Gates Hurricane Patents Discussed in USA Today

By Gene Quinn
July 16, 2009

Today in the Science section of USA Today, page 6D, an article titled Hurricane-calming technology?  Gates has plan appeared.  I was interviewed by Dan Vergano at USA Today yesterday regarding the various patents filed by Bill Gates, which I also wrote about in an article titled Bill Gates Seeks Patent on Hurricane Prevention.  The USA Today’s article was a good read and quoted me accurately, which is always nice.  The article also contained some interesting information from a couple of hurricane experts who reached the same conclusion that I did regarding the invention described in the patents.  Gates and the other inventors have described how to use deeper, cold ocean water to mix with warmer surface water to starve a hurricane of fuel, which would lead the hurricane to be reduced in strength or potentially completely dissipated if the surface temperature can be cooled enough.  The science works out and it is easy to see that the invention could be successful.  The magnitude of the undertaking to accomplish the goals of the invention are truly massive and perhaps unimaginable, but the invention would work.  Thus, the invention is plausible, but likely cost prohibitive based on technology available today.

No doubt there will be some that say I am boasting about being quoted in USA Today, and they would be correct, at least partly.  I try and take my promotion advice from Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers, who always remind us that a little shameless commerce is never a bad thing.  Such advice seems to also be followed by Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity, to name but a few, so I guess I find myself in good company, right?

In reality, the reason I am writing is not to simply point out that I was quoted in USA Today (… there I go again…), but rather to talk about some additional stuff that came up during my interview that didn’t make the article.  Newspapers have limited space, and everyone that has done an interview knows that much of what is discussed simply cannot make the space available in the paper.  This is in no way a criticism of newspapers, just a reality.

The one thing I wanted to follow up on was discussion relative to those who will no doubt use these Gates patent applications as evidence that the Patent Office has run amok and the US patent system is so dysfunctional that it would even consider granting a patent on such a fanciful idea.  Today there is ever increasing assaults on the US patent system by those who are naysayers and anti-patent advocates that those of us who are believers and know the benefits provided to society as a result of a functioning patent system, and the benefits enjoyed by the US economy as a direct result of patent activity, must stand up and contradict the erroneous statements and inaccurate assumptions of those who have only a thinly veiled agenda.

I predict that these applications can and will mature into issued patents, assuming of course the inventors continue to pursue the inventions.  What is disclosed is far more than an idea, so regardless of what the naysayers will misrepresent, the Gates patents disclose a great many specifics in so much detail that others can read the disclosure and understand how to both make and use the invention.  It is also understood by those with an open mind that the invention will work if deployed in great enough numbers.  The point here is this: ideas cannot be patented but when an idea is described with great detail and enough specificity so that the idea can be carried out successfully by others you no longer have an idea, rather you have an invention.  Ideas are incomplete, lack detail and provide little more than inspiration.  Inventions are the manifestations of ideas with some kind of tangible and describable specificity.  That is exactly what is contained in the Gates patents.

The other major point I need to make is that these patents should not be held up to ridicule, and those who do that are neither knowledgeable about research and development; and they are also unknowledgeable about the patent system and what it is intended to accomplish.  The goal of the US patent system is to foster innovation for the benefit of society.  The reality is that very few innovations are revolutionary.  Almost all innovations build upon the work of others who have preceded them.  For example, if Einstein had to first figure out what Newton figured out would he have been left with any time to build upon Newton’s work?  Likely not.  The way science advances is by building, and that is exactly what the patent system encourages.

While the Gates et al invention may never be deployed or viewed as practical on a cost-benefit basis, it describes something that can and will work.  Others who follow likely will be able to build upon these innovations and the march toward a deployable system of some kind will begin, with many building upon the work of those who come before them.  So it is extremely common for early solutions to be viewed as frivolous and not practical.  That does not make them any less worthy for patent protection.  This is the march of science, and the patent system, which provides extremely fragile rights, fosters that march.

Yes, patent rights are fragile.  The patent system encourages and provides incentive for individuals and companies to improve on the patented innovations of others.  When you improve on the work of another and obtain a patent you cannot make or use the invention yourself without the rights to the underlying patent, or until after the underlying patent falls into the public domain.  Likewise, the owner of the underlying patent could not make or use the improvement you patent.  So there is incentive for both patent owners to share and exchange rights.  There is also incentive for each patent owner to continue to refine their work and apply for more patents, thereby expanding their rights and preventing others from blocking them.  This march forward on the innovation path is directly fostered by the patent system.  So those who say patents harm innovation simply do not understand innovation and how it occurs.

