if they’re using Windows Vista), but who have, for some reason, refused to do so. Internet Explorer 8 users appear to be switching to Internet Explorer 9 at a slow but steady rate, with the former down about a point, and the latter up by about a point.

The browser usage here at Ars Technica continues to be unusual, with Firefox and Chrome over-represented on the desktop, and Android showing a much stronger performance among mobile user than is seen on the wider Web.

A compelling case can be made that the causes for these two phenomena—Internet Explorer’s decline, and Chrome’s growth—are closely related. They represent the influence of the computer geek.

Ars Technica’s unusual usage figures are not surprising when considering its audience: visitors to the site tend to be technologists and early adopters: Ars readers were among the first to switch to using Firefox as their browser of choice, and similarly they’re leading the way with Chrome. While Internet Explorer’s decline, Firefox’s flatlining, and Chrome’s growth have happened faster at Ars than the broader Web, the underlying trends are the same.

This is perhaps not surprising. Ars has more than its fair share of IT decision-makers, both in corporate environments and home environments (I’m sure that many of us know the perils of being the “computer guy” roped in to fix the problems plaguing friends’ and family’s machine). It might be a few months before a Chrome-using Ars-reading geek starts to recommend it to friends and family, or a few years before he gets approval to roll the browser out across the company whose computers he maintains, but the migration will happen. Technology decisions are usually made by technology people—and technology people read Ars, ditched Internet Explorer for Firefox a few years ago, and are now switching to Chrome.

Firefox appealed to the geek demographic by offering tabs, a wealth of extensions, and active development; geeks enjoy new things to play with, and a browser that’s frozen in time, as Internet Explorer 6 was, holds no appeal. Chrome in turn offered a focus on performance and stability, even more active development, and the cachet of being built by Google. Chrome was also quick to offer obvious but useful things such as built-in, robust session restoration, and a useful new tab page (something Internet Explorer 9 replicated, and which is currently in beta for Firefox). Bundling Flash also removed a potential headache, by ensuring that a potentially buggy plugin was kept current and up-to-date. On top of all this, Google has been vocal in pushing its view of how the Web should work, with the VP8 video codec, the SPDY Web protocol, and most recently, the Dart scripting language.

A browser that doesn’t appeal to this demographic won’t receive the benefit of this kind of on-the-ground advocacy. Mozilla is working to bring some of Chrome’s appealing features to Firefox, with its new development schedule and future features such as tab isolation, and though this is currently causing some headaches—there are continued issues with extension compatibility—Firefox’s market share is for the most part holding steady. Once Mozilla can get rid of the annoying wrinkles and make updates as pain-free as Chrome’s, it might start to win back the attention of the techie demographic, especially if Mozilla can come up with a viable IT-friendly long-term support option.

Meanwhile, Microsoft is strenuously avoiding this same demographic. Internet Explorer lacks small but significant creature comforts such as resizeable text boxes, built-in spell checking, and session restoration, and while it does offer certain extensibility points, they fall a long way short of those offered by Firefox, and as such, its extension ecosystem is a whole lot less rich. It’s not enough for Internet Explorer to be a solid mainstream browser: the less technically engaged users who switched to Firefox because a trusted authority told them to aren’t going to spontaneously switch back to Internet Explorer, even if it is good enough for their needs. They’re going to wait until their techie friend next fixes their PC and tells them that they should consider switching to Internet Explorer because it’s “better,” just as they did for Firefox and Chrome.

Internet Explorer is still an important browser, with a userbase large enough that few developers can afford to ignore—though sites that don’t need global appeal may well be able to safely ignore Internet Explorer 6—and at current rates it will remain important for a few years yet. But until and unless Microsoft makes its browser appeal to the influential geek demographic, it looks as if Internet Explorer has nowhere to go but down.



Market Share for Mobile and Desktop Browsers, Operating Systems, Search Engines and Social Media Marketing

Data that provides valuable insight into significant trends for internet usage.
Mobile Market Share (including Tablets) – 5.5%

Mobile/Tablet Browser Share

  Safari 62.0%
  Android Browser 18.6%
  Opera Mini 13.1%
  Symbian Browser 2.6%

Mobile/Tablet O/S Share

  iOS (iPhone, iPad, iPod) 61.5%
  Android 18.9%
  Java ME 12.8%
  Symbian 3.5%

Mobile/Tablet Search Engine Share

  Google 91.1%
  Yahoo 7.0%
  Bing 1.1%
  Baidu 0.5%
   Desktop Market Share – 94.2%

Desktop Browser Share

  Internet Explorer 52.6%
  Firefox 22.5%
  Chrome 17.6%
  Safari 5.4%

Desktop Operating System Share

  Windows 91.9%
  Mac 6.9%
  Linux 1.2%
  SunOS 0.0%

Desktop Search Engine Share

  Google 82.4%
  Yahoo 6.8%
  Baidu 4.0%
  Bing 4.0%

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News Photos/Video Of The Day- Starlings Mumurization

Starlings create beautiful aerobatic display in the skies over Scotland

Robert Hood writes
Have you ever watched the way a flock of starlings move? It can be hypnotic.

