The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is giving top priority to inventors of homeland security technology. This is no small favor. "Typically, we're able to knock 14 to 15 months off the 17-month initial examination," says Steve Kunin, deputy commissioner for patent policy at the patent office. Surprisingly, the initiative to fast-track anti-terrorism technology was not prompted by 9/11. Actually, it was set in motion in September 1996 in response to the Oklahoma City bombing. At the time, the Clinton White House challenged government and the public to find ways to fight terrorism. The fast-track for counter-terrorism innovation was the patent office contribution. After 9/11, the initiative shifted from one of "counter terrorism" to "homeland security." Surprisingly, the volume of security-oriented patents did not jump noticeably after 9/11. "Interestingly enough, we haven't noticed any increase in petitions to make applications special [guv-speak for fast-track requests]," says Kunin. About 1% of all current applications come with a request for homeland-security fast track. "But that's no small number," says Kunin, "We receive 350,000 applications worldwide, so it's still 35,000." The patent office isn't combing through nifty inventions in search of security ideas, though. The applicant needs to identify the innovation as a security device, which must then pass through patent office criteria. The office, however, posts information about the initiative on its Website and explains what qualifies for fast-track attention to hundreds of daily callers.
The amount of plastic clogging the ocean continues to grow. Some startling, not-so-good news has come out recently about the roles plastic is playing in the ocean, as well as more heartening news about efforts to collect and reuse it.
Some of our culture's most enduring robots appeared in the 80s. The Aliens series produced another evil android, and we saw light robot fare in the form of Short Circuit. Two of the great robots of all time also showed up: The Terminator and RoboCop.
Focus on Fundamentals consists of 45-minute on-line classes that cover a host of technologies. You learn without leaving the comfort of your desk. All classes are taught by subject-matter experts and all are archived. So if you can't attend live, attend at your convenience.