Apr 062012

So Ars Technica, that generally well-respected online publication, publishes an article entitled How the Aussie government “invented WiFi” and sued its way to $430 million which in effect labels the CSIRO a patent troll.

As an Australian it’s hard to read the article without your hackles rising at the author’s patronising tone. Lovely lines like:

Haven’t heard of CSIRO? It’s no mistake. While the organization has been eager to brag to the Australian press about its big-money exploits in US courts, CSIRO has been circumspect about its lawsuits in the US.

And then quoting some over-blown statements made by a politician as if they are indicative of the whole county’s view. The sub-text of the entire article just makes me want to leap to CSIROs defence; I mean, really, this isn’t some tin-pot company, it’s our country’s premier research organisation.

There may well be a legitimate controversy about whether the CSIRO ought to have been awarded the patent in the first place (but they were and took legitimate action to enforce their rights), but the tone of the piece is evidencing affront that an Australian organisation could possibly claim a significant contribution to technological advance and then have the temerity to pursue its rights in “far-off US courts”. It all just smacks of an ugly arrogance from our big friend across the water.

It’s not that often that we Australians find ourselves so blatantly on the receiving end of such patronising views. The article itself is mildly interesting. The eight pages, and counting, of comments with Australian and Americans each leaping to their county’s defence is far more entertaining.

Feb 292012

Image: CSIRO.

This week’s Maths and Stats by Email from the CSIRO tackles the extremely pertinent question: What’s the deal with 29 February? I will not steal their thunder by paraphrasing the article’s answer, the purpose of this article is to point out what a great and interesting resource the maths email is.

Once a week the newsletter pops into my mailbox with an interesting article, an appropriate activity (this week it’s how to create your own perpetual calendar), a brainteaser and a few other titbits. I make no claims to being a mathematician or statistician but I find this short weekly dose is a great way to thinks about issues in those areas.

I love the fact that an organisation like the CSIRO is making the effort to produce a cool newsletter like this. I’m interested in how successful this venture has been for them, but so far I haven’t had a response to my questions. We’ll see.

It’s also a good way to impress the kids over the dinner-table!