Scott Heppell / AP A flock of starlings is seen as the sun sets above Gretna, Scotland on Nov. 4, 2011. reports

To watch the uncanny synchronization of a starling flock in flight is to wonder if the birds aren’t actually a single entity, governed by something beyond the usual rules of biology. New research suggests that’s true.

Mathematical analysis of flock dynamics show how each starling’s movement is influenced by every other starling, and vice versa. It doesn’t matter how large a flock is, or if two birds are on opposite sides. It’s as if every individual is connected to the same network.

That phenomenon is known as scale-free correlation, and transcends biology. The closest fit to equations describing starling flock patterns come from the literature of “criticality,” of crystal formation and avalanches — systems poised on the brink, capable of near-instantaneous transformation.

Murmuration from Sophie Windsor Clive on Vimeo.

To watch the uncanny synchronization of a starling flock in flight is to wonder if the birds aren’t actually a single entity, governed by something beyond the usual rules of biology. New research suggests that’s true.

Mathematical analysis of flock dynamics show how each starling’s movement is influenced by every other starling, and vice versa. It
doesn’t matter how large a flock is, or if two birds are on opposite sides. It’s as if every individual is connected to the same network.

That phenomenon is known as scale-free correlation, and transcends biology. The closest fit to equations describing starling flock patterns come from the literature of “criticality,” of crystal formation and avalanches — systems poised on the brink, capable of near-instantaneous transformation.

In starlings, “being critical is a way for the system to be always ready to
optimally respond to an external perturbation, such as predator attack,” wrote researchers led by University of Rome theoretical physicist Giorgio Parisi in a June 14 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciencespaper.

Parisi’s team recorded starling flocks on the outskirts of Rome. Some had just over 100 birds, and others more than 4,000. Regardless of size, the correlations of a bird’s orientation and velocity with the other birds’ orientation and velocity didn’t vary. If any one bird turned and changed
speed, so would all the others.

In particle physics, synchronized orientation is found in systems with “low noise,” in which signals are transmitted without degrading. But low noise isn’t enough to produce synchronized speeds, which are found in
critical systems. The researchers give the example of ferromagnetism, where particles in a magnet exhibit perfect interconnection at a precise, “critical” temperature.

“More analysis is necessary to prove this definitively, but our results suggest” that starling flocks are a critical system, said study co-author Irene Giardina, also a University of Rome physicist.

According to the researchers, the “most surprising and exotic feature” of the flocks was their near-instantaneous signal-processing speed. “How starlings achieve such a strong correlation remains a mystery to us,” they wrote.

Images: 1. Flickr/Eduardo. 2. Snapshot measurements of starling-flock
orientation and velocity./PNAS.

See Also:

Citation: “Scale-free correlations in starling flocks.” By Giorgio Parisi, Andrea Cavagna, Alessio Cimarelli, Irene Giardina, Raffaele Santagati, Fabio Stefanini, Massimiliano Viale. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Vol. 107 No. 24, June 15, 2010.

Brandon Keim’s Twitter stream and reportorial outtakes; Wired Science on Twitter. Brandon is currently working on a book about ecological tipping points.

There Ain’t No Cure For The Wintertime Blues- Maybe There Is

8 Ways to Beat the Winter Blues

Beating the Winter Doldrums

By Maia Szalavitz  Source:

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As the days get shorter and winter closes in, many people feel like hibernating. We start sleeping more, eating more, avoiding social contact. The effects can be particularly oppressive for people with depression, many of whom feel escalating dread as the end of Daylight Saving Time approaches. Here are eight ways to keep the black dog at bay, after you turn back the clocks.

Light Therapy

By Maia Szalavitz
Getty Images
Getty Images

Michael Terman, the director of the Center for Light Treatment and Biological Rhythms at Columbia University Medical Center, notes that winter depression is often spurred by waking up in darkness rather than light, which affects your body clock in a way that he calls “depressogenic.”

Paradoxically, then, this means that the end of Daylight Saving Time may
initially help those who are suffering winter depression, because turning the clock back means it’s more likely to be light out when you wake up. “On the Sunday of the change to standard time, all other things being equal, the sun rises an hour earlier relative to sleep. One would think this might provide a temporary respite,” he says.

Change itself, however, can be jarring, causing sleep loss. “This transient
effect can in fact have medical consequences in vulnerable people, even
including cardiac emergencies,” says Terman, noting that heart attacks and car accidents increase immediately after the time change.

MORE: Could a Body Clock Drug Help Ease Depression?

