April 14, 2008

There’s probably a grain of truth to this:

Lest the value of computer searching be unduly emphasized, I would like to point out that computers have definitely not obsoleted human patent examiners. Computers cannot be made to combine references to anticipate specific inventions, although this would not appear to be insuperable. At the present time, there is no adequate approach towards the searching of mechanical inventions. I think it is self-evident that the searching of the chemical arts is a relatively easy matter compared to the searching of drawings. The underlying skeletal nature of chemical inventions, and their classification into well-recognized groupings render their searching a relatively simple matter. This is not true of mechanical inventions and in particular, complex mechanisms.

Arthur H. Seidel, Antitrust, Patent and Copyright Law Implications of Computer Technology, 44 J. Pat. Off. Soc’y 116, 123 (1962)

Then again, I don’t know much about chemistry [1], so I can’t really be sure.

In other news, sometimes it happens that I get a song stuck in my head without knowing what song it is [2]. Sometimes I’ll remember a snatch of the lyrics [3], or I’ll have some idea who the recording artist might have been [4], but just as often I won’t. The song I most recently got stuck in my head sounded like it might have been a post-Sgt.-Pepper Beatles track [5], or maybe a John Lennon solo track. Turns out it wasn’t. After weeks of increasingly halfhearted searching, I gave up. Some time later I put my mp3 player on shuffle and it spit out “I Could Spend the Day” by The Zombies, which is what I’d been looking for all along. I was happy.

* * *

[1] I may not know much about chemistry, but I do know some biology, I have a few science books, and I even remember some of the French I took.

[2] As I understand it, Paul McCartney wrote “Yesterday” by getting it stuck in his head without knowing what it was. After months and months of trying to figure out where he might have heard it or who might have recorded it, he grudgingly accepted the fact that he might have come up with it himself. So far, I haven’t been as lucky.

[3] Remembering a snatch of lyrics can be helpful, especially when what you remember also happens to be the name of the song. Unfortunately that doesn’t help all that much when what you remember is “I Do”. For the record, it’s by The Marvelows. It took quite a lot of searching for me to find it.

[4] Knowing the band isn’t very helpful when you have a dozen of that band’s albums. I mean, obviously it’s helpful since it narrows it down to a dozen albums, rather than a few hundred, but that’s still an awful lot of songs to dig through searching for a single riff that you almost thought was David Bowie at first before you suddenly realized it was CMX. (For the record, it was “Punainen nro. 6”.)

[5] Look, I do know the White Album, but my knowledge of anything past that is sketchy at best. (For the record, I think their strongest work was Rubber Soul or Revolver.) If it makes you feel any better, I’ve been meaning to familiarize myself with Abbey Road and Let It Be.

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