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Showing posts from January 2, 2011

U.S. Patents to Non-Residents

Recently, 1/2 of US patents was granted to foreign residents, whose numbers are at below 1/10 of the US population. This trend has been growing almost monotonically since 1947 and reflects the ever-increasing majority of graduate students in science and engineering, who are foreigners. Foreign graduate students are currently at 80% or so in math and petroleum engineering. The US Patent Office does not count naturalized American patent holders. Given that roughly 50% of engineering and science professors are foreign-born, patents given to foreigners in the US dominate.


Fraction of all US patents granted to foreign residents. Note that the total foreign-born fraction of US population has hovered between 5 and 15% of the total population. Also note that since 1947 foreigners have received an almost monotonically growing share of US patents that is now at least 5 times their share of the US population. (I say at least, because I am adding naturalized citizens to the foreign fractio…

Patents Measure U.S. Productivity

Here is a decomposition into multiple Hubbert cycles of patents granted each year since 1790 by the U.S. Patent Office to 1 million US residents. Note that without a new cycle of inventions in something, the current cycles will expire by 2050.  In other words, the total number of U.S. inventions will decline dramatically in the next 20-30 years.  Some of this decline might be forced by a decline of support for R&D and fundamental research in the US.


The fundamental cycle of patented inventions in the US peaked in 1914, when expressed per 1 million of people living in the US. This was the classical science and engineering patent cycle. The first small peak in 1870, was related to the Civil War and the newly acquired technological sophistication in the U.S. The second small peak in 1885, was probably related to the innovators who were born post 1860, coming of age. The third small peak in 1930, was a boost to innovation during the roaring 1920s. Curiously, the next large patent cy…

And the Wall Street Journal raved on...

The December 27, 2010, WSJ Opinion piece, "Ag Department Uproots Science," is full of fantastically uninformed thinking so characteristic of medieval alchemists. The piece takes to task the Ag Secretary and the Obama administration for being insufficiently warm towards the genetically modified (GM) plants and insufficiently lax in regulating them.

The nonsensical argument that a genetically modified plant is "substantially equivalent" to an unmodified one, because a few different genes weight almost nothing, flies in the face of the very science the opinionator invokes so often. These modified genes express themselves differently in different circumstances, and may cause significant changes in chemical reaction pathways at cellular level. In other words, the modified plant may, and often does, produce chemicals that disrupt the human endocrinal system or are downright poisonous. A good example are GM potatoes.

What irks me more than anything is that this roar o…