For people who are prone to the winter blues, Terman suggests trying light therapy. Exposure to bright light, especially first thing after waking up, has three major positive effects that can relieve depression, Terman says. “It keeps the circadian clock in check, preventing it from drifting later than your desired (or, workday) sleep period. It’s an energizer that gives a morning boost, whether you’re depressed or just sluggish. And it has direct antidepressant properties, stimulating the same neurotransmitters as antidepressant medications,” he says.

Special types of lights are required; it’s not enough to flick on your
bedside lamp. A visit to a therapist who specializes in this treatment is also recommended to start, although lightboxes can be purchased without a prescription.

Terman’s website has a questionnaire to help you determine the best time of day to use light therapy, based on how much of a “morning” or “evening” person you are. If you are prone to depression and already using light therapy, Terman suggests skipping your usual dose this
Sunday to help your body adjust to the new time schedule, and then resuming afterward at the same hour you used it previously.

Even if your depression doesn’t have a seasonal pattern, research shows that light therapy can help: it has been found useful for treating bipolar
depression, depression during pregnancy and chronic depression.

MORE: Is Daylight Saving Time Bad for Your Health?


By Maia Szalavitz

Getty Images

Getty Images

Depression can worsen fears of social rejection, causing you to avoid social occasions. But social support is one of the most important factors for recovery from depression and for avoiding relapse. So try to go out even when you don’t feel like it: make a commitment to do a certain number of social activities each week and stick to it.

Once you’ve forced yourself to get out, the dread of socializing typically
eases and you’ll often find that you’re having a surprisingly good time. Remind yourself of this the next time you feel the urge to stay home. And be aware that depression can cause you to be oversensitive to social slights that may not have been intended. If you think someone has rejected you in some way (for example, a colleague failing to say hello to you in the hall), try to consider alternative explanations for the incident (she was preoccupied with concerns over her imminent meeting with the boss) and avoid overreacting or ruminating on depressing thoughts.

If you find yourself unable to enjoy social situations that used to give you
pleasure, you may need to seek additional help. This is a symptom of depression called anhedonia, which often requires medication or other professional treatment to lift.

MORE: Friends With Benefits: Being Highly Social Cuts Dementia Risk by 70%


By Maia Szalavitz

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Getty Images

Like socializing, exercise is something that depressed people often dread and seek to avoid; however, it dramatically improves mood if you can get yourself do it. “My clinical impression is that regular aerobic workouts can markedly lift depressed mood in about 33% of patients,” says Terman. “But if they don’t keep it up, they quickly crash.”

To motivate yourself, choose an activity that you enjoy (or at least, hate
less than all the other exercises) and schedule it at regular times, so that it becomes a routine. Exercising repeatedly at the same time each day or days of the week helps create a habit, and the more you repeat that habit, the harder it becomes to let yourself deviate from it.

Remind yourself before each workout that you will feel great once you get
going — and afterward — and that there is no reason for feeling dread or
avoiding exercise. The more you mentally reconfirm the direct link between exercise and rise in mood, the less credence you’ll lend the dread over time.

MORE: How Understanding Drug Addiction Can Motivate You to Exercise

Deep Breathing

By Maia Szalavitz

Getty Images

Getty Images

If you do yoga or any other form of meditation, you know that focusing on
breathing is a critical part of the practice. It’s also useful for fighting
depression. Why? One reason is that taking slow, deep, relaxing breaths
stimulates the vagus nerve, which is responsible for counteracting the stress response.

The vagus is a “very complex and widespread nerve that not only lowers heart rate and can lead to more relaxation, but also has branches that go to the face and [voicebox],” says Tiffany Field, director of the Touch Research Institute at Miami University, explaining that low vagal activity is the “reason depressed people seem so emotionally flat.” When vagus nerve activity increases, that flat affect lifts.

Under stress, the heart beats faster and blood pressure rises. The vagus
nerve sends the opposite message. And because depression is often initiated or exacerbated by stress, anything that tamps down the stress response can help. In fact, one therapy for treatment-resistant depression is the use of a device that electrically stimulates the vagus nerve.

But you don’t have to go that far to seek stimulation. “You can stimulate the vagus by breathing, if you make your expirations longer like in yoga. If you exhale for twice as long as you inhale, you will be enhancing vagal activity,” says Field. (Another way to stimulate the vagus is by breathing in deeply and then exhaling forcefully while holding your nose and mouth closed, until your ears “pop.” Obviously, don’t hold your breath this way for too long or push too hard.)

When anxiety runs high, remembering to slow down and breathe deep can help prevent it from pushing you over the brink and into depression.

MORE: Yoga and Stretching Can Help Relieve a Bad Back


By Maia Szalavitz

Getty Images

Getty Images

Massage isn’t just a fun luxury. It can be as effective in treating
depression as talk therapy. During massage, levels of the stress hormone
cortisol, which is often high in depressed people, fall while levels of the
neurotransmitter serotonin — the same brain chemical increased by antidepressant medications — rise.

“There are many, many, many studies on depression and massage showing that there is not only a decrease in symptoms of depression but also underlying changes that are happening physiologically and biochemically,” says Field.

