What Did Emeagwali Discover? (Part 1) by Philip Emeagwali
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This is the first in a series that will provide answers to the most frequently asked questions about Philip Emeagwali's discoveries and inventions, and will answer specific questions, such as, Why was Emeagwali called one of the fathers of the Internet?
How did his seventeen years in eight degree programs at five universities help him solve one of the '20 Grand Challenges' in science and engineering? Why did he
need a supercomputer that sends and receives emails as an internet to solve it? How did he get exclusive access to a supercomputer, which today costs 1.32 BILLION dollars, according to The Wall Street Journal (October 4, 2010)?
Most importantly, how did he become a famous scientist? The key to success, Emeagwali believes, is to make discoveries and inventions and then become famous for creating new knowledge to be taught to mankind, present and future. The reason President Bill Clinton extolled Philip Emeagwali for creating the knowledge now used to program the supercomputer is that Clinton understood that the inventor is the first teacher of his invention to humanity.
Our weekly series will put the most emphasis on his discoveries and inventions.
We'll begin with Emeagwali's '41 patent claims,' filed 20 years ago.
Philip Emeagwali scribbled the actual equations used by the oil company Exxon (now Exxon Mobil) to simulate the flow of oil, water, and gas inside its petroleum reservoirs. Emeagwali pointed out that four forces exist inside every petroleum reservoir; he discovered that the Exxon Mobil equation had summed only three forces. Emeagwali correctly summed all four forces, namely: pressure, viscosity, gravity, and inertia. After learning about his discovery, Mobil Research and Development invited him (in a letter dated March 19, 1990) help the company in 'reservoir simulation.' It's as abstract as the Navier-Stokes equations listed in the 'Seven Millennium Problems' but yet computably solved by Emeagwali. His equivalent of six degrees in mathematics and engineering helped him to discover the 36 partial derivative inertial terms and to invent 36 algorithms for solving them.
As an invited speaker at the world's largest gathering of mathematicians on July 8, 1991, in Washington, D.C, Philip Emeagwali presented his discoveries and inventions to the field's foremost experts. From 1993 to 1998, Emeagwali represented the world's two premier computer societies, The IEEE Computer Society and the Association for Computing Machinery, as their Distinguished Speaker at Computer Science Departments in the United States. As the headline speaker at a top science festival (on January 30, 2009, near Calcutta, India), he held 7,000 attendees spellbound for 40 minutes. When he stepped down from the stage, the audience mobbed him like a rock star.
How '41 Patent Claims' Was Shortened to 'Patents'
Stories evolve, often subtly, with each retelling by others. The retelling of the story of 'the 41 patent claims' that Philip Emeagwali told on July 8, 1991 at the International Congress on Industrial and Applied Mathematics evolved into '41 patents.'
This conference is to mathematics what the World Cup is to soccer—unique and held only once every four years. Emeagwali told mathematicians at the conference that he had filed 41 patent claims, which covered the 36 algorithms he had invented for solving the 36 partial derivative inertial terms that he had discovered.
As non-mathematicians retold his story, his '41 patent claims' was shortened to '41 patents.' Similarly, his young age of 35 years, published accurately in a 1989 interview, was repeated over and over for 21 years, which contributed to a few mistaken tabloid media attacks claiming Emeagwali had 'lied about his age.'
Philip Emeagwali told the mathematicians at the International Congress that his 41 patent claims were precise legal definitions of his algorithms for solving the 36 partial derivative inertial terms that he had discovered. He filed his 36 algorithms as 36 patent claims to avoid losing some of his rights and protection under the law. He also filed five additional dependent claims, bringing his total number of claims to 41.
Emeagwali stopped pursuing his patent claims because the United States Patent and Trademark Office told him that his 36 algorithms were discoveries, not inventions. He argued that they were inventions, not discoveries, explaining that although the Second Law of Motion encoded within his algorithms was not patentable, his algorithmic techniques that embodied that Second Law within supercomputers should be, because they are the discrete analogue of the 36 partial derivative inertial terms that he had discovered. In other words, they were functions with input and output.
Patenting algorithms was a gray area in 1989.Today, it is possible to patent algorithms; however, because he publicly disclosed his inventions in 1989, the one year filing deadline passed.
Importantly, scientific progress is only measured by discoveries, not patents. To discover means to see something that is previously unseen or unknown. Philip Emeagwali discovered that petroleum reservoir engineers summed only three forces, instead of summing all four forces within their oilfields. The word 'invent' means the contrivance of that which did not before exists. He invented 36 algorithms for summing all four forces.
To invent means to originate or create as a product of the inventor's ingenuity. It does not mean to patent. In supercomputing, it means to correctly formulate and solve one of the 'Twenty Grand Challenges' at a world-record speed. Philip Emeagwali simulated the flow of oil, water, and gas— with the forces correctly summed—at the then unheard of speed of 3.1 billion calculations per second. It was a Grand Challenge that was of interest to Mobile, but completed by one man in 1989.
In summary, Philip Emeagwali received a standing ovation at the International Congress for telling the field's foremost experts that: Exxon was falsifying its petroleum reservoir equations and that the equations taught in universities are not equating to what's happening inside a petroleum reservoir. It is an unpatented invention just as the internet is an unpatented invention. Your dictionary defines the word 'invention' without using the word 'patent' and groundbreaking inventions, such as the Internet, cannot be patented because it has many fathers, mothers, aunts, and uncles. Most importantly, the discoverer is the first teacher of his discovery to humanity.