Indoor Fireworks Projector: Uh.. o.k.

Resembling a small planetarium, this jaw-droppingly entertaining gizmo beams realistic virtual firework displays across walls and ceilings. It even blasts out suitably explosive sound effects. The only thing missing is the heady aroma of gunpowder mixed with boiled hot dogs. Impressed? You should be because the Sega is the world’s first indoor firework projector, and unless you fancy flying to Japan the only place to get it is right here at Firebox.

Do I get one for free for blogging about it? I’d be happy to include the usual disclaimers, such as, “I’ll do anything for a free gift.”

Maths powers Google’s auction strategy for Nortel patents

Google’s bids for a pool of wireless patents were based on mathematical constants, say sources.

The portfolio of 6,000 patents was auctioned to realise some value from the assets of bankrupt telecoms firm Nortel. During the sale, Google’s bids were based on pi, other constants and the distance between the Earth and the Sun.

Google lost the auction as a consortium including Apple and Microsoft made the winning bid of $4.5bn…

The sale of the patent portfolio started as a five-way scrap between two separate consortia and individual firms including Google and Intel. Initial estimates suggested the portfolio would attract around $2bn but the four days of intense bidding saw the total rise sharply.

During its bids, Google picked numbers including Brun’s constant and Meissel-Mertens constant that were said to have “puzzled” others involved in the auction. When bids from rivals hit $3bn, Google reportedly bid pi, $3.14159bn, to up the ante.

Either they were supremely confident or they were bored,” Reuters’ source said.

It is not clear what inspired Google to draw on obscure mathematics for its bids. However, Google co-founder Sergey Brin is widely acknowledged to be a maths prodigy and the bids may reveal his influence…

Ultimately the portfolio was being fought over by two groups: Google and Intel on one side and the Microsoft/Apple-led consortium on the other.

Reuters completely missed the Third Force analysis, which is – Google is often guided by a sense of humor reflecting the attitudes of the founders.

Protesting helmet laws + no helmet = Darwin award candidate

Police say a motorcyclist participating in a protest ride against helmet laws in upstate New York died after he flipped over the bike’s handlebars and hit his head on the pavement.

The accident happened Saturday afternoon in the town of Onondaga, in central New York near Syracuse.

State troopers tell The Post-Standard of Syracuse that 55-year-old Philip A. Contos of Parish, N.Y., was driving a 1983 Harley Davidson with a group of bikers who were protesting helmet laws by not wearing helmets.

Troopers say Contos hit his brakes and the motorcycle fishtailed. The bike spun out of control, and Contos toppled over the handlebars. He was pronounced dead at a hospital.

Troopers say Contos would have likely survived if he had been wearing a helmet.


Thanks, Ursarodinia

Uncle Sugar could use better debt collectors

Uncle Sam could use better debt collectors. Fraudsters, polluters and other corporate and white-collar miscreants owe government agencies more than $65 billion in fines. Only pennies on the dollar are ever paid. With private firms like Contrarian Capital making millions buying claims from creditors, maybe they and the feds should do business.

Some wrongdoers are going to be write-offs from the start. In 2009, a court ordered officers of National Century Financial Enterprises, an Ohio healthcare finance company, to cough up a whopping $2.38 billion for defrauded investors. They’ve paid only about $3.1 million, and with many in prison, there’s little hope for more…

Even with billions at stake during crunching budgetary times, the feds are bad at dunning deadbeats. A just-released study found that courts scatter responsibility for collecting criminal judgments across the nation’s 94 U.S. attorneys’ offices. The result has been a 4 percent payment rate. Other agencies have been similarly inefficient. The chief mining regulator has collected about 5 percent of fines. Customs, about 31 percent…

There may be a better way. Banks and hedge funds make big bucks buying bankruptcy and other claims at a discount and then pursuing debtors for a higher payout. Distressed-asset firms like Contrarian bid for shares of the potential recovery from Bernard Madoff’s Ponzi scheme. Silver Point Capital and other funds similarly traded in Lehman Brothers bankruptcy claims. Why not federal claims against corporate wrongdoers?

The government still wouldn’t get paid in full. Lehman claims traded recently at 18 to 21 cents on the dollar, and Madoff shares at around 30 cents. But that’s a lot better than 4 percent, and figures are higher for better risks.

Let’s work at getting something back from the creeps who have been stealing from the public pot. It ain’t going to hurt too many friendships at the electoral country club, guys.