Igniting Curiosity in Discovery: Pacific Science Center and the Festival of the Fountains

As a company committed to fostering a culture of innovation, we’re always looking for ways to support that same enthusiasm throughout the communities in which we live, work and play. On July 22, 2016 a group from Intellectual Ventures (IV) joined in the celebration at the 50th annual Festival of the Fountains under the historic arches of the Pacific Science Center to do just that. 

Photo credit: Seattle Met, view the photo album here.

More than 500 people attended the gala which brings together members throughout the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) community to celebrate the Science Center’s mission to inspire a lifelong interest in science, math and technology for all.

IV is proud to be a longstanding supporter of the Science Center, with our president and COO Adriane Brown serving as the secretary of the board of directors. Most recently, Adriane served as the event chair for the 13th annual Foundations of Science Breakfast, to help raise over $300,000 for the Science Center to continue their work to empower tomorrow’s innovators for generations to come.

Inspiring the next generation of inventors – and STEM advocates – is a shared passion of Adriane, IV and the Pacific Science Center. As Adriane once told a classroom of young women:

“The workforce of the future is going to revolve around STEM, and you can be the leaders of that movement. If you don’t give up on yourself, we won’t give up on you.” 

So in the true spirit of Adriane’s sentiment, in just a couple of weeks we’ll welcome a group of young people from the Science Center’s Discovery Corps program to take an inspiring tour of the IV Lab, as we’ve done for the past few summers.

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News You Can Use: One Small Step for Man…

As founder and CEO Nathan Myhrvold remarks, “Inventions are the foundation of all technology.” The stories we’re loving this month offer the inspiration for amazing achievements – as grand as putting a man on the moon 47 years ago – made possible through the power of the idea. Check out some of the links we’re loving from July.

News You Can Use: One Small Step for Man…

Technology to Change the World

We were thrilled – but not surprised – to see Washington state ranked top in the nation for technology. Bonus: The article features an image from our very own IV Lab.

Metamaterials spinout Evolv demonstrated its groundbreaking technology with the promise to prevent mass casualty events. Check out the video on CNBC.

Kymeta CEO and president Nathan Kundtz wants to use metamaterials to change the world. He spoke with Puget Sound Business Journal to talk about bringing “a high-speed internet connection to anything that moves.

The People Behind the Idea

C-3PO and R2-D2 encourage participants in this video teaser for the DARPA Robotics Challenge, where teams design rescue robots.

We routinely profile inventors who failed before they succeeded, and this Entrepreneur article explains why breakthrough ideas are often met with resistance.

On the anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission, the Science Friday podcast discusses the little known story of the incredible contributions of women coders whose ingenuity saved the day on the moon landing. 

Want more News You Can Use? Follow us on Twitter and get the good stuff in real time.

News You Can Use

Intellectual Ventures regularly shares roundups of invention and intellectual property news. To read the other posts in this series, see below:

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The Intellectual Ventures Story – In 2 Minutes and 12 Seconds

“Inventions are the foundation of all technology. Almost every invention required a passionate advocate. Someone who championed the idea. Because as long as people have been inventing, there’s been someone who has said, ah, it’ll never work!” Nathan Myhrvold, founder and CEO.

At Intellectual Ventures, we challenge assumptions. Our cross-disciplinary approach affords us the opportunity to work with leading inventors and pioneering companies to find creative solutions to some of the world’s hardest problems. We provide the world’s most innovative companies with valuable patents and invention-related services. And above all else, we have a passion for invention that drives us forward.

In our new “about us” video, hear from some of our founders, executives and in-house principal investigators on how we nurture ideas to spark change.

We’re proud to be a global inventions company. Join us on this exciting journey.

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Exploration at the Heart of Invention

On July 20, 1969, Apollo 11 reached the moon. 47 years ago, man took his first steps there. Today we’re reminded of how fast technology can develop in the right environment and the distance that invention can take us when inventors, investors, big and small companies, governments, universities and communities work together. 

Edward Jung, IV founder and CTO, calls the Apollo program a historical example of the impact of collaborative invention:

 “The Apollo space program created a $25 billion (more than $150B in today’s dollars!) innovation economy and put a man on the moon in less than a decade — thanks to the cooperation of government and industry, the individual and the team.”

To give this accomplishment more context, travel back with us seven years before 1969 to 1962, when President John F. Kennedy delivered a speech at Rice University in Houston, TX.