Research hasn’t found one particular type of massage to be more mood-lifting than others, but one key factor matters. “You don’t get these effects unless there’s at least moderate pressure,” Field says. “Light stroking is actually aversive and operates in the opposite direction. It increases heart and stress hormones.”

MORE: Aching Back? Try Massage for Chronic Pain


By Maia Szalavitz

Getty Images

Getty Images

Here’s good news for coffee drinkers: a recent analysis of data from the massive Nurses’ Health Study found that women who drank more than
four cups of coffee a day had a 20% lower risk of depression than women who drank less. (The research did not include men but there’s little reason to suspect a wildly different effect in them.)

Such research can’t prove that caffeine or coffee causes better mood; it only shows an association. But since many people say they find coffee to be a mood-lifter and since, overall, there’s more evidence of benefit than harm, having an extra cup might be just what the doctor ordered.

MORE: What We’ve Been Waiting For: Zero-Calorie, ‘Inhalable’ Caffeine


By Maia Szalavitz

Getty Images

Getty Images

There are two supplements available in health food stores that studies suggest have at least some positive effects on depression:
S-adenosyl-L-methionine, or SAM-e, and omega-3 fatty acids, particularly eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA).

Omega-3s are also abundant in oily fish, so simply adding more salmon and sardines to your diet could help banish winter blues. SAM-e is not found in foods, but identifying high-quality supplements that contain the right amount of key ingredients in the appropriate form can sometimes be tricky; ask your doctor for guidance. Both supplements appear to be safe, with few reported negative side effects.

MORE: Study: Fish Oil May Prevent Symptoms of Postpartum Depression

Professional Help

By Maia Szalavitz

Getty Images

Getty Images

Seeking professional mental health care can help you navigate an array of tactics to beat depression. If you’re already in treatment, now’s a good time to talk with your therapist or doctor about a seasonal slip in mood and how to prevent it from becoming something worse. Perhaps medications will need to be adjusted or talk therapy stepped up; for severe cases of depression, your therapist may recommend other options.

But whatever you do, don’t simply suffer. Depression is more treatable now than ever before, and with the cold and dark fast approaching in many parts of the country, the time to stop it is now.

MORE: What the 400% Increase in Antidepressant Prescribing Really Means

Maia Szalavitz is a
health writer at Find her on Twitter at @maiasz. You can also continue the
discussion on TIME Healthland’s Facebook page and on Twitter
at @TIMEHealthland.


Coldplay Turns Up The Heat With Hot Selling Album

Coldplay‘s “Mylo Xyloto” tops Billboard album chart

By Piya Sinha-Roy | Reuters

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Coldplay debuted at the top of the Billboard 200 album chart on Wednesday with “Mylo Xyloto,” while pop star Rihanna scored her 11th No. 1 single with “We Found Love” on the Hot 100 chart.

Coldplay in Barcelona, 2005.

“Mylo Xyloto,” the fifth studio album from Coldplay, sold 447,000 copies in the first week of its release, according to Nielsen SoundScan. It beat out stiff competition from “American Idol” alumnus Kelly Clarkson, who entered the charts at No. 2 with her fifth album, “Stronger,” selling 163,00

This is the third studio album for British rockers Coldplay to debut at No. 1, following their 2005 release “X&Y” and 2008’s “Viva La Vida Or
Death And All His Friends.”

Cover of "Viva La Vida or Death and All H...

Coldplay’s latest record is the third biggest-selling album to top the charts this year, and the largest single-week sales for a rock record in nearly three years, according to Jim Donio, president of the National
Association of Recording Merchandisers (NARM), a music business

The band have also broken their own record, previously held by “Viva La Vida,” for highest-ever first week album sales on iTunes stores worldwide, amassing over 500,000 copies sold across all 35 iTunes stores, a representative for Capitol Records said.

“Mylo Xyloto” has received mixed reviews, despite its chart-topping success. Rolling Stone’s Josh Eells gave the record three-and-a-half stars, saying “the choruses are bigger, the textures grander, the optimism more optimistic,” but other critics were less impressed.

Alexis Petridis of British newspaper The Guardian, criticized the lack of evolution in Coldplay’s music and said that a lot of the album “just sounds like standard-issue Coldplay, replete with echoing guitars, woah-oh choruses and vocals that signify high drama by slipping into falsetto.”

British singer Adele, who has been dominating the album charts with “21,” dropped to No. 4 as Michael Buble‘s holiday album ‘Christmas,” released last week ahead of the festive season, debuted at No. 3.

Rihanna in her Last Girl on Earth Tour

Country singer Toby Keith rounded out the top five albums on the Billboard 200, with his 15th studio album, “Clancy’s Tavern,” also released last week, while singer-songwriter Tom Waits scored his first Top 10 album with “Bad As Me” entering the charts at No. 6.

