Heaviside's barely legible monument tilts atop the family plot where he lies with his parents in Paignton Cemetary, Torquay, Devon, UK.
He developed the theory of transmission lines, coined such terms as inductance, impedance, and admittance, and rewrote James Clerk Maxwell’s awkwardly expressed equations into the vector form familiar to any student of electromagnetics. Today, Oliver Heaviside’s neglected tombstone is barely legible and is beginning to lean.
Founders of The Heaviside Memorial Project, the two have set up a website aiming to collect £800 in donations for the £660 repair and £140 for any unexpected costs. The restoration will relevel, clean, and repair the monument. Their campaign has already raised nearly half of the required funds. Please go to their website and donate what you can to this worthy cause.
I’ll be presenting my short course on UWB antennas at the IEEE Antennas and Propagation Symposium (APS) in Memphis, TN on Sunday July 6. This is the first time I’ve been back to IEEE APS since 2007, and my short course includes some interesting revisions from the second edition of my book, underway. Here’s a summary.
The wide scale commercial deployment of ultra-wideband (UWB) systems has led to increased interest in UWB antenna designs. In many cases, though, investigators have unknowingly resurrected already known designs rather than developing new ones. Also, the subtleties of UWB antenna physics and design are not always obvious to those more familiar with narrowband antennas. For instance, the spectral and impedance matching properties of a UWB antenna exert a profound influence on an overall UWB system design.
This workshop will enable attendees to:
Understand basic antenna physics as applied to UWB antennas
Quickly and correctly apply UWB antennas to current projects
Mark Brown (N4BCD) Participates in ARRL's Field Day.
One benefit of working at Q-Track is the opportunity to collaborate with talented people for whom radio is a passion, not just a profession. This past weekend, my Q-Track colleague, Mark Brown [N4BCD], participated in the American Radio Relay League (ARRL) “Field Day.” The weekend-long exercise tests the ability of amateur radio operators to maintain communications in the event of an emergency like the tornadoes that struck Northern Alabama in 2011. Mark was featured in the footage from WHNT Channel 19.
Near-field wireless technology is an emerging area of great importance in Radio Frequency Identification (RFID). Specific applications include low frequency (LF) and high frequency (HF) RFID, Near-Field Communications (NFC), Near-Field Electromagnetic Ranging (NFER), and wireless power transfer. This talk discusses the origins of near-field wireless, surveys applications, presents near-field links laws, and reviews the properties and performance of electrically-small antennas. This March 31, 2014 presentation to the Huntsville, AL section of the IEEE previews the full three hour workshop presented April 8, 2014 at the 8th Annual IEEE International Conference on RFID held in conjunction with 2014 RFID Journal Live.
A couple of misstatements I caught in reviewing this: first, Preece transmitted near field wireless signals across the Bristol Channel not the “British” Channel; and second, “unlike” links go as 40dB/decade, not 20dB/decade in the near-field. Prezi slides are available here: http://bit.ly/1x0FY7W if you’d like to take a closer look. In some of the views, you can’t see all the details.
James Clerk Maxwell (1831-1879) formalized a set of equations that describe the behavior and interaction of electricity and magnetism.
From Scientific Papers of James Clerk Maxwell, vol 2, LIV, p.311 (Proceedings of the Royal Institution of Great Britain, vol. VII, 1876). Emphasis added inn bold.
I HAVE no new discovery to bring before you this evening. I must ask you to go over very old ground, and to turn your attention to a question which has been raised again and again ever since men began to think. The question is that of the transmission of force. We see that two bodies at a distance from each other exert a mutual influence on each others’ motion. Does this mutual action depend on the existence of some third thing, some medium of communication, occupying the space between the bodies, or do the bodies act on each other immediately, without the intervention of anything else?The mode in which Faraday was accustomed to look at phenomena of this kind differs from that adopted by many other modem inquirers, and my special aim will be to enable you to place yourselves at Faraday’s point of view, and to point out the scientific value of that conception of lines of forcewhich, in his hands, became the key to the science of electricity.When we observe one body acting on another at a distance, before we assume that this action is direct and immediate, we generally inquire whether there is any material connection between the two bodies; and if we find strings, or rods, or mechanism of any kind, capable of accounting for the observed action between the bodies, we prefer to explain the action by means of these intermediate connections, rather than to admit the notion of direct action at a distance.Thus, when we ring a bell by means of a wire, the successive parts of the wire are first tightened and then moved, till at last the bell is rung at a distance by a process in which all the intermediate particles of the wire have taken part one after the other. We may ring a bell at a distance in other ways, as by forcing air into a long tube, at the other end of which is a cylinder with a piston which is made to fly out and strike the bell. We may also use a wire; but instead of pulling it, we may connect it at one end with a voltaic battery, and at the other with an electro-magnet, and thus ring the bell by electricity.
