CogLabs first Quarter 2008

Imperial bystanders watch coglabs traffic take off...

It's going to be a great 1st quarter 2008 for Cognitive Labs, with new highs in every area (what's new?). March 2008 is by far our biggest month yet, with a 10% increase in page views over last month, and more than a 10% increase in visitors over last month, despite the fact that we're not sending out any newsletters (we'll resume pretty soon, most likely).

More stats later....

I'm writing this from a little cafe right around the corner from Facebook, e,g., University Ave. and Ramona, where I just had a quick meeting - that is, at the cafe. Free wifi rocks.

Facebook is in a building that used to house a company called neuron data. I'm also real close to where bamboo.com had an office, pre-IPO, and a block or so from photobucket.

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Fat in your 40's could equal Alzheimer's

For anybody 40 and over, take heed. (good advice for anyone over 35, too)

Belly fat is linked with increased risk of onset of Alzheimer's. Scientists led by Dr. C.W. Randolph have published in the journal Neurology, finding that beginning in the decade of the 40's, the risk escalates as hormonal changes result in imbalances in the hormonal tripod of estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone.

Dr. Randolph says estrogen dominance is the new E.D. that everyone should know about.

"Estrogen dominance is a condition that results from the shift in hormone production that occurs naturally with age." says Randolph. "This shift begins with women in their 30's and with men in their 40's. Our ovaries and testes produce three sex hormones which are estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. In a healthy person's 20s, the levels of these hormones are in optimal ratio, or equilibrium. With age, production of these hormones starts to decline. The first hormone to drop off in production is progesterone. In fact, in women, progesterone production declines 120 times more rapidly than estrogen production. The result is a hormonal imbalance within the body. The medical term for this condition is 'estrogen dominance.'"

"The bad news is that estrogen dominance predisposes the body to pack on pounds around the middle," says Genie James, M.M.Sc, co-author of From Belly Fat to Belly Flat. "Even worse, body fat produces more estrogen so an overweight person is often caught in a viscous cycle where that tire around the middle is impossible to lose. Even worse, estrogen dominant love handles predispose the body to many health risks. Unbalanced estrogen, or estrogen dominance, in the body causes cerebral edema (retention of water). The first symptom of this is foggy thinking. In addition to impaired cognitive function and Alzheimer's disease, medical studies have linked estrogen dominance and belly fat to an increased risk of breast cancer, uterine cancer, prostate cancer, heart attack and stroke."

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Web Insurgents Target Big Media

Will traditional newspaper, TV, and radio outlets hold up to a barrage of rocket-propelled grenades from novel web upstarts?

At first, upstarts appeared in the form of bloggers. However, this first wave was repulsed after denting the armor of big media, as it adapted and learned to 'play the game' launching their own blogs. Establishment media figures founded TMZ.com, one of the most popular blogs based on a foundation of bubblegum pop stories,police scanner-fodder, and paparazzi-fueled celebrity rehab stories and sex scandals. In other words, the Enquirer comes to the web. However, they have not become as influential as the voices of authenticity on a diverse array of subjects, like juancole.com.

In the next wave, the insurgents are leveraging more advanced technologies, such as widgets which require a little programming skill to successfully create and distribute. This battle is heating up, as widgeteers such as slide are now heading towards $1 billion valuations; youtube also might be considered a widget developer.

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Arthur C. Clarke retrospective

Clarke in 1952.

The Arthur C. Clarke retrospective is now live. Clarke had a phenomenal impact on science fiction and popular science with the gift to communicate complex scenarios based on advanced physics and cosmology in a way that they could be understood by everyone, without being patronizing - even when the stories were somewhat scientific and obscure in nature. He exhibited, and was able to inspire, a natural curiosity in the world around us.

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Buy all means, add a mosaic(above)to your site. It should work automatically - if not, add a line-break to the source code and there it is.

This series of exercises focuses on the question of artificial or robotic cognitive impairment in the form of HAL 9000; and we have livened the pages with an original audio mash-up from the film, including the scene where Hal sings the 19th century song "Daisy."

