After seeing my recent blogs on Nathan Myhrvold, a friend told me that, in the tech world, the albedo-obsessed genius is known as a patent troll.
Yup. My friend writes:
It’s perhaps indicative that Myhrvold comes up in the top-ten hits on Google for [patent troll]. These blog posts lay it out pretty clearly:
Just about anyone’s that’s been in the tech game thinks patents are ridiculous. The lab where I used to work wanted us to create an “intellectual mine field” in our field so the companycould block anyone from entering the space. Yes, we made stuff, but the patents were for totally obvious ideas that anyone would have. Even Google’s PageRank was just a simple application of standard social network analysis models of authorities in networks.
Who knew? I’m used to seeing Myhrvold’s “Intellectual Ventures” company described adoringly by reporters from the New Yorker etc as being a place where brilliant minds create the ideas of the future. Then on the other side is this patent stuff.
I know nothing about patents and so am in no position to judge this one. So let me say clearly that I’m not describing his work as patent trolling; I’m merely noting that this perception exists.
Still no excuse for getting albedo wrong and then having a hissy fit about it. For less than a thousandth of his fortune, Myhrvold could hire someone like my friend Phil who could check all his physics for him.
The other day when I was checking the albedo story, I Googled Myrhvold. I suppose in his honor I should’ve used Bing, but in any case the first thing that came up was Wikipedia, which describes Intellectual Ventures as In 2000 Myhrvold co-founded Intellectual Ventures, a patent portfolio developer and broker,” which sounds about right, descriptive rather than pejorative. Later down on the first page of the Google search are a Wall Street Journal article referring to Myhrvold as “the king of patent aggregating” and a TechCrunch article referring to his “patent extortion fund.” Also a couple of articles from the New York Times and Forbes magazine) that don’t bring up the patent stuff.
Again, this shouldn’t really have anything to do with the albedo fiasco, but it provides a bit more perspective, in that Myhrvold has a lot going on. Really the problem was not so much the hasty statements about albedo, so much as the tendency of various journalists from Levitt to Lanchester to just accept them without checking with a physicist. (As a physics graduate myself, I can assure you that a degree in physics does not immunize a person from making physics mistakes.)
P.S. It took only three entries on this topic to move it over to the Zombies category on the blog . . .
P.P.S. I found another albedo reference! See the 4th-5th paragraphs from the end of this article. Perhaps this was the original albedo insight that got him stuck on the idea.