His main focus was to persuade Americans to support NASA's mission in the space race. At the time of his speech, no one had ever completed a spacewalk, the U.S. had only first put a man in space the previous year, and we hadn't yet fired a rocket capable of sending a mission to the moon.

Needless to say, we had a long way to go in order to reach this distant and little-known frontier. And that's where the importance of the inventive spirit kicked in. Look where it led us:

Images credited to NASA

Interested in more milestones in the world of breakthroughs? Follow us on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn for real-time updates. 

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IV’s Favorite Inventions: Cipher Machines

If you ever visit Intellectual Ventures’ offices, you’ll notice that a few interesting inventions make their homes in our hallways. One of these looks like a typical typewriter — in fact, you would likely pass by it without a second glance, if you noticed it at all.

IV’s Favorite Inventions: Cipher Machines

But beneath its unexceptional appearance lies a technology that is anything but ordinary. This is an example of a T-52 cipher machine.

No, we’re not talking about the villain from the Matrix movies. A cipher, more or less, is an algorithm used to encrypt a message. In order to fully appreciate the T-52, let’s take a journey through the evolution of this invention.

One of the earliest recorded ciphers is the Caesar shift cipher, which as legend has it, was used by Julius Caesar in his private messages. To illustrate this cipher’s process, let’s look at a simple message: HELLO WORLD. If the letters are shifted by one place in the alphabet, they read: IFMMP XPSME. This is a message encrypted with a Caesar shift of one place.

Fast forward to the 1460s, when Italian architect Leon Alberti came up with an idea. Why not alternate alphabets to encrypt a message? Instead of just using one alphabet, perhaps two would be better. Why not take it one step further and use several alphabets to encrypt a message? To decipher such a message, Alberti devised a disk that included two concentric copper rings, each with an alphabet printed on it. The two discs could be independently rotated so the alphabets would have relative positions to each other, with the outer ring featuring the plaintext alphabet and the inner ring representing the cipher alphabet — the alphabet you would use to write your secret message. As long as the recipient knew to shift the rings to the correct place, they would be able to decode the message.

Encryption machines continued to improve in the centuries that followed. By the World Wars, machines such as the Enigma — invented by Arthur Scherbius — were light weight, electrical, and played an important role in communications by governments and their militaries. They also spurred the creation of other inventions to aid in cracking their codes.

The cipher machine in our hallway, the T-52 Geheimschreiber, was developed by Siemens & Halske, but based largely off the Enigma concept. It was invented by August Jipp, Ehrhard Roßberg, and Eberhard Hettler in 1930. Used alongside Enigma machines, the T-52 assisted in not just static printed messages, but also in tele-printer (telex) messages. About 380 machines survived the war, including the one on display at IV’s headquarters.

Now that you know the history of cipher machines, imagine the types of messages that might have passed through their keys. While the cipher in our hallway might still look like a standard typewriter, the story behind the invention makes it one of IV’s favorites.

To learn more about inventions in history, read about one of the inventor community’s most famous code crackers: Hedy Lamarr.

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How Do You Keep Vaccines Cool? (Hint: Look to Space)

The Arktek™, developed by a team at Intellectual Ventures Laboratory, can store a month’s supply of vaccines for a village of 6,000 people in 100 degree plus heat, without electricity. What’s the secret? Vacuum thermal insulation technology – the same technology that has been used to protect spacecraft from temperature extremes while in space and upon re-entry. 

How Do You Keep Vaccines Cool? (Hint: Look to Space)

An Arktek device is transported by camel in Ethiopia (2013). Credit: Shahim Yassin, Afar Pastoralists Development Association

Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published a paper detailing their Ebola vaccine trials in Sierra Leone, including the important role that the Arktek DF has played in distributing the vaccine to rural regions lacking power.

In the midst of the worst known Ebola outbreak in 2014, the World Health Organization and the CDC requested cold chain vaccine storage support for an Ebola vaccine trial taking place in Sierra Leone and Guinea. These remote, low-resource settings presented numerous challenges that were exacerbated by the need to store the Ebola vaccine at much lower temperatures (-76 to -112 degrees Fahrenheit / -60 to -80 degrees Celsius).

Of course, as inventors, we rarely decline an opportunity to tinker with our own inventions, especially if it helps us better respond to evolving challenges on the ground.