A Boy's Life of Cosmic Wonder - New York Times

Arthur C. Clarke: The Wired Worlds (Wired)

Arthur C. Clarke in Entertainment Weekly

5 Reasons
Why We'll Miss Arthur C. Clarke - Mental Floss

Listen to the story "Exile of the Eons" (Nemesis) (mp3) about the folly of world conquest

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BrainSpeed Test Responses

On the brainSpeed test run in collaboration with Natrol (acq. by Plethico Holdings)- this is the breakdown of test taker level of education....


HAL got unplugged

Somebody emailed us and noted that HAL was unplugged. That is, the voice of HAL in our HAL memory test.

"Let me put it this way, Dr. Amer, the 9000 series is the...."

Rest assured that it has been corrected. Try it.

Speaking of Arthur C. Clarke, the retrospective brain gym with some 'flashes' of his best works will be launched shortly.

See if it phosphorizes your brain.

I had a chance to try out the HULU service from Fox and NBC-Universal. More on that later...

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Eye Craze hits games

Nintendo's Flash Focus trains people to use their eyes and peripheral vision to improve attentiveness.

But, rather than buy their program, you can play here
with scientific exercises that do improve acuity and focus, along with mental speed.

The craze towards visual attentiveness is moving right into our "sweet spot".

What about my swing? you say. It's Spring training. Whether you're like Billy Crystal fulfilling a dream and suiting up in the pinstripes, or a serious player, it might be worth a little time to take some practice swings in the on-deck circle.

We've actually had pro (Major League Baseball) players use our games and report good results. Mostly, they've stumbled upon them and then just sent in a note telling us they were helpful. One of these players was a National League MVP.

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WebMD reports 1 in 5 Americans have MCI

MCI is "mild cognitive impairment." According to this WebMD story, it's prevalence is both understated and increasing.

This topic is one we have spent considerable time over the past several years researching, interviewing the top scientific experts, knowledgeable physicians (many times both categories embody the same individual), caregiving people, and researchers in aligned fields that you might say, are tangential.

The reason is that some have believed MCI was a precursor to Alzheimer's, some in fact that it was Alzheimer's - in early gestation, while others believed that MCI was a catchall category for undiagnosed, relatively asymptomatic memory loss attributable to a variety of factors ranging from cardiovascular disease to depression and sleeplessness.

However, it now appears that it is a definable condition and also that it occurs frequently. One thing is certain: people are going to live longer in the future, and therefore MCI is going to become a very big problem. Scientific consensus seems to be that cancer and cardio issues are being minimized and 'rolled back' a little more every few years, which contributes to the boom in longevity.

Once aging is slowed, which is already happening and has progressed at a steady pace since 1900 (Gompertz analysis) our biggest problem is going to be our perishable brains and mental faculties. The hard disk in our head gets corrupted, meaning that the software of life (consciousness, executive function, auto life-support aps like breathing) gets an ellipsis and cease to function.
// error line 15,762,344,908 character is undefined


and that's it. If we cannot stop Alzheimer's, then it will become the terminal point of each person's life, given an extended lifespan.

The only other option (unfeasible at the moment) is to record consciousness and memories via artificial or bioorganic attahments, and then transfer this essence to a robot or an engineered replacement body. In this way, a single consciousness could span numerous lifetimes.

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Amazon launches new supply chain service

angus young

TechCrunch says that Amazon is launching a new "virtual logistics" service.

E-Commerce, like rock and roll, never dies, it just gets bigger and better all the time. If you have extra capacity to utilize this is a great idea. I actually wrote a plan for something quite similar called eLogistics, eventually UPS WWL experimented with the service..using an outsourced warehouse, EDI, Internet-visible replenishment and the whole deal. If I recall there were 2 initial customers...

1. Intel - They wanted to pick, pack, and ship web orders of action figures based on the dancing, multi-colored Intel clean room guys (which dominated their ads in the late 90s). At one point they wanted to create an entertainment franchise around these guys like perhaps, blue man group. No luck.