Completing the Top 10 albums were Scotty McCreery‘s “Clear As Day” at No. 7 followed by Lady Antebellum‘s “Own The Night,” Tony Bennett‘s “Duets II,” and Casting Crowns‘ “Come To The Well,” in that order.

In the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart, Rihanna has become the fastest solo artist to earn 20 hits in the Top 10 in the course of her six year career, as her latest single featuring French DJ David Guetta, “We Found Love,” took the No. 1 spot from Adele’s “Someone Like You.”

The previous record for fastest solo artist to reach 20 Top 10 singles in her career was held by Madonna, whom Rihanna beat by 5 months.

The single is the 11th No. 1 hit for the Grammy-winning Barbadian singer, who became the fifth female artist to reach 20 Top 10 singles, an achievement shared with Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, Janet Jackson and Madonna.

Rihanna’s sixth studio album, “Talk That Talk,” is due for release on Nov

Next week’s album chart are likely to feature new entries from Justin Bieber, Miranda Lambert and Florence + The Machine, all of whom have released new albums this week.

(Reporting and Writing by Piya Sinha-Roy; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte)

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Being Social While Watching TV

20 TV Shows With the Most Social Media Buzz This Week [CHART]

It’s no secret that Americans enjoy using social media while they watch TV. But which shows are accumulating the most social buzz this season?

We thought it time to break down the stats in a new weekly chart. The best part? These charts dish the dirt — that is, a scale of positive sentiment. For instance, this week’s most socially influential cable show, Project Runway, saw a 62% increase in network chatter. Dare we say it was due to designer Anya’s controversial win?

The data below is compliments of our friends at Trendrr,  who measure specific TV show activity (mentions, likes, checkins) across Twitter, Facebook, GetGlue and Miso. To see daily rankings, check out Trendrr.TV

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, narvikk

Top 10 Brain Warping & Mind Bending Flicks


Top 10 Movies That Mess with Your Mind

Too many movies make it a point to explain every single plot point. But there’s a certain pleasure to be found in confusion. TIME looks at the best cinematic mind benders.

Last Year at Marienbad



Director: Alain Resnais
Year Released: 1961
Cast: Giorgio Albertazzi, Delphine Seyrig, Sacha Pitoëff, Françoise Bertin, Jean Lanier

“Didn’t we meet at Marienbad last year?” an unnamed man asks an unnamed woman. So begins one of the most confusing (and frustrating) movies ever made. Two people are at a French château. One says they know each other. The other denies it. Back and forth they go, over and over, while director Alain Resnais’ camera endlessly stalks the château’s spooky corridors. All the while, organ music blasts out at unpredictable moments. Some well-dressed people stand in a sunlit garden. They cast shadows. The triangle-shaped trees surrounding them do not. There appears to be no plot. It’s all very dreamlike. What is this movie about?




Year Released: 2000
Cast: Guy Pearce, Carrie-Anne Moss, Joe Pantoliano, Mark Boone Junior, Russ Fega

Before Christopher Nolan’s Inception, there was Memento, a great big puzzle of a movie whose protagonist suffers from short-term-memory
loss. With the help of Polaroids, notes and tattoos (give him credit, the man is dedicated), Leonard Shelby tries to track down his wife’s murderer, known only as “John G.” As he tries to piece everything together, so does the audience, which sees much of the action as fragments shown in reverse chronological order. We alternate between black-and-white and color, forward movement and back, truth and lies. Leonard doesn’t know whom to trust … and neither do we.

2001: A Space Odyssey



Director: Stanley Kubrick
Year Released: 1968
Cast: Keir Dullea, Gary Lockwood, William Sylvester, Daniel Richter, Leonard Rossiter

Stanley Kubrick’s sci-fi classic had apes, astronauts (some hibernating), a
mysterious monolith — and HAL, a talking computer. Despite the presence of a verbally active machine, there isn’t much dialogue in 2001: A Space Odyssey. The emphasis is on the visuals, whose grandiosity is matched only by the film’s symphonic soundtrack. As TIME noted when the movie came out — in suitably trippy and pre-moon-landing 1968
— “Kubrick turns the screen into a planetarium gone mad and provides the viewer with the closest equivalent to psychedelic experience this side of hallucinogens.” The film, based on a short story by Arthur C. Clarke, won an Oscar for visual effects.

El Topo



Director: Alejandro Jodorowsky
Year Released: 1970
Cast: Alejandro Jodorowsky, Brontis Jodorowsky, José Legarreta, Alfonso Arau, José Luis Fernández

TIME’s 1971 review of Chilean-Russian director Alejandro Jodorowsky’s El Topo (The Mole) described the allegorical cult western film as “a vivid if ultimately passionless passion play.” The film’s 1970 trailer proclaimed, “It is a mystic film. It is tender. It is sexual.” It is also a bit strange. A mysterious cowboy kills a group of outlaws before abandoning his naked son to ride off with a woman. El Topo (played by Jodorowsky) then embarks on a series of bizarre adventures. He challenges and defeats the four great gun masters of the land and then is betrayed by a woman
with a man’s voice who shoots him, leaving stigmata wounds. After El Topo heals and finds religious enlightenment, he begins an affair with a dwarf woman and helps a group of outcasts escape from a subterranean prison, only to see them massacred by cultists. That’s when things really get weird. El Topowas a cult favorite at midnight showings in New York City before finally being released on DVD in 2007.




Director: Darren Aronofsky
Year Released: 1998
Cast: Sean Gullette, Mark Margolis, Ben Shenkman, Pamela Hart, Stephen Pearlman

Maximillian Cohen is a mathematician burdened by crippling social anxieties and an all-consuming belief in the power of his science. As he’s about to discover a singular mathematical solution to the patterns of the universe (or so he believes), Cohen falls prey to the schemes of a clutch of cutthroat Wall Street bankers and a sect of Hasidic Jewish Kabbalists, both keen to profit from his revelation. What follows in Darren Aronofsky’s black-and-white meta-thriller is a hallucinatory collapse, with an eerie score that sounds out the tormented, psychic depths of a man driven to insanity by his quest for order.

The Oeuvre of David Lynch



Director: David Lynch
Year Released: 1997
Cast: Bill Pullman, Patricia Arquette, John Roselius, Louis Eppolito, Jenna Maetlind

It’s hard to say which of David Lynch’s works is the craziest. A profound
madness lurks beneath them all, from Eraserhead (1977), his trippy film-school debut, to Blue Velvet (1986) and the Twin Peaks TV series, all the way to Lost Highway (1997), Mulholland Dr. (2001) and Inland Empire (2006). Characters in Lynch films hover on the margins of reality, entering, through portal after portal, phantasmagoric dream worlds that are often as unsettling as they are hypnotic. Though Lynch runs a foundation that advocates a brand of popular meditation, there’s little that’s calming or stable about his vision. Beneath the thin sheen of daily life is an unfathomable, terrifying darkness. That, it seems, is what Lynch repeatedly tries to bring to light.

Fight Club



Director: David Fincher
Year Released: 1999
Cast: Edward Norton, Brad Pitt, Helena Bonham Carter, Meat Loaf, Eion Bailey

Fight Club the movie — based on the Chuck Palahniuk novel of the
same name — is the story of a boring white-collar stiff played by Ed Norton who joins an underground fighting club run by a man called Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt). Norton and Pitt spend most of the movie beating each other up — until the end, when Norton realizes Pitt doesn’t actually exist. He then shoots himself in the face to “kill” his imaginary friend. (Funny, Brad Pitt is also our imaginary friend, but for an entirely different reason). Oh, and Norton’s love interest in Fight Clubis played by Helena Bonham Carter, which is strange because Tim Burton didn’t direct it.




Director: Terry Gilliam
Year Released: 1985
Cast: Jonathan Pryce, Robert De Niro, Bob Hoskins, Ian Holm,
Ian Richardson, Jim Broadbent, Katherine Helmond, Michael Palin

We’ve seen Terry Gilliam’s Brazil three times, and we’re still not sure what’s going on. Something about a dystopian future? A man named Sam Lowry is hired to investigate a printer jam that led to the accidental imprisonment and death of a regular citizen, Archibald Buttle, instead of a wanted terrorist, Archibald Tuttle. Is that what’s going on? We have no idea. The terrorist (played by Robert De Niro) is also an air-conditioner repairman who at one point helps Lowry fix his broken AC. Some people are arrested; other people fall into a bottomless casket during a funeral. Then things get really weird. Is Brazil supposed to be real, or is the entire story unfolding in the mind of its main character, a delusional, doped-up Lowry who has been declared clinically insane? Who knows.




Director: Ingmar Bergman
Year Released: 1966
Cast: Bibi Andersson, Liv Ullmann, Margaretha Krook, Gunnar

In his memoirs, legendary Swedish director Ingmar Bergman said of Persona, “I had gone as far as I could go … I touched wordless secrets that only the cinema can discover.” A minimalist production about an actress who suddenly goes mute and the nurse who cares for her in an isolated seaside cottage, Personabegins with a prelude: a projector
shows several brief images, including a crucifixion, an erect penis, a cartoon, a tarantula, children in Halloween costumes, a lamb being slaughtered and, finally, an emaciated boy who wakes up in a hospital and touches a blurry image of a woman’s face. The title cards feature more split-second images, including what appears to be a self-immolating monk in Vietnam. What follows is a three-act drama about identity, loss and memory, one that influenced directors from Woody Allen to David Lynch.

Blade Runner



Director: Ridley Scott
Year Released: 1982
Cast: Harrison Ford, Daryl Hannah, Edward James Olmos, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young

In late 1981, director Ridley Scott showed Philip K. Dick an early cut of
Blade Runner. Dick, who authored the book Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? — on which Blade Runner was based — said, “You would literally have to go five times to see it before you could assimilate the information that is fired at you.” A richly textured mashup of Raymond Chandler–esque noir and dystopian nightmare, Blade Runner tells the story of a detective who hunts down and retires advanced androids called replicants. Like all great science fiction, the film asked big questions, like, What does it really mean to be human? (And slightly smaller questions like, Is Harrison Ford a robot or not?) Blade Runner baffled test audiences in early 1982, causing the studio to add a voice-over narration and change the ending, using leftover shots from Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. To date, seven different versions of the film have been shown, and if that isn’t cause for confusion, we don’t know what is.

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Petition The White House? – Why Not! Here’s How

White House: don’t blame us for software patents

The Obama administration has started an official petition website called “We the People,” in which Americans can propose and vote on petitions for consideration by the White House. Petitions that cross a popularity threshold (originally 5,000 signatures within 30 days) get an official response from the White House.

This being the Internet, one of the first petitions focused on software patents, asking President Obama to “direct the patent office to cease issuing software patents and to void all previously issued software patents.” The White House issued its official response on Tuesday. After touting the recently passed America Inevents Act, Obama technology advisor Quentin Palfrey says the executive branch’s hands are tied…

White House: don't blame us for software patents

…There’s a lot we can do through the new law to improve patent quality and to ensure that only true inventions are given patent protection. But it’s important to note that the executive branch doesn’t set the boundaries of what is patentable all by itself. Congress has set forth broad categories of inventions that are eligible for patent protection. The courts, including the US Supreme Court, have interpreted the statute to include some software-related inventions. Even before the legislation passed, the Administration took other important steps to ensure that only high-quality patents are issued, and that we curb or invalidate overly-broad software patents. For example, the USPTO recently issued guidance to its examiners that tighten up the requirements that inventors fully describe, specify, and distinctly claim their inventions so that vague patents are not issued. We’ve also issued new guidance to examiners to help ensure that patents cover only “new” and “non-obvious” inventions.

There’s a lot of truth to this. The rules Congress established for patent eligibility are extremely broad, so in practice decisions about what can be patented—and in particular, whether it includes software—are primarily made by the courts. The courts have been rather confused on the subject. The Supreme Court has traditionally been skeptical of software patents, but it hasn’t ruled on the subject since 1981. Since then, the law has been shaped by the software-patent-friendly United States Court of Appeal for the Federal Circuit.

White house Red Room, as designed by Stéphane ...

The USPTO is obligated to respect decisions of the Federal Circuit, so USPTO director probably couldn’t invalidate all software patents—or even all new software patents—with the stroke of a pen. But the Patent Office still has a lot of influence. For one thing, it takes the decisions of the Federal Circuit and translates them into specific guidelines for patent examiners to follow, so where the Federal Circuit is ambiguous, the USPTO can err on the side of rejecting software patents—indeed it has been doing just that to a limited extent. Over time, such rejections, if upheld by the courts, could shift the law in a less software-patent-friendly direction.

The Obama administration can also influence the law in another way. When the Supreme Court is considering a patent case, it invariably invites the administration to submit a brief, and will often give the solicitor general the opportunity to participate in oral arguments. If the White House became convinced that software patents were detrimental to the American economy, it could begin filing briefs encouraging the Supreme Court to reinstate its original original ban on software patents. While the Supreme Court isn’t obligated to take the government’s advice, it would carry a significant amount of weight.

Seal of the Supreme Court of the United States

We’re not going to hold our breath, though. Before joining the USPTO, Director David Kappos was Assistant General Counsel for Intellectual Property at IBM. While we assume he’s not beholden to his former employer, we’re willing to bet that Big Blue’s enthusiasm for software patents has rubbed off on him.

The White House statement also included a strong endorsement of open source software:

We understand that the concern about software patents stems, in part, from concerns that overly broad patents on software-based inventions may stifle the very innovative and creative open source software development community. As an Administration, we recognize the tremendous value of open source innovation and rely on it to accomplish key missions.

The statement touts a number of administration initiatives related to open source software, but doesn’t mention any policies to protect open source software from patent litigation.

Photograph by Mark Skrobola


The White House Blog

We the People: Announcing White House Petitions &
How They Work

Posted by Macon Phillips
Something exciting is coming to It’s called We the People and it will significantly change how the public — you! — engage with the White House online.

Our Constitution guarantees your right to petition our government.  Now, with We the People, we’re offering a new way to submit an online petition on a range of issues — and get an official response.

Official seal of the USPTO

We’re announcing We the People before it’s live to give folks time to think
about what petitions they want to create, and how they are going to build the support to get a response.

When will it be live? Soon.  If you want to be the first to know when the
system is available, sign up for an email alert.

Here’s a video we put together to explain what it is and how it works:

Here are the basics:

Individuals will be able to create or sign a petition that calls for action
by the federal government on a range of issues.  If a petition gathers enough support (i.e., signatures) it will be reviewed by a standing group of White House staff, routed to any other appropriate offices and generate an official, on-the-record response.

How many signatures? Initially petitions that gather more than 5,000
signatures in 30 days will be reviewed and answered.

There’s another aspect to this meant to emphasize the grassroots, word of mouth organizing that thrives on the internet.  At first, a petition’s unique URL will only be known to its creator and will not show up anywhere else on  It’s up to that person to share it in their network to gather an initial amount of signatures — initially 150 — before it is searchable on

As we move forward, your feedback about We the People will be invaluable, and there are a few ways you can share it.  Numerous pages on, including the We the People section, feature a feedback form.  In addition, you can use the twitter hashtag #WHWeb to give the White House digital team advice and feedback.  I’ll also try to answer questions when I have time today — you can pose them to @macon44.

Lawn in front of the White House, Washington, DC.

Finally, while We the People is a fresh approach to official, online
petitions, the United States isn’t the first to try it; for example, the United Kingdom offers e-petitions, and this work was very helpful as we developed our own.

Macon Philips is the White House Director of Digital Strategy

Update: The signatures threshold for petitions on the We the People platform to receive an official response from the White House has changed since this blog post was published.  See the latest signature thresholds. ………………………………….

Terms of Participation

We invite you to participate in the We the People platform. You may use this platform on the White House website to create and sign petitions that call for the federal government to take action on a range of issues. For each topic included in We the People, you can petition the Administration to address a problem, support or oppose a proposal, or otherwise change or continue federal government policy or actions. As explained below, if a petition meets the signature goal within the designated period, the White House will respond to that petition in a timely fashion.

By participating in We the People, you acknowledge that you have read,
understood, and agree to be bound by these Terms of Participation and to comply with all applicable laws and regulations.

We the People expands the options for contacting the White House and does not displace current official methods of communication, such as mailing or emailing the White House. If you are not willing to agree to We the People’s Terms of Participation, but want to send a message, petition, or other form of communication to the White House, you may do so through the White House Office of Correspondence, which maintains a contact form and information about communicating with the White House at

In order to participate in We the People, you must create a User Account. You are required to use a valid email address when registering your account. Only one account per individual is allowed. You must be 13 or older in order to create an account and participate in We the People. Creating and signing We the People petitions must be done by individuals interacting directly with and not through a third party website or service.
You can learn more about User Accounts on our Privacy Policy page.



You Create a Petition

Before you start a petition, take some time to think about your goal. What
you want President Obama or the White House to do? Why others should support your cause? This will help you clearly articulate your position and make your petition more effective. You should also check to be sure there isn’t already a petition with the same goal on the site.

Here’s how to create a new petition:

Enter Basic Information
Start by entering a short (120 characters or less) headline for the petition by completing the sentence “We believe the Obama Administration should….” Your headline should be clear and compelling and describe the goal of your petition. Next you’ll select up to three issue categories. If you want to add additional information about the topic of your petition, you can do that later by adding tags.

Look for Similar Petitions
Once you submit your petition headline and categories, we’ll search the system to see if there are any existing petitions that are similar. If there is already an existing petition that addresses the concerns you have, you may want to sign that petition instead rather than creating a new one. You will increase the likelihood of getting a response by signing onto an existing petition rather than creating a duplicate petition on the same issue.

Provide Additional Details
If you don’t find an existing petition that is similar, next you’ll enter additional details about the petition. This is where you have a chance to make your case. Use this space to clearly articulate your goals and what you would like the Obama Administration to do. Include additional
information or research to support your request. Keep the petition description brief, you only have 800 characters including spaces. You’ll also have a chance to add additional tags to help further define the topic of your petition. Please note that petitions on the We the People site will be moderated. Some petitions may be removed from the site consistent with the Terms of Participation and Moderation Policy.

Preview, Publish and Promote.
Next you’ll have a chance to preview the petition and make changes. Be sure to double-check for spelling, punctuation and grammar because once you publish a petition it cannot be edited. Once you’ve published a petition, the real work begins: it’s time to start promoting it with your friends, family and others who care about the issue.


Others Sign

After you publish the petition, it’s up to you to promote it and get others
to sign. You’ll get an automatic email once your petition is published that you can forward to get started. Remember you have just 30 days to get 25,000 signatures in order to get a response from the White House. And it’s up to you to get to 150 signatures in order for your petition to be publicly searchable on the We the People tool on


The White House Reviews and Responds

Once the petition reaches the required threshold, it will be put in a queue
to be reviewed by the White House. Others can still sign the petition while it is awaiting a response from the White House. When the White House responds, everyone who has signed the petition will get email from the White House to let you know that we’ve reviewed and responded to the petition.

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NOTE: BLOGGO SCHLOGGO is an apolitical blog that has no affiliation with any political party and does not subscribe to any political theory or point of view. Any political articles on this blog are presented as information of interest, entertainment and our readers right to know.