PBS Frontline offers a comprehensive and chilling account of the birth, growth, and evolution of the surveillance state. This is a must-see documentary that puts together all the pieces I only thought I understood from 9/11 to Edward Snowden’s leaks. Here’s Part 1. The second part airs this evening.
The 2014 Atlanta Objectivist Society Conference (ATLOSCon) is coming up over Memorial Day weekend. The annual event brings together over sixty attendees for an action-packed program of lectures, workshops, and activities. The fun kicks off the evening of Thursday May 22, and concludes Monday May 26. I’ll be presenting a talk on “Research in the Era of State Science,” and I’ll be posting more details later this week.
I didn’t have time to address a few additional points in my previous post on creativity and innovation. In this post, I wanted to sumarize the evidence underlying my claim that most of innovation results from industry reworking, improving, and advancing existing technology and not from the direct application of basic research.
Perhaps the most comprehensive analysis of the origins of innovations in recent years was provided in Terrence Kealey’s The Economic Laws of Scientific Research.  Kealey concluded that “90 per cent of industrial innovation, and well over 95 per cent of industry’s profits through innovation, arise in-house from the industrial development of pre-existing technology.” The economist Edwin Mansfield did extensive work on the role of academic research in promoting technological change.  In a study of seven industries, Mansfield determined that only 11% of new products or processes could not have been developed without recent academic research (within the last fifteen years).  In other words, 89% of industrial innovations relied entirely on improvements to existing technology. Also, not all innovations are of equal economic significance. Mansfield also found that only 3% of the revenue from new products and processes came from innovations that relied on recent academic research. Earlier studies found similar results. In the 1960s, Project Hindsight surveyed the innovations behind military systems and found 91% followed from technology and only 9% from basic scientific research from academic or industrial scientists.
AetherCzar surveyed the sources cited by the top ten most referenced U.S. patents in RFID. The vast bulk were other patents – 86% U.S. patents and 4% foreign patents.
However, these studies cited above describe technology in general, not wireless technology in particular. It would be helpful to consider a case-study more narrowly focused on wireless innovation.
The realm of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) offers a closely analogous case study for understanding the relative importance of academic versus industrial research. The RFID industry has matured to become a large and growing industry. ABI Research estimated the RFID market will total $5.35B in 2010 with growth to $8.25B by 2014.
A recent study surveys 3,952 RFID patents from 1983 to February 12, 2008.  Of the top twenty assignees by patent issued, all are industrial concerns, and none are academic institutions. Of the top ten RFID inventors, all are affiliated with industrial concerns, and none are academicians. Of the top ten most cited RFID patents, three were from Micron Technologies, two from IBM, one each from Intermec, Lucent, Checkpoint Systems, Texas Instruments, and E-Tag Systems Inc. – again, no academic institutions.
The inventors of each of the most significant RFID inventions relied on a certain body of pre-existing science and technology on which they built their invention. These inventors had not only a moral, but also a legal obligation to provide a full-disclosure of the closest, most relevant prior art.  The prior art associated with the ten most cited RFID patents was overwhelmingly other patents: 86% U.S. patents and 4% foreign patents. Of the remaining 10% of sources cited, most were trade journals and newspapers. Only about 3% were academic publications. Following is a table of the most cited RFID patents:
John Austin MacLellan et al
John R. Tuttle et al
John H. Bowers
Virupax M. Nerlikar
Shun S. Chan et al
Marvin Isaacman et al
Michael John Brady et al
Michael John Brady et al
John R. Tuttle
Charles K. Snodgrass
As is usual in the development of a new technology, there are multiple contenders for the title of inventor of RFID. In 1973 Mario W. Cardullo was co-inventor on a patent  describing the first RFID system employing digital memory – the ancestor of modern RFID.  Mike Davis argues  that the honor should go to John R. Wiegand who first invented a digital read/write proximity RFID system.  In either case, the fundamental innovations underlying RFID were due to entrepreneurial researchers at relatively small businesses while larger, better capitalized businesses undertook the job of perfecting, improving, and applying RFID in larger scale deployments.
The experience of RFID highlights an important point: small businesses often play a critical role in fostering fundamental technological innovation. According to a study by the Rand Institute, “There is a general rule of thumb that radically new technologies are usually developed, marketed, and matured by new companies. With some exceptions, making bold technological and product line shifts is difficult for established companies, which usually prefer to evolve along the established lines that have been successful for them in the past.”
This evening, I will be presenting a talk “Some Thoughts on Creativity and Innovation” at Neurostimulation: Stimulating change in patient care by 2024 sponsored by Cambridge Consultants. If you are surprised why an RF scientist with expertise in antennas and near-field wireless systems is speaking at a conference on neurostimulation, I understand exactly how you feel. The conference organizers were looking for someone with a track record in innovation in an area different from neurostimulation to share experiences and hopefully provide helpful insights to aid in brainstorming the future course of neurostimulation technology over the next decade. “You don’t have to know anything about neurostimulation,” I was assured. By that standard I am extremely well qualified, so I accepted the conference organizers’ generous invitation.
Taking my mandate to heart, I first set out to see if I could find any clever thinking on the subject of creativity and innovation. I found an excellent book by Steven Johnson: Where Good Ideas Come From. Johnson’s thesis is that there are certain environments that help foster creative steps into what he calls the “adjacent possible.” “Liquid networks” enhance the ability for ideas in different disciplines to come together. In an excellent video, Johnson summarizes his ideas.
I won’t have time in my talk to go into Johnson’s interesting thinking about spaces and environments that foster creativity and innovation. Further, since this workshop is already a forum for exchanging ideas and brainstorming, my focus instead is on two subjects – first, some thoughts on how to select and arrange from available building blocks or pieces to create innovations, and second, some ideas on how to go about finding new and potentially useful building blocks that could enable further innovation.
When we solve a puzzle, we start with many pieces. We organize them according to color and separate edge and corner pieces. We seek out useful connections. A picture begins to emerge making more connections easier to identify. Finally, we complete the puzzle.
Unfortunately, there is no set procedure for innovation. Unlike a puzzle, there are many more pieces available than will be useful in any particular invention. I adapted a few ideas from Rod Dunne and added some concrete examples. Numbers in brackets cite the appropriate page in William H. P. Robertson’s 30,000 Years of Inventions.
Combination: A combination of two or more elements can yield synergistic systems that are more than the sum of their parts. The pencil was invented in 1795, the eraser in the 1770s. But not until 1858 did Hyman Lipman attach an eraser to the end of a pencil. Regrettably, his patent was invalidated in 1875 . Another example is Franklin’s 1764 invention of bifocal lenses .
Simplification: Streamlining a system can yield significant advantages. Samuel Morse’s greatly simplified signalling scheme, Morse Code (1836), was a huge improvement on the Cooke and Wheatstone telegraph .
Adaptation: An invention from one area can be applied to solve a different problem. Sonar lead to the Dr. Ian Donald’s 1958 invention of ultrasound . In 1859, Edwin Drake applied water well drilling techniques to the novel problem of extracting oil . And Edward Lowe’s father manufactured the industrial absorbent “Fuller’s Earth,” which worked remarkably well as kitty litter in 1946 .
Substitution: Sometimes innovation arises from using out a different material. A classic example is Edison’s 1879 light bulb, the result of thousands of tests of different filament materials . Marion Donovan substituted disposable paper for cloth in diapers in 1950, but it took over a decade for the idea to really catch on . And the introduction of steel structural members made possible the development of the skyscraper by Major Le Baron Jenny, Louis Sullivan, and others .
Serendipity: Finally, there’s a role for chance and happenstance in invention, although as always, luck tends to favor the well-prepared. Wilhelm Roentgen’s observation of fogged photographic plates led to the discovery of X-Rays in 1895 . Flemming discovered penicillin retards the growth of bacteria when a sample of staphylococcus became contaminated in 1928 . George de Mestral marveled at how well burrs stuck to his dog’s coat after a hike inspiring his 1955 invention of velcro . And Percy Spencer grasped the significance of a chocolate bar in his pocket melting while he worked on a radar system, leading to the 1945 invention of the microwave oven .
But how does an inventor identify a problem and seek out a solution? When someone tells you to do something because that’s the way we’ve always done it, opportunity may be knocking. In one of my favorite books, The Fountainhead, Ayn Rand’s hero – architect Howard Roarke – objects to his architecture dean holding up the Parthenon as a paragon of architectural beauty:
“Look,” said Roark. “The famous flutings on the famous columns—what are they there for? To hide the joints in wood–when columns were made of wood, only these aren’t, they’re marble. The triglyphs, what are they? Wood. Wooden beams, the way they had to be laid when people began to build wooden shacks. Your Greeks took marble and they made copies of their wooden structures out of it, because others had done it that way. Then your masters of the Renaissance came along and made copies in plaster of copies in marble of copies in wood. Now here we are making copies in steel and concrete of copies in plaster of copies in marble of copies in wood. Why?”
Refusing to take the status quo for granted was a big element in the Czarina’s invention of the Baby Dipper Bowl. As a stay-at-home mom of twin babies, she faced the daunting task of feeding them. Frustrated with the bowls she had already purchased, she researched and bought other bowls, but still remained disappointed. She needed a bowl that required only one hand to successfully feed a baby, but wasn’t able to find one on the market that satisfied this need. The vision for the Baby Dipper® bowl came to her when our twin girls were about 6 months old, not long after they started eating baby cereal and other pureed foods. After much hard work, she was able to bring the Baby Dipper bowl to market.