2. Quokka Sports - Aussie multimedia "reality TV" company that broadcast the Whitbread Cup live (which is a major South Seas nautical extravaganza) they wanted us to process orders for totchkes such as little sailboats, T-shirts, and mousepads. Their CEO was constantly on the phone with the guy in the next office to mine...they were also looking for some kind of co-branding deal, you know put the UPS logo on their S-1 filing. Eventually it was snapped up by NBC.

Remember Electron Economy? That was a co. founded by Joe Firmage after U.S. Web. Similar plan, but it flamed out.

But really, supply chain is far more boring than social software. You have to know stuff like which states allow triple-trailers, why all trailers have Oklahoma license plates (Oklahoma is O.K.). Triple-trailers save a lot of money. In the Aussie outback they have quad trailers, since there are no people.

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Big Healthcare || Big Trends

In peering out over the healthcare landscape, it's easy to see that change is coming. For one, "Big Healthcare" loosely defined as HMOs, insurers, networks of hospitals,e tc.-with some notable exceptions-seems to have forgotten who its customers are.

I'm reminded by the classic essay "marketing myopia" which demonstrates how easy it is for companies who have earned industry leadership to become constrained by their operating legacies. Over time, the 'product' that is being produced for consumers becomes less and less relevant.

What's worse, this erosion in creativity and ability to innovate is oftentimes obscured by lack of substitutes. Service erodes and gets increasingly expensive. Monthly fees or plan costs increase by high-single digit percentage points every year, as management rationalizes this as "our operating costs increased, therefore, we are passing the costs on to you-but don't expect innovation-for that, we would have to charge far more."

The endgame is an uncompetitive, expensive, no-frills product or service. Is this not the case in healthcare today? Does anyone recall being "delighted" by the outcome of routine, systemized care? In this, we refer not to individual caregivers who do indeed make a difference and can be delightful, but the process itself, which may resemble more Alfred Sloan's flexible model approach to manufacturing autos: "We have one engine, and three basic body types-mix and match and add trim and you can have up to nine models for nine different pricing levels."


Your healthcare information is treated like a tablet inside the ark of the covenant. No one should see it but the high priests - not even you - since you're really not qualified.

Combine the universal K-martization of healthcare with information silos and bureaucratic ennui - and no wonder that entrepreneurs and innovative web companies are tilting at windmills with grand strategies that seek to dissemble and then recombine the atoms of the healthcare system in a new, pleasing fashion.

The new life forms are evolving...it will be great to see what emerges out of the petri dish in a year or two.

We're mad as hell, and we can't take it anymore.


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Arthur C. Clarke passes away @90

Arthur C. Clarke, author of 2001, 2010, Rendezvous with Rama, Fountains of Paradise, and more has just passed away. He also played a role in developing radar.


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Stoicsm Backgrounder

Background on Stoicism...

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Alzheimer's or Cancer: Which Disease Would you Rather Die From?

Excerpt From the Times Online:

What kind of person envies someone who is dying from cancer? The bestselling author Terry Pratchett, that's who. Last week, he spoke movingly about living with early-onset Alzheimer's disease, which 'strips away your living self a bit at a time.' The disease, he said, had left him with 'a sense of loss and abandonment.'

The 59-year-old fantasy author appeared at a conference for the Alzheimer's Research Trust, to which he pledged a million dollars (around £500,000). He received his diagnosis in December but revealed that he had been suffering for at least two years. He has lost the ability to touch-type, although he has not yet stopped writing.

He told the conference: "I'd like a chance to die like my father did - of cancer, at 86. Before he went to spend his last two weeks in a hospice, he was bustling around the house. He talked to us right up to the last few days, knowing who we were and who he was. Right now, I envy him."

