Picture: Mysterious “Space Lump” Caught By Spitzer Telescope

There are so many things that just make me sit back and marvel at it all.  This is yet another such example.   As I see these things, and read more about them, I so much appreciate how far we have come in exploring the cosmos.  Pass this blog link along to a young person that needs to know studying science can be fun.


NASA’s planet-finding Spitzer Telescope has picked up infrared light in a pattern that suggests a giant lump of material is forming in an otherwise smooth disk of debris around a star. Is somebody building an Orbital?

Above you can see a gorgeous rendition of what Spitzer saw, by a NASA artist, showing what is happening. Often disks of debris form around stars, and over millions of years solidify into lumps that turn into planets. In the case of young star LRLL 31, astronomers observed the lump forming within weeks – extremely unusual behavior. They speculate that this unusual pattern is probably caused by a companion planet or star whose gravitational pull is distorting the disk.

Astronomer James Muzerolle of Baltimore’s Space Telescope Science Institute helped to discover the phenomenon, and will be publishing about it in Astrophysical Journal Letters. He said:

We don’t know if planets have formed, or will form, but we are gaining a better understanding of the properties and dynamics of the fine dust that could either become, or indirectly shape, a planet. This is a unique, real-time glimpse into the lengthy process of building planets.

He discovered the phenomenon when he and his team noticed that the intensity of infrared light coming from the disk was changing dramatically over time – sometimes it would change a lot over just one week. They surmise that the change in intensity might come from more light being reflected by the disk’s large lump as it passed behind its star (behind its star relative to Earth, that is).

Still, doesn’t it seem kind of weird that this planet or star or whatever just wandered into the orbit of LRLL 31 so recently? And is already changing the shape of the star’s accretion disk? Obviously a better explanation is that an alien civilization is building an orbital or other enormous space structure – the “planet” or “star” is actually their alien technology shaping matter together into a vast habitat for billions of aliens. Or maybe they’ll make dozens of these “lumps” and turn them into generation ships. Mozorolle and his team may actually be catching a glimpse of the biggest engineering project the Earth has ever seen.

President Obama And The Slow Process Of Closing Guantanamo

There is no way not to be concerned about the news reported in the Washington Post today of what seems to be a desire to get a ‘political fix’ (my words concerning Pete Rouse) instead of the needed closing of Guantanamo.  There is no doubt in my mind that President Obama wants this placed closed, and for the reasons which are clear to all who have followed this source of concern.  Namely, Guantanamo is a source of world-wide disgust that proves to be a recruitment tool for those who use terrorism as a weapon.  But when a less than steady strategy was applied to closing Guantanamo in the first weeks of this Administration it allowed opponents of the plan to wrestle public opinion away from doing what is sound foreign policy.  Therefore we are left with the news today that is not welcomed here.

“With four months left to meet its self-imposed deadline for closing the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the Obama administration is working to recover from missteps that have put officials behind schedule and left them struggling to win the cooperation of Congress. … To address these setbacks, the administration has shifted its leadership team on the issue. White House Counsel Gregory B. Craig, who initially guided the effort to close the prison and who was an advocate of setting the deadline, is no longer in charge of the project, two senior administration officials said this week.

“Craig said Thursday that some of his early assumptions were based on miscalculations, in part because Bush administration officials and senior Republicans in Congress had spoken publicly about closing the facility. “I thought there was, in fact, and I may have been wrong, a broad consensus about the importance to our national security objectives to close Guantanamo and how keeping Guantanamo open actually did damage to our national security objectives,” he said. In May, one of the senior officials said, Obama tapped Pete Rouse — a top adviser and former congressional aide who is not an expert on national security but is often called in to fix significant problems — to oversee the process. Senior adviser David Axelrod and deputy communications director Dan Pfeiffer were brought in to craft a more effective message around detainee policy, the official said. ‘It was never going to be easy, but we have worked through some of the early challenges and are on a strong course,’ Pfeiffer said.