The Gates patent may seem frivolous and comical to some, but it is not.  There were many supposed learned scientists who said that President Reagan’s Star Wars initiative was frivolous and comical and impossible.  That always shocked me because anyone who claims to be scientifically learned had to know then that the physics would work and it could be created, even though there were many difficult obstacles to overcome.  Today, we have missile defense systems, which are being improved and refined continuously, and which have had them operational since at least 1991 (see Patriot Missile).  So well within one generation what was laughed at openly by supposedly knowledgeable people we had missile defense.  Researchers have also successfuly taken steps to transport matter, a la Star Trek, and have created cloaking technology, a la Star Trek and Harry Potter.  So before you think something is scientifically impossible or laughable, remember that throughout history those who have held those beliefs are always the ones history shows to have been naive, narrow minded and flat out wrong.

The Author

Gene Quinn

Gene Quinn is a Patent Attorney and Editor and President & CEO ofIPWatchdog, Inc.. Gene founded IPWatchdog.com in 1999. Gene is also a principal lecturer in the PLI Patent Bar Review Course and Of Counsel to the law firm of Berenato & White, LLC. Gene’s specialty is in the area of strategic patent consulting, patent application drafting and patent prosecution. He consults with attorneys facing peculiar procedural issues at the Patent Office, advises investors and executives on patent law changes and pending litigation matters, and works with start-up businesses throughout the United States and around the world, primarily dealing with software and computer related innovations. is admitted to practice law in New Hampshire, is a Registered Patent Attorney and is also admitted to practice before the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. CLICK HERE to send Gene a message.

Warning & Disclaimer: The pages, articles and comments on IPWatchdog.com do not constitute legal advice, nor do they create any attorney-client relationship. The articles published express the personal opinion and views of the author and should not be attributed to the author’s employer, clients or the sponsors of IPWatchdog.com. Read more.

Discuss this

There are currently 16 Comments comments.

  1. Adam Havelszky July 16, 2009 5:04 pm

    When I first heard about the idea of stopping huricanes I thought awesome. I then took a couple hours and ran some math. Should this idea ever be built full scale, there would be success for the first few storms. They would then become more and more frequent. The problem will be the climax of it all; The worlds largest hurricane ever. A lake half the size of texas will be built between Texas and Louisiana. Florida will be reduced to everglades if it is still left.

    The solution is cooling the gulf not mixing it.

  2. broje July 16, 2009 5:07 pm

    Regarding “Researchers have also successfully taken steps to transport matter, a la Star Trek,” quantum teleportation has nothing to do with teleportation of matter. Its potential applications continue to be misunderstood. Please review US patent number 7126691 for an extremely well written and accessible explanation of quantum teleportation and its potential applications. Basically, it should allow instantaneous communication over long distances. No more speed of light limit. No more satellite delay during news reports from reporters in the field. That sort of thing.

  3. patent leather July 16, 2009 9:03 pm

    Broje, thanks for pointing out that silly patent, that gave me a good laugh. That patent should have been rejected under 112 as it would not work. Transmitting man-made information faster than light violates relativity and it is well accepted in the physics world that it cannot be done. Using entangled particles to facilitate communications, such as for transmitting cryptographic keys, is well known and is a valid use since no external information to the system is being transmitted. But the patent you mention talks about a “loophole” in current theory regarding quantum interference of multiple particles, but this is ‘voodoo physics’ and this theory has not been proven experimentally, and as such it is just another crackpot theory. If this theory were valid, it would turn higher physics on its head. That patent is akin to patenting a perpetual motion machine. I’m guessing the examiner didn’t have a degree in physics and didn’t know any better.

  4. Gene Quinn July 17, 2009 1:02 am

    Adam-

    Are you suggesting that mathematics can predict weather?

    It is hard to take your conclusions serious without any proof. You seem to be saying “trust me, I ran the numbers and the world will end.”

    -Gene

  5. Mark July 17, 2009 10:39 am

    STOP PLAYING GOD!!!!!

    Seriously,… Controlling weather! Stick with computers Bill!

  6. Matt July 18, 2009 4:04 am

    Adam,

    I agree with Gene on this one. First, the environment is chaotic by nature. The computing power simply does not exist for you to “calculate” with any sense of certainty that stopping one hurricane would lead to more frequent hurricanes and then a gigantic hurricane. If it did lead to that in some ill prepared model you have then the gigantic response can be explained away by the simple fact that you are dealing with a chaotic system and the variances you are seeing in the output are simply artifacts of your model’s weakness. Furthermore, there is ABSOLUTELY no way you can conclude where the hurricane would actually track, which would be required for you to determine where water build up would occur.

    In sum, you’re full of it. Your intuition may tell you its a bad idea, and I may agree with that, but no computer system on the planet is capable of running those calculation…at least in your life time. This is why weather models are only good for a day or 2 at best.

  7. Adam Havelszky July 18, 2009 6:04 pm

    My grade nine math teacher taught us to show the math behind the answer. A friend and I would give answers to long equations and she would say wrong! She would want the steps to the answer. So I will do my best to present the math.
    You have the end- The huge wammer slammer storm.
    You have the beginning- Bill Gates saving the world.

    Let me fill out the homework sheet and you can follow the math.
    First we need variables. Double tests so to speak. We will test in a small body of water with known science and hypothesis for the large.
    The theory is that the big storm will come faster if this invention is built.
    It is a known fact that stagnant water and sunlight will result in algae growth. The growth will kill all fish in the water.
    Fertilizer will speed up and nurture algae growth.
    Green water will absorb sunlight near the surface and heat the water. Similar to concrete painted black or green verses white. Salt water is a strange solution as it adds a new variable to pond theory. Salt water is more concentrated the deeper you go. And heat can stay bouyant at midlevels of the gulf.
    Heat ponds work off of this principle.
    What we have so far is that mississippi basin is putting near $300 million worth of fertilizer in the gulf every year. This is killing fish and increasing algae. The gulf is warming because of this. Mixing the water will not prevent this, only store the heat below. (salt water does not behave like normal water.) As a result the gulf will act like a battery storing up energy. A hurricane is only as strong as its energy base.
    So yes the system will work for a bit. After that the gulf will fuel a major storm. One that will move up the basin and remove a tremendous amount of soil. It will recut the south shore making new tributaries and even making a new lake.
    Some of the above links suggest how to fix a pond. The ways to do this are filtration, adding oxygen and cooling it with shade. Pulling up cold water from deep within the atlantic might work but only if the warm is pumped out. A feat most difficult. Solar electrolysis would also be good. Releasing oxygen into the water and harvesting hydrogen. Still the best thing to do would be to carve out the mississippi a quarter mile deep and line it with concrete from 25 miles into the gulf, half way to Memphis. This would act as a cooler for the river and allow the building of power plants installed along the river to draw off power and by making reservoirs to hold and control waterflow. It would also halt erosion and the river would be a constant flowing cooler for the bay. I still say that the gulf is a doom zone for the future. With or without Bill Gates.

    Adam Havelszky
    A nobody

  8. Adam Havelszky July 18, 2009 7:16 pm

    Gene,
    Mathmatics can predict weather. There is a man doing it in England. Sure he isn’t really doing Pi related stuff but then again he does not really say how. I do know the math is measurement. And yes the world can be measured. Here is another full of it equation. The world rotates arount the sun. The earth’s axis is on an angle. So much heat is absorbed by the earth each year. If in fact the earth was covered in water at one point. It would have been frozen on the poles and warming ever since. The melting of the caps could be the visible stages of a 4000 year old warming trend. Like an ice cube melting in a cup of water. Try it. It looks to be there for ever. Till it’s finally past 3/4’s melting. Watch the accelerated melt. One could accurately make a model by putting a cup of water in an old fashioned freezer and removing it over and over again and find the amount of time required to make the cube seem to last forever and have a constant iceberg or by slightly changing the length of time by a half second will in time tip the balance and cause the cube to melt. Or another variable would be to add some green dye and keep the time the same. (a challenge for you) We as people are accelerants. Perhaps by leaving the fields as they were, not fertilizing them, we might still have had polar ice caps?

    Adam

  9. Gene Quinn July 19, 2009 1:47 am

    Adam-

    The trouble with what you say is that it is counter-factual. There is not a 4000 year warming trend. If you are interested in learning the truth visit:

    http://www.ipwatchdog.com/2009/06/25/liberal-think-tank-says-patents-are-destroying-the-planet/id=3667/

    Notice the chart that shows that the temperature of the earth has remained remarkably constant for the last 12,000 years. Also notice that over the last 400,000 years this is the only period in history with such stable temperatures. The question Al Gore and others should be asking is why the temperature has been so stable with minimal variations over the last 12,000 years. That would be far more productive than trying to claim the temperature of the earth is rising, which is is not.

    In terms of using math to predict weather, if you are right then why can’t any mathematical or computer models predict the past? It is, of course, because the models are wrong. If a model cannot predict the past it is not reliable and flatly wrong.

    -Gene

  10. adam havelszky July 19, 2009 9:48 am

    Gene,

    If I had the money I would build you a model. It would show you the weather in 7 years. Instead I took two mason jars, filled them with 3/4 with water and added green food color to one. I added two ice cubes to each and placed them in the freezer. To my surprize, both cubes melted. I added two more and began cycling the jars in front of a heat lamp and freezer. the last cycle was all night. Wife wasn’t happy with the result. How ever the green jar in front of the heat lamp melted much faster than the jar with clear water. Perhaps you are right. I will give you that that the earth is fairly stable in temp. But you have to tell me that the fertilizers are not making the water green with plankton and algae. I think that Bill Gates’ idea is a good one and am nutty enough to think it could be built. I just don’t think you can put an equal sign between him and the fertilizing companies.

    Adam

  11. Matt July 21, 2009 7:05 pm

    Adam,

    My Ph.D. in physics tells me you’re completely full of it.

    Ya, you have variables. So what?? Do you know which variable will dominate as a function of time under your “hypothetical” set of parameters? Do you know if there are other variables you’re forgetting to take into account?

    The whole point is we LIVE IN A CHAOTIC SYSTEM. Simple chaos theory will tell you weather models are only good for a few days. Climate models are only good for a few decades…at the very best. And the ONLY reason they are any good at all is that they calculate results on a non-local scale – like “global temperature deltas.” What YOU are predicting is WEATHER, not CLIMATE CHANGES. It is clear you have an elementary understanding of mathematics and while intuition may tell you its a bad idea and, as I stated, I agree, your contention that “you crunched the numbers” is preposterous.

    If you actually did run a model you would see that you would come up with probably 100 different significantly different outcomes based on your initial conditions. These conditions are numerous and you have no idea what conditions should be ignored and which should not. Could this idea be studied? Absolutely, but it would take months if not years of work by theoreticians to come up with even a remotely reliable answer.

    So, in sum, please use your intuition as much as you like and spout your opinion on the matter to your heart’s content. But don’t get on a board like this and basically lie about the “numbers you crunched.” Its phenomenally intellectually dishonest and misleads those who may not actually understand the nuances o f modeling dynamic systems.

  12. adam havelszky July 23, 2009 10:28 pm

    Matt,

    In all simplicity, consider the earth a living entity. Now the immune response for heat in an ocean is a hurricane. I am saying that the ocean will try and right itself. I have within me an integral counter, I can count things. Plot charts.

    For example, Ford motor company will hit over 30 a share within 2 years. It will hit 10 in 2 months. Raw basic data into graphs.

    The fauna in the water will break down, They are only pumping to a depth of 500 feet. They will make a pool of heat 500 feet below the surface.

    The heat will stay there. I would ask though that you would get off your can and work your own numbers to prove this wrong. Put it in the fancy garble you use. Win an award or something.

    Simple thesis or hypothesis put forward. The ocean is built to do this. Like an array of switches or an if than line of code in programming. You have to see the programming to see what it will do. I have had the opportunity to recently swim in the gulf. It was fun except for the foliage in the water. I did so also as a kid. I somehow don’t remember the foliage.

    I hope I am wrong Matt,

    Adam

  13. Matt July 24, 2009 2:37 am

    So, you just throw out an arbitrary theory and I am expected to prove it wrong?? That isn’t how science works.

    What does foliage have to do with this?? And why do you think the heat with simply “stay there?” Do you understand thermodynamics??

    Finally, its not about whether you are wrong or not. Its about whether or not you “crunched the numbers.” Well, you may have crunched SOME numbers, but you didn’t crunch the CORRECT numbers and you didn’t crunch them in a correct manner. Doing things like scientific modeling isn’t about drawing up some graphs and adding up numbers. Its about calculate the effects of underlying physical mechanisms to the largest degree possible. To even attempt to study this effect would take months of running models on a super computer. Further, to actual model the effect you are suggesting with any reliable sense of accuracy would likely take centuries. Your response illustrates that you really don’t have the technical understanding to fathom what is involved in modeling weather or climate, and, so, my input is finished at this point.

  14. Adam Havelszky July 24, 2009 8:49 pm

    Matt,

    These words quoted are borrowed from the below link.
    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2009/05/06/the-global-warming-hypothesis-and-ocean-heat/

    Albert Einstein once said, “No amount of experimentation can ever prove me right; a single experiment can prove me wrong.” Einstein’s words express a foundational principle of science intoned by the logician, Karl Popper: Falsifiability. In order to verify a hypothesis there must be a test by which it can be proved false. A thousand observations may appear to verify a hypothesis, but one critical failure could result in its demise. The history of science is littered with such examples.

    A hypothesis that cannot be falsified by empirical observations, is not science. The current hypothesis on anthropogenic global warming (AGW), presented by the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), is no exception to this principle. Indeed, it is the job of scientists to expose the weaknesses of this hypothesis as it undergoes peer review. This paper will examine one key criterion for falsification: ocean heat.

    Yes Matt, have at it. Make that PH.D. Shine. Go back and read some of the links I posted. You have enough.
    Prove the hypothesis wrong. Clearly put-The Bill Gates storm stopper will eventually lead to a wammer slammer hurricane. (simple words for you to understand.)

  15. Matt August 1, 2009 4:16 pm

    Adam,

    Einstein dealt in theoretical physics and he presented his theories in public. His point is related to the idea that one can very easily make his theory inapplicable if one can poke a hole in it. The difference is YOU simply state what you “think” will happen. Einstein didn’t just say…”hey, I think the speed of light is constant.” He backed it up with hard theory. Later, his general relativity theories were then supported by measurements of stars’ apparent positions during an eclipse. YOU didn’t supply ANY substance to your “theory.”

    No, you cannot prove your theory completely correct. But YOU can show that your theory is in agreement with all known relevant data sets. That is how science is done. You present your theory (which means presenting the results AND the method of coming up with those results) and then the scientific community digests it. If they poke a hole in it then your theory is dead. If not, it continues to be held as valid until it is proved otherwise. But you haven’t disclosed your theory or results. You have disclosed an idea or thought. You overstate your position by even calling it a hypothesis. I could say I believe there are purple monkeys on a planet orbiting alpha centauri. That does NOT mean its held to be true until someone proves otherwise! Now, if I had pictures of such beings then it might be given more credibility. That is where you stand right now. Your “idea” has absolutely NO credibility as you have simply thrown a random idea out in the universe. You could have just as easily said that the Gates machine will throw us into an ice age. Until you present some sort of methodology your idea is worthless.

    Further, you are talking about computer modeling. NOT theoretical physics. If your model does not agree with what currently goes on in the world then its completely worthless. So, yes, you can show that your theory or model is in agreement with current measurements. But that is something YOU won’t do. The reason you won’t do it is because you haven’t crunched any numbers and you can provide nothing of substance on the matter. If you actually disclosed your model and disclosed the results then others could then look at that model and see whether or not its “correct” or accurate or even worthy of discussion.

    You completely misunderstand the point of Einstein. Under your version of science, he would have been right to simply say, “hey relativity exists” and then demand that all the other scientists prove that he is wrong. You are fundamentally misunderstanding his point and science in general.

    There is NO way in which I can “prove” your idea wrong as the methods for predicting weather and climate change are limited to computer modeling. So, all I would have to do is come up with a model that says your idea is wrong. Well, that can be done very easily, but it doesn’t mean the model is correct. YOU must disclose YOUR model to scientists and expose it to ridicule by the scientific community. Once that is done THEN people like me will either accept it or reject it based on the underlying methodologies.

    You simply overstate your ability and your intelligence on the matter. In sum, you’re a hack.

  16. Adam Havelszky November 9, 2009 9:51 pm

    Soybean harvests could possibly trigger hurricane events. This is just theory. The sunsets during harvest are incredible. The more dust in the air the more it captures heat and holds it. It is possible that this warmth could change airflow enough to start a reaction in the south. (Just theory)