When Pratchett appeared on the Today programme last week, he acknowledged that dementia does not have the "heroic glamour" of cancer - and that to say so would not make him popular. As he told the ART conference: "It's a shock and a shame to find out that money for [Alzheimer's] research is 3 per cent of that which goes to find cancer cures. Perhaps that is why I know three people who have survived brain tumours but no one who has beaten Alzheimer's."

It might be a controversial point of view but Pratchett is not alone in holding it. Dr. Guy Brown, a biochemist at Cambridge University, also proclaims that too much money is devoted to research into cancer and heart disease, to the detriment of studies into dementia. Brown thinks that lavishing fortunes on these conditions - that extend life span but drag out the years in which people suffer - verges on the immoral.

This is what Brown has to say about the country's 10,000 centenarians, a figure expected to rise to 250,000 by the middle of this century: "Some are in a very bad state cognitively and physically. Why are we creating these people? We are increasing life expectancy beyond what is beneficial."

It is not that being old is inherently wrong; but that the increase in longevity has not been accompanied by an increase in quality of life. There is a gap opening up between life expectancy and healthy life expectancy, and increasing numbers of us can expect to fall into the dementia-filled abyss. It is a long, painful descent that takes a decade to reach the bottom, but the relentless medical focus on postponing death means that the bottom is getting ever farther away. For example, the last decade brought a two-year increase in life span, but we can expect to spend only a quarter of it in good health. In effect, it means that modern medicine has gifted us an extra year and a half of ill-health. As Brown argues in his book, The Living End, we are not facing the consequences. "We are driving up longevity and creating more and more people with a very low quality of life," Brown points out, when we meet in his cosy office at Cambridge University. "A disproportionate amount of funding goes to cancer and heart disease, whereas stroke and dementia get much less. These are skewed priorities. We need to switch dramatically but that would mean stopping government funding for cancer and cardiovascular disease, and that would cause screams in the medical research establishment."

This realisation prompted Brown, 48, to rethink his research; he studies cell death, and shifted his focus from cardiovascular disease to dementia because he believed it would make a more positive contribution to society. To some extent, statistics are on his side. The World Health Organisation calculates that, when it comes to disability in the over-60s, dementia is responsible for about 11 per cent, cardiovascular disease for about 5 per cent, and cancer for 2.4 per cent.

Read the rest of the story

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Gold tops $1,000 per ounce. Find the Gold of the Pharaohs

Now that gold has passed $1,000 per ounce, exploration for the metal may become more worthwhile. What about the elusive gold of the Pharaohs? Just think of all the pounds of gold in the various effects of Tutankhamun, a king so obscure and ephemeral that thieves never bothered to ransack his tomb.

You can actually live the legend by investing in Centamin Egypt, a firm which has a concession from the government to explore and develop these ancient gold fields.

(Note: we are not investors nor connected in any way with this security)

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What are pictographs + pictograms?

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What are pictographs? What are pictograms? No,it's not Jeopardy! Pictograms are etchings in rock, pictographs are paintings on rock - often using red ochre, anthropologists' favorite substance....

The Grand Gallery painting (above) is in Canyonlands National Park, Utah in a fairly isolated area. Speculation is that a ritual or shamanistic activity is depicted.

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Navigator thrown a life preserver by seamonkeys

As we mentioned, support for the Netscape browser is kaput. But, thanks to the mozilla foundation, the netscape codebase is still alive and if you like to use Navigator and Composer, a simple html editor, you can do so by downloading seamonkey. Sometimes people are too lazy to hand-code everything with notepad (maybe ms' best product?)

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One of my former bosses had been the product manager for punchcards at ibm. These were the cards that served as elementary software to tell the mainframe what to do. He was kind of a revolutionary in that he was the first to use


405 Year Old Clam Found off Iceland

Oceanographers dredging a bank of mud off the Northern coast of Iceland have found the world's oldest living creature; a clam of the species Arctica that started life when Shakespeare was still writing and the Plymouth colony had yet to be founded.

Determining the age of a clam is straightforward in this case, merely count the growth rings. Researchers hope to learn more about how this clam staved off the effects of aging, maintained muscle tone, etc. for such a long period, which may offer clues to preventative treatments that could work in humans eventually.

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Inner Vision: Brain Reading Algorithm Can Predict What People are Seeing

-from National Geographic and Nature

A new computer program can match brain activity with visual images and even predict what people are seeing, a study has shown.

The work raises the possibility that one day computers could "read" a person's brain to digitally re-create memories, dreams, or imaginings.

Previous attempts to decode vision in this way could only extract simple information about images, such as their physical orientation, and could not identify images that participants were seeing for the first time.

"Our technique overcomes this limitation, and we show that we can perform identification for novel images," said study team member Kendrick Kay of the University of California, Berkeley.

The new computer model is described in the journal Nature.

The researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to measure activity in the visual cortices of participants' brains as they looked at photographs of animals, food, people, and other common objects.

The fMRI technique is a relatively new way to measure changes in the brain's blood oxygen levels, which have strong links to neural activity.

The collected data were used to "teach" a computer program to associate certain blood flow patterns with particular kinds of images.

Participants were then asked to look at a second set of images they had never encountered before.

The model was programmed to take what it had learned from the previous pairings and figure out what was being shown in the new set of images.

For a collection of 120 images, the model correctly identified what a person was looking at 90 percent of the time. When the set was enlarged to a thousand images, accuracy was about 80 percent.

Brain Readers

The researchers say their work opens the door for brain-reading devices—like those envisioned by Philip K. Dick and other science-fiction writers—that display a person's inner visual experiences on a screen.

Before such a device can be built, however, researchers must first answer important questions about dreams, memories, and imagination.

(Related: "First Ever Brain 'Atlas' Completed [September 26, 2006].)

"Perhaps the contents of our imaginations are not represented in the same way as the contents of our actual real perceptions," Kay said.

"In this case, we will have to investigate how imagination is represented and construct appropriate computational models."

Technology will have to improve as well.

Many critics of fMRI point out that the technique does not measure brain activity directly. As a result, it lacks the resolution of data recorded directly from brain cells.

Small Step

Frank Tong, a neuroscientist at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee, said he was surprised that the team's method worked as well as it did for this very reason.

"Most people think of fMRI as a pretty crude method, but [the data collected] contained a surprising amount of information, enough to predict, well above [the level of mere] chance, which of several hundred or thousand pictures a person was looking at," said Tong, who was not involved in the study.

The work also builds on other groundbreaking studies, including research reported last year in the journal Current Biology, in which researchers were able to decode the simple intentions of participants about 70 percent of the time based on fMRI readings.

Robert Dougherty, a neuroscientist at Stanford University, said the construction of a brain-reading device might be possible, but he cautions that the team's new model is only a small step toward that goal.

"Their model is not invertible—it cannot generate a unique image from the measured brain activity," Dougherty added.

"However, combined with strong assumptions about natural image statistics, a more sophisticated model could produce such images that would be a prediction of a subject's visual imagery."

A brain-reading device would be valuable for probing phenomena that are difficult to study using conventional means, such the differences in perception among people, the researchers said.

But the team notes that such a device could be used for more sinister purposes as well.

The privacy and ethical concerns associated with a brain-reading device would parallel those surrounding human genome sequencing, the researchers said.

In both cases, care will need to be taken so that the rights of individuals are not violated.

"The authors believe strongly that no one should be subjected to any form of brain-reading process involuntarily, covertly, or without complete informed consent," the team wrote in a statement.

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Inner Vision: Brain Reading Device Can Predict What People are Seeing


Don't Just Talk Sustainability, Live it

What does this mean? Some people go to a lot of trouble to 'solarize' their house (even building an optical focus steam-powered power plant), design/build/keep 'smaller' sustainable homes that are engineer-friendly but drive a vehicle that gets 5-10 miles per gallon.

If we're really serious, we'll get into gardening and farming. But this is really time consuming and we can't do this and be online all the time.

Instead, we should modify our diets to be seasonably appropriate.

