via What If?
What if one were to drop 3,000 bouncy balls from a seven story parking structure onto a person walking on the sidewalk below? Should the person survive, what would be the number of bouncy balls needed to kill them? What injuries would occur and what would the associated crimes be?
After falling from seven stories, the mass of bouncy balls would be moving at about 20 meters per second.
20 meters per second is about how fast an average person with a good arm could throw a bouncy ball. Therefore, to determine the result of an impact, we can make use of what Einstein called a gedankenexperiment, or “thought experiment”:
In science, it’s important that results be repeatable, so let’s try that again:
The tricky thing about this scenario is that 3,000 one-inch bouncy balls is not as many as you probably think—it’d be enough to fill a large bucket.
This bucket would weigh about as much as a small child, which leads us to another gedankenexperiment:
Of course, in reality, the average person can’t throw a small child as fast as they can throw a bouncy ball. Furthermore, they won’t all fall in one clump. If you poured the balls from a container, they would bounce around and spread out as they fell, and most of them would probably miss the target.
This effect was demonstrated in an experiment by Utah State University students, who poured 20,000 bouncy balls from a helicopter as part of their Geek Week. The balls fell as a cloud, rather than a single mass.
If you wanted to be sure of killing someone, you’d need a lot more balls. 3,000,000 of them—enough to fill a large room—would be be enough to guarantee that the target would either be crushed to death by the impact or buried too deep to dig themselves out.
To your last question, if someone just happened to walk underneath when you dropped the bouncy balls, and they were killed by the impact, you’d most likely be guilty of some form of manslaughter.
However, by asking this question, you’ve shown your intent to cause harm to the victim, demonstrating clear malice aforethought. By writing in to this blog, you’ve probably upgraded your charge to murder.
All in all, you should probably stick to gedankenexperiments.
‘Escape from Tomorrow’ is a film by Randy Moore shot secretly at Disneyland and Disney World. Part of the buzz around the movie is that no one can imagine Disney allowing the movie to be released.
To attempt to describe the plot of “Escape” is to go down a rabbit hole as disorienting as any amusement park ride. Basically, the film is about a down-on-his luck fortysomething father (Roy Abramsohn) on the last day of a Disney World vacation with his henpecking wife and their two angelic children. As he takes his children to various attractions, the father is haunted by disturbing imagery; he is also, in the meantime (and with his children in tow), tailing two young flirtatious French girls around the park. Airy musical compositions you might find in classic Hollywood films play over many of these scenes, giving a light shading to the darker moments.
Moore shot the movie over 25 days and said production was never stopped by anyone inside the park.
To make the movie, Moore wouldn’t print out script pages or shot sequences for the 25 days he was filming on Disney turf, instead keeping all the info on iPhones. This way, when actors and crew were looking down between takes, passersby just thought they were glancing at their messages.
Here’s a scene from the movie:
via Dave Winer
I watched the Republican convention last night. I’ve watched many of them, dating back to Nixon. I’ve voted Republican, always holding my nose, because I found the Democratic alternative so abhorrent. But last night was over the top. Here’s a guy who presents himself as a honest and honorable man who helps people, but the lies he tells, oh man. I just don’t know. His campaign is like a wish list. I wish the current President had gone on an “apology tour” so I’ll just say he did. I’ll say we lost jobs under his watch, when actually under any reasonable view of things he created jobs, a lot of them. He failed to lead, he says, without saying that the Republicans were willing to be led. They weren’t. Openly.
Our credit rating suffered a downgrade under this President because, unfortunately, the Republicans, who control one chamber of Congress openly toyed with the possibility of the United States not paying creditors. We had the money. Of course our credit rating went down. They must have had a meeting where they came up with the line they would use now, in the campaign, to make it sound like this was President Obama’s idea! These are seriously depraved non-America-loving people, who choose their words very carefully and know that most people aren’t listening carefully enough to understand what they’re saying, if there’s any truth to it, which lately there hasn’t. Why bother, these are just stories. Why not say Obama started World War III with our closest allies, Poland, Israel and England. Threw them under the bus! Great line Mitt.
It is so disgusting. To think the purpose of Republican obstructionism of the last three years was only to give this guy a better chance of winning. It’s such a bad punchline. How much suffering there was for this end. It tells us that net-net the United States can’t find its ass with both hands. All the grand talk about how great we are is belied by the evidence, starting us in the face, in the being of Mitt Romney. Is this the best we can do? Is this it? A venture capitalist is to be our new leader? I’ve worked at companies that were run by people like Mitt Romney. I’ve seen many more of them flushed down the toilet, dying a premature death, because the people at the top were tone-deaf to the actual people who made up the businesses they somehow accidentally ended up running. Usually into the ground. Fast.
On Twitter last night I said some things that, if I were a Republican, would sound horrible, and probably would cause me to unfollow. So be it. I should say them here too. I hate Romney. I want to see that stupid grin wiped off his face. I think he’s a condescending superior sumbitch, to steal a line from the Republican presidential candidate played by James Brolin in The West Wing television show. And, as on the West Wing, I seriously hope our current President mops up his ass in the debates. An America run by Mitt Romney is a disaster. And we just can’t afford any more disasters.
To Republicans who follow me, I would be a hypocrite if I didn’t use my communication channel to say what I think about an election in my country. Some years I have totally pissed off Democrats. If you have to go, I’m sorry to see that. But I’m not going to sacrifice my principles and become an equivocating floppy noodle like Mitt Romney. That doesn’t mean the technology I create is only useful to one political persuasion. It is agnostic. I wish there were a way to create tech that Karl Rove or the Koch brothers couldn’t profit from, but I haven’t figured out how to do that and be open at the same time. If you figure that one out let me know.
This history of the 1992 US Olympic basketball team might only be interesting to those who watched all those games. Which I did. And I am.
Chuck started Michael and Magic every game and then rotated the other three. Pippen would start one game, Mullin would start the next. Robinson and Ewing would alternate; Malone and Barkley would alternate. He was a master at managing. But in the second game against Croatia, there was never any doubt: He was putting Pippen on Toni Kukoc [who had just been drafted by the Bulls and had been offered a contract for more money than his future teammate]. Pippen and Jordan were tired of hearing about how great Kukoc was, because they were winning NBA championships.
You ever watch a lion or a leopard or a cheetah pouncing on their prey? We had to get Michael and Scottie out of the locker room, because they was damn near pulling straws to see who guarded him. Kukoc had no idea.
A U.S. judge yesterday threw aside a much-anticipated trial between Apple and Google-owned Motorola Mobility over smartphone patents. The decision and a blog comment by the same judge could prove to be a watershed moment for a U.S. patent system that has spiraled out of control.
In his remarkable ruling, U.S. Circuit Judge Richard Posner stated that there was no point in holding a trial because it was apparent that neither side could show they had been harmed by the other’s patent infringement. He said he was inclined to dismiss the case with prejudice — meaning the parties can’t come back to fight over the same patents — and that he would enter a more formal opinion confirming this next week.
The order is extraordinary not only for what it said but for who wrote it. For the unfamiliar, Richard Posner is a legend in legal and academic circles and possesses a resume that makes the typical Supreme Court Justice look like a slouch. He teaches at the University of Chicago and ordinarily sits on the influential 7th Circuit Court of Appeals but, in an unusual development, was assigned to a lower court last December to hear the Google-Apple patent case.
The case is just one of many patent disputes tying the legal system in knots as large companies tangle not only in court but at the International Trade Commission in an effort to ban each others’ products from the market. Critics say the patent system, which awards 20-year monopolies, has run amok thanks to a flood of questionable patents for software, business methods, emoticons and even one for “swinging on a swing.”
In a series of earlier rulings in the Apple case, Posner didn’t mince words as he used plain language to beat up the over-reaching arguments of both sides:
[re a slide-to-unlock patent] Apple’s .. argument is that “a tap is a zero-length swipe.” That’s silly. It’s like saying that a point is a zero-length line.
Motorola’s contention that the term has a “plain and ordinary meaning” is ridiculous; Motorola seems to have forgotten that this is a jury trial.
This week, Posner also lashed at the patent system in a blog he shares with economist Gary Becker. In a post about the declining strength of American institutions, he concluded:
The institutional structure of the United States is under stress. We might be in dangerous economic straits if the dollar were not the principal international reserve currency and the eurozone in deep fiscal trouble. We have a huge public debt, dangerously neglected infrastructure, a greatly overextended system of criminal punishment, a seeming inability to come to grips with grave environmental problems such as global warming, a very costly but inadequate educational system, unsound immigration policies, an embarrassing obesity epidemic, an excessively costly health care system, a possible rise in structural unemployment, fiscal crises in state and local governments, a screwed-up tax system, a dysfunctional patent system, and growing economic inequality that may soon create serious social tensions. Our capitalist system needs a lot of work to achieve proper capitalist goals.
Posner’s decision to descend from the 7th Circuit to oversee the Google-Apple trial suggests he wished to step in and do something directly about the patent system. (Ordinarily, Posner would never hear a patent case as all patent appeals are sent to the DC-based Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit; that court has maintained an ideological bias in favor of patent owners despite repeated rebuffs by the Supreme Court).
The backlash against the misuse of patents is coming not just from Posner and the Supreme Court but other federal judges as well. Judge James Robart blasted Motorola and Microsoft in Seattle last week, noting that ”The court is well aware that it is being played as a pawn in a global industry-wide business negotiation.”
It’s unclear how Apple and Google will respond to Posner’s surprise pounding of them. Both companies have so far said nothing and may be waiting for the other shoe to drop via Posner’s formal opinion expected next week. The judge wrote yesterday that he may change his mind but the overall tenor of the first opinion suggests this is unlikely. You can decide for yourself here:
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In addition to filing a general motion to dismiss the criminal case on the basis that the company was never properly served, Megaupload and defendants Kim Dotcom, Mathias Ortmann, Bram Van Der Kolk and Finn Batato are demanding the return of some, if not all, of the assets seized by the United States.
The motion, which “challenges the scope of pretrial restraint of assets”, is running in parallel with yesterday’s general motion to dismiss, just in case the former should be declined. It also gives us an interesting flavor of the nature of Megaupload’s defense should the case go to full trial.
As previously reported, the US indictment claims that Megaupload caused $500m in losses to copyright holders while generating revenue for itself in excess of $175m. In addition to $67m already seized, the U.S. Government is seeking criminal forfeiture of at least $175m, an amount challenged by Megaupload.
“This represents the total revenues generated by Megaupload during its entire corporate existence,” the motion begins.
“Thus, the premise of the Government’s forfeiture request is that Megaupload never earned a single penny that was not criminal under U.S. law — whether, say, from a non-infringing use of its service, or from use that occurred wholly outside the United States and beyond reach of U.S. law, or even from an infringing use within the United States as to which Defendants nonetheless qualify for a statutory safe harbor or lacked requisite criminal intent.”
Considering the high probability that at least some of the money generated by Megaupload was from entirely legal means (unless every single Megaupload user was engaged in criminal copyright infringement), assets should be released so that the defendants can pay to mount a defense, their legal team argues. Currently, no-one conducting Mega’s expert defense is getting paid.
The motion continues by detailing what the defense believes is the key to undermining the whole case – claims of secondary copyright infringement against Megaupload (i.e holding the company responsible for the actions of its users) can’t lead to criminal liability.
Indeed, only this week New Zealand Judge David J. Harvey made his opinion known, stating that in lacking “statutory support for its unprecedented effort to criminalize secondary copyright infringement, the Government has reached beyond the pale of the law.”
The motion adds that federal criminal liability is created by statute, and no statute imposes criminal liability for secondary copyright infringement.
“Congress did not contemplate that service providers such as these Defendants might be imprisoned based on uncodified theories of secondary liability that are still evolving in the civil context, as though those amounted to established federal crimes,” Dotcom’s lawyers write.
In addition to being held secondarily liable, there are various allegations of direct infringement being leveled at the defendants. For example, one involves Kim Dotcom allegedly uploading a single 50 Cent track, another with Finn Batato doing the same with a Louis Armstrong song.
However, Dotcom’s lawyers note that these allegations contain zero factual information from which the defendants could prepare a defense. Whose copyrights were infringed? How and when did the alleged infringements occur? The list goes on.
“The Government has attempted to make out an all-encompassing case of an alleged criminal copyright conspiracy without bothering to allege concrete specifics of the actual
infringement allegedly committed,” the lawyers write.
“It has attempted to build one of ‘the largest criminal copyright cases ever brought by the United States’ out of conclusory ipse dixit, reciting statutory verbiage and nothing more.”
In the indictment the U.S. makes much of the “rewards program” operated by Megaupload, claiming that such rewards encouraged users to upload infringing material. The defense see things somewhat differently.
“Particularly in the context of this case, where it can be stipulated that Megaupload’s
business was designed to appeal to its users and facilitate uploading and downloading of files, such allegations say nothing of consequence.
“If the Government believes that every such business model is inherently and pervasively criminal because it may enable copyright infringement along with other misuse, then it should say as much, so that everyone is on notice and this Court can take due account.
If, on the other hand, the Government believes that this business and these Defendants specially set out with intent to perpetrate copyright infringement, it is conspicuously bereft of corresponding facts.”
The motion continues by stating that Megaupload had “substantial non-infringing uses” and had protections under the DMCA since it complied with copyright holder takedown requests by removing millions of links to allegedly infringing material.
“Megaupload negotiated with numerous major rights holders, including the Recording Industry Association of America, the Motion Picture Association of America, Disney, Warner Brothers, and Universal Pictures, to grant them full access to directly remove any active link to infringing material,” Dotcom’s lawyers note.
Furthermore, even if the claims against Megaupload had merit, they would still be geographically restrained, Dotcom’s team writes.
“Megaupload was a non-U.S. company whose activities mostly occurred overseas and whose users were mostly located overseas. The laws of the United States do not apply to overseas locations and operations absent contrary prescription by Congress.”
The motion, which runs to 45 pages, is somewhat of a tour de force from a legal team co-ordinated by Ira Rothken of the Rothken Law Firm in California. Its contents could yet provide the biggest copyright-related upset the U.S. has ever seen.