We modified our Arktek PSD device to reliably achieve the required temperatures by using a unique phase change material that freezes at the target range. Arktek DF is capable of storing the vaccines for 6.5 days in daytime temperatures of 109 degrees (43 degrees Celsius) and nighttime temperatures of 77 degrees (25 degrees Celsius), and allows for vaccine access eight times a day. Not only did Arktek DF demonstrate reliable thermal performance in the field, it exceeded all expectations.

Keeping vaccines at the right temperature along this temperature-controlled supply chain – known as the “cold chain” – is a big challenge in the developing world. About one fifth of the vaccines in poor countries spoil before they can be used due to limited access to power and refrigeration. As a result, many children – 1 in 5 worldwide – are not protected against diseases like measles and tetanus. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 1.5 million children lose their lives from vaccine-preventable diseases every year.

When it comes to maintaining the vaccine cold chain, different scenarios require different technological approaches; Arktek is not a ‘one size fits all’ solution. More information on Arktek and other cold chain equipment can be found in the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation’s (GAVIs) new Cold Chain Equipment Technology Guide, or by contacting us at

For the full text of this post, visit the Intellectual Ventures Laboratory’s blog.  

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Failing for Success: Nikola Tesla

“Our virtues and our failings are inseparable, like force and matter. When they separate, man is no more.” – Nikola Tesla

Failing for Success: Nikola Tesla

By Dickenson V. Alley, Century Magazine photographer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Nikola Tesla: An inventive force of nature so great that 73 years after his death, he remains a household name and source of inspiration around the world. His technological developments have had incredible longevity; his alternating current (AC) is still the standard for global power transmission. Other inventions formed the basis of current technology, like the Tesla coil, which was used early on for some of the first radios. (The technology remains so cool and inspirational, IV Lab has one in its lobby.)

Tesla embraced the archetype of many inventors, brilliantly pursuing the expansion of knowledge. With such a zeal for progress comes at the price of inevitable failure. However, this failure did not lead him to discontinue his endeavors. In fact, Tesla used failure to guide subsequent experiments, eventually leading to a variety of successes.

Experiments in Colorado

Tesla moved to Colorado in 1899. There he theorized that the Earth was excellent conductor of electricity. To test this hypothesis, Tesla build a lab on his prairie land close to Colorado Springs. The lab’s structures included a 142-foot metal mast supporting a large copper ball. Although Tesla’s notes are not conclusive and despite this incredible investment in infrastructure, it is unlikely that Tesla’s Colorado Spring experiments succeeded to transmit a current. While he didn’t have the definitive success he may have wanted, Tesla used these experiments to learn and advance his program. Tesla would go back to New York to continue his experiments in search of further understanding currents and electricity – later making incredible breakthroughs.

The Wardenclyffe Tower

In 1901, after his Colorado experiments, Tesla purchased 200 acres of property from a potato farmer in Wardenclyffe, NY and started construction on a laboratory. The primary structure of this lab was a 187-foot transmitter tower, called the Wardenclyffe Tower, which was meant to be the first broadcasting system in the world. The structure was largely based on his previous experience in Colorado. Failure befell him, however, when his previous employer, Westinghouse, confiscated the large equipment from his lab for nonpayment of loans. Upon order, the U.S. government demolished the tower in 1917.

These are but two stories that show Tesla’s commitment to using incremental failure as a stepping stone to success. Though it didn’t always yield success, the sum of Tesla’s work is, of course, legendary.

Have any suggestions for our next “Failing for Success” story? Give us a shout on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn. And don’t forget to subscribe to our IV Insights blog and check out our Behind the Breakthrough profiles to hear first-hand from top inventors, innovators, and more.

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News You Can Use: June Edition

June was an exciting month for news. Intellectual Ventures founder and CEO Nathan Myhrvold shared his thoughts on how to make invention come to life at the Bloomberg Tech Conference, we celebrated National Dairy Month with a review of Global Good’s AI Shield, highlighted inspiring IV staff, and reviewed the state of global and American innovation. Check out some of the links we’re loving this June.

News You Can Use: June Edition

IV in the News

Nathan Myhrvold shares his thoughts on what it takes to be a good inventor at the Bloomberg Top Tech Conference, discusses the current invention environment and offers insight into what he looks for before investing in technologies like artificial intelligence. 

Edward Jung writes about China’s internet boom in MIT Technology Review.

Puget Sound Business Journal highlights two electrical engineering students at the University of Washington who worked with IV to develop a device to improve malaria diagnostics in the developing world.


Fortune explains how Jon Sumroy, the creator of Mifold booster seats, raised nearly $2 million on Indiegogo to turn his idea into reality.


CNBC profiles EnChroma, a company making glasses that help the colorblind to see colors.

Niume explains the technology behind a 3D printed cast that can help heal bones faster.


Quartz notes that Dartmouth University became the first national research university to graduate more women than men from its undergraduate engineering program. 

Want more News You Can Use? Follow us on Twitter and get the good stuff in real time.

News You Can Use

Intellectual Ventures regularly shares roundups of invention and intellectual property news. To read the other posts in this series, see below:

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Inventor Superhero: Dr. Forrest Bird

Last year, the world lost an extraordinary inventor superhero: Dr. Forrest Bird. His credits include improving the capabilities of American fighter pilots in World War II and inventing breathing devices that have saved countless people facing medical issues affecting their hearts and lungs, including Dr. Bird’s first wife. Dr. Bird was also an avid aviator, having earned his pilot’s certification by the age of 16. In what can only be described as an incredible historical coincidence, he even flew alongside the Hindenburg just hours before it tragically burst into flames in 1937.

Inventor Superhero: Dr. Forrest Bird

Photo courtesy of Jesse Hart,

Inventor Superhero: Dr. Forrest Bird (1921-2015), aviator, inventor, engineer, and founder of Percussionaire Corporation.

Superpowers: Dr. Bird’s combination of piloting skills and engineering knowhow helped to improve high-altitude breathing capabilities during World War II, resulting in American pilots flying as high as 37,000 feet; 9,000 higher than before. Most of us would call it a day after that remarkable accomplishment, but not this superhero. He took what he learned in the war and created unique mechanical ventilators that replaced the iron lung, saved countless lives, and aided thousands with respiratory struggles.  

Cool Gadget: Baby Bird, the nickname for the first low-cost, mass-produced pediatric respirator, significantly reduced mortality rates of infants with respiratory problems.

Eureka! Moment: After taking medicine courses at several schools, originally just to examine high-altitude aviation and breathing problems, he began looking at ways to improve breathing for everyone, which led to his first prototype made of – believe it or not – strawberry shortcake tins and a doorknob.

Superhero Lair: In the middle of beautiful mountains and forests lies Bird’s 300-acre compound on Lake Pend Oreille in Idaho. Included at the site are the headquarters of Percussionaire Corporation, a farm for employees of the business, an airfield and hangars for numerous vintage airplanes, seaplanes, and other transportation types, and the Bird Aviation Museum and Invention Center.

Want us to profile your favorite inventor superhero? Tweet us @IVinvents. And be sure to check out the inventor superheroes we’ve covered in the past, like Nikola Tesla and Ellen Ochoa.

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IV CEO Nathan Myhrvold Keynotes Bloomberg’s Top Tech Conference on Invention

Intellectual Ventures founder and CEO Nathan Myhrvold set the stage as the opening keynote interview with journalist Ashlee Vance during last week’s annual Bloomberg Technology Conference that focused on inventors and invention in San Francisco, CA.

IV CEO Nathan Myhrvold Keynotes Bloomberg’s Top Tech Conference on Invention

Nathan Myhrvold speaks with Ashlee Vance at the Bloomberg Technology Conference. Photo credit: Peter Prato

Featuring the likes of Omid Kordestani, Twitter Chairman; Drew Houston, CEO of Dropbox; and Michelle Lee, Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the conference set a spotlight on companies and tech luminaries from around the world striving to be more inventive and explored the cultures and environments that foster invention.

Nathan spoke on a variety of topics including exciting breakthrough technologies to watch for the future, flying cars, and the energy marketplace. Nathan also shared about how Intellectual Ventures goes about inventing and gave some tips on what it takes to be a good inventor:

  • The invention process is intentional. There’s value in setting out to invent something.
  • Solving problems is best done with teams with diverse backgrounds and experience.
  • Setting impossible goals is sometimes easier than setting mild goals. 
  • Knowing why things fail is really important. If we know why it fails, we can fix it.

Watch the full interview now on Bloomberg Live.

See more and listen in on Nathan’s follow-on radio interview by following these links on IV’s Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn pages.



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"Almost every great invention is assumed to be impossible until somebody makes it." -2005 #NIHF Inductee Dean Kamen…

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#FlashbackFriday to wisdom from groundbreaking inventor Hedy Lamarr:

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#FridayReads including achievements – like putting a man on the moon 47 years ago – made possible by #invention.

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