Luckily, there's a ready source of high-protein food available (particularly for people in the SF Bay Area).

It's called an Acorn. I can just see people picking up a few pounds of acorns at Whole Foods, cracking them, grinding them up with a metate, throwing out the shells, steaming or boiling the centers, and making an oatmeal like porridge or flatbread, baked in a solar oven.

If you did this, you would be following what the first Californians did for thousands of years. In fact, a lot of people have a plethora of acorns in the yard. Your food staple is no further than your driveway. Eating acorns would reduce "green" landfill, save money spent on bread and pasta, and substitute for farm-grown legumes (the fertilizer used in growing the legume contributing to our expanding methane problem).

Top it off with a roasted salamander or a handful of pan-fried seasonal grubs. Yum. When the Spaniards came to California (and even more New England Congregationalist Yankee tallow traders, merchants, whalers, and seacaptains who arrived in Monterey in the 19th century) they decried the sloth of the local inhabitants. The Spanish were creating a here-and-now version of the "City of God" in the form of the missions, with people organized as they would be in the countryside of Spain, while the Yankees wanted to make money and integrated mercantilism with Faith - you know the saying "the devil will make work for idle hands to do."

So, try some acorn bread. See if you like it. You'll be helping to preserve the Earth.

Read the Nutritional Breakdown of Acorn Flour on Nutrition Data
Making ACORN Pancakes - Bay Area bites

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New Decision-Making Speed Skin

The executive function exercise of decision-making speed is one of the best holistic regimens for overall brain fitness: sensitive to changes in response time, choice, and also cognitive "load" placed on the frontal lobe and amygdala. The associated multi-tasking replicates a computational scenario of excess simultaneous users. Please assess a proposed new design sketch...

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Novel protein may play a role in Alzheimer's Lifecycle...

The cancer-related protein Akt may profoundly influence the fate of the tau protein, which forms bundles of tangled nerve cell fibers in the brain associated with Alzheimer’s disease, reports a new study led by researchers at the University of South Florida and the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, FL.

Akt is known to increase cancer cell survival capability and has become a target in the development of some cancer-inhibitor drugs. The abnormal accumulation of tau protein tangles kills nerve cells and is considered one of the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease.

“This study describes for the first time a new function for the cancer-related protein Akt – one that may help promote Alzheimer’s disease pathology,” said lead author Chad Dickey, PhD, assistant professor of molecular pharmacology and physiology at USF. “We found that increased amounts of Akt may prevent the removal of abnormal proteins, such as tau, causing these proteins to accumulate and disrupt the balance within the cells.”

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>1 million visits in 2008

Coglabs Reached a Million visitors in 2008 a couple of minutes ago - we're now at 1,000,342.

Thanks. BTW...Mike Myers is set to reprise his role as Dr. Evil, rumor has it.
Sharks with 'frickin laser beams

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Protecting Intellectual Property in the 21st Century

image (c) morgan, lewis, bockius

In web 2.0, there is a dichotomy between openness and protection. User generated content is often released without restriction and can freely be cited, mashed, indexed and referenced. This is often seen in sites that crawl content of encyclopedia services and create essentially the same thing, with a different css template. Free content is a good thing because it drives visitors who might eventually make a purchase, or register to become a valuable user. Novelists and writers are increasingly giving away e-books in this schema.(Of course it helps to have Oprah say "go to xyz.com and download this book...")

On the other hand, technologies with unique aspects are still protected by patents. For example, in our case we retain Morgan, Lewis, and Bockius in Palo Alto Square - which has done an excellent job in managing our portfolio of issued patents and trademarks, and worked with us to develop new I.P. It's a firm with extensive domain expertise in patent development and litigation, handling some of the biggest names out there. Even the secret formula for a vitamin or soda-pop (in addition to technology) can be safeguarded in such a way.

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Library of Alexandria: Cosmos

Carl Sagan and the Library of Alexandria: where the brain was conceived. (Cosmos is an old classic miniseries, ran on PBS in the 1980's)

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