“Three administration officials said they expect Craig to leave his current post in the near future, and one said he is on the short list for a seat on the bench or a diplomatic position. Craig has long made clear his desire to be involved in foreign policy, but he declined to comment on his plans. Several White House officials remain involved in Guantanamo Bay, including Thomas E. Donilon, the deputy national security adviser; John O. Brennan, the counterterrorism adviser; and David Rapallo, an official on the National Security Council. … Before the election, Craig met privately with a group of top national security lawyers who had served in Democratic and Republican administrations to discuss Guantanamo Bay. During the transition, he met with members of the outgoing administration, some of whom warned him against issuing a deadline to close the facility without first finding alternative locations for the prisoners.

“Although the move was approved by all of Obama’s senior advisers and, ultimately, the president himself, the deadline came at the suggestion of Craig, according to two senior government officials involved in the process. Craig declined to comment on internal discussions. Craig oversaw the drafting of the executive order that set Jan. 22, 2010, as the date by which the prison must be closed. ‘It seemed like a bold move at the time, to lay out a time frame that to us seemed sufficient to meet the goal,’ one senior official said. ‘In retrospect, it invited a fight with the Hill and left us constantly looking at the clock.’ ‘The entire civil service counseled him not to set a deadline’ to close Guantanamo, according to one senior government lawyer.”

A senior administration official told The Atlantic’s Marc Ambinder: “Blaming Greg for any problems we may have is patently unfair. That’s not how the president, Rahm, or any other senior staff feel.”

President Obama Still Has Considerable Political Strength

For those who like to talk about the ‘weakness’ of President Obama’s poll numbers, they should read this.  While it is true that he has lost leverage in the polls since early in his Administration due to the complexity of the issues, and the frothy debate they have caused, he is right where most Presidents are at this point in regards to polling.

But Mr. Obama is going into the fall having retained considerable political strength. At 56 percent, his approval rating is down from earlier in the year but still reasonably strong at this point compared with recent presidents.

More Americans are starting to credit his stimulus package with having helped to revive the economy. And Mr. Obama retains a decided advantage with the American public over Republicans on prominent issues, starting with health care.

The poll found that an intense campaign by Mr. Obama to rally support behind his health care plan — including an address to Congress, a run of television interviews and rallies across the country — appears to have done little to allay concerns.

Majorities of respondents said that they were confused about the health care argument and that Mr. Obama had not done a good job in explaining what he was trying to accomplish.

“The Obama administration seems to have a plan, but I’m not understanding the exact details,” Paul Corkery, 59, a Democrat from Somerset, N.J., said in a follow-up interview.

But the poll suggests that Mr. Obama is in a decidedly more commanding position than Republicans on this issue as Congressional negotiations move into final stages. Most Americans trust Mr. Obama more than Republicans to make the right decisions on the issue; 76 percent said Republicans had not even laid out a clear health care plan.

And by a lopsided margin, respondents said that Mr. Obama and not Republicans had made an effort to cross party lines and strike a deal that has the support of both parties. Two-thirds of respondents said they wanted Congress to come up with a bill supported by both sides.

At 56 percent, Mr. Obama’s job approval rating is similar to what President Ronald Reagan’s was at this point in his first term (53 percent); President Bill Clinton’s was at 43 percent.

Who Had Most Viewers For Obama’s Sunday Morning News Show

I finally found what I was looking for all week.

After each of the news channels last Sunday morning had President Obama as their guest one has to wonder which show had the most ratings. 

OK….OK…..at least I did!

sunday-shows3.jpgAfter the President Obama blitz, it’s time to take a look at the ratings breakdown for the broadcast Sunday shows. NBC’s “Meet the Press” won the day with 3.29M Total Viewers tuning in. While it was nothing massive, all three broadcast programs that interviewed the president saw increases from the previous week. ABC’s “This Week” saw the largest increase week-to-week (320K Total Viewers/150K demo) while CBS’ “Face the Nation” saw the smallest (60K/40K). “Fox News Sunday” saw a small decrease in Total Viewers for its FOX broadcast. (It should be noted they did not have President Obama to interview.)

Network Program Total
NBC “Meet the Press” 3.29M 1.07M
ABC “This Week” 3.08M 1.01M
CBS “Face the Nation” 2.74M 900K
FOX “Fox News Sunday” 1.24M 530K

Update: Univision’s “Al Punto” also featured an interview with the president on Sunday. That program drew 954K Total Viewers and 461K in the A25-54 demo. Cable network info after the jump.

Obama appeared on CNN Sunday morning where “State of the Union” drew 602k Total Viewers and 228K in the demo in the 9amET hour, which is when the program first broadcast John King‘s full interview. SOTU reran the interview during the day and drew 654K/187K in the 12pmET hour and 609K/198K in the 8pmET hour.

For the Fox News replay, FNS had an additional 950K Total Viewers/201K demo viewers at 2pmET and 1.25M/250K at 6pmET. Added to the FOX broadcast, that’s a combined 3.4M Total Viewers and 1M in the demo

History Comes Alive As Anglo Saxon Gold Found, Known As The Staffordshire Hoard


This is amazing, and makes one wonder about the original owners of the treasure.  Think about the fact that these gold pieces are 800 years older than King Henry VIII.  The gold is from roughly 300 years before William The Conqueror!

When Terry Herbert’s battered 14-year-old metal detector led him to the first of 1,500 gold and silver items buried just beneath the surface of a field in south Staffordshire he was bristling with excitement.

After five days of scrabbling through the topsoil his exhilaration over discovering the greatest Anglo-Saxon hoard ever unearthed had turned to physical and mental exhaustion.

The exquisitely crafted and jewel-encrusted gold and silver treasures, hidden underground for 1,400 years, had seeped into his dreams and he realised that the scale of the find was more than he could handle.

See a slide show of the treasure.

The only other discovery of precious metals that comes close is the burial site – as opposed to a hoard – that was excavated in 1939 at Sutton Hoo, East Anglia, where less than two kilograms of gold was unearthed. The Staffordshire Hoard, as it has been termed, features 5kg of gold and 2.5kg of silver.

The 7th-century treasures, which are believed to be war booty stripped from the corpses of royal and aristocratic warriors, were declared to be “treasure trove” at 9.30am this morning by Andrew Haigh, South Staffordshire Coroner, which means that they are the property of the Crown and will be offered at market value to interested British museums.

Street Reconstruction In Madison Should Not Kill Our Trees

Recent summer street reconstruction in Madison created many problems for trees that provide shade and beauty.  Here on the Madison Isthmus there was a number of tall and wonderful trees that suffered as a result.  Earlier this year I took a number of pictures and posted them, and admit I take this matter to heart with some emotion.  (If you have not yet seen the damage to the trees in these photos I encourage you to take a look.)  As more and more people thought about the issue of how to deal with preserving trees from careless contractors some ideas started to emerge.

The bottom line is, as the article below notes, that homeowners need to take responsibility and get involved.  Our neighborhoods should not be left open for the likes of the contractors that made such a mess of the trees on Spaight Street.  With resolve to never allow this to happen again Madison can move forward with some new policies and procedures to give trees the respect they deserve.  And homeowners the knowledge that what they love will not be harmed by road repair!

Madison resident T.R. Loon knew the road construction in front of his home on Spaight Street was coming this summer. He had even gone to one of the sparsely attended public hearings in the two weeks before Christmas 2008 to hear the city’s engineers explain the project in more detail, one of about three people to take that opportunity. So, when he saw the construction equipment move in once the weather warmed up, he was hardly surprised.

But when that same construction equipment cut into the roots of the nearly half-century-old tree in front of his house, forcing the city’s forestry division to come in within a matter of days to take it down, he was taken aback.

“We had a 47-year-old basswood tree, and I got to count the rings when they cut it down,” he says.

Now, a dedicated contingent of Madison residents is working together to ensure that contractors are held to explicit standards for tree preservation, particularly in Madison’s “urban forest” on the isthmus, where trees are often older and harder to replace.

The group met with city staff from the engineering and forestry divisions Wednesday night to begin brainstorming ways not only to spell out these standards, but also to make sure contractors have an incentive to follow them.

Christy Bachmann of the city engineering department says Madison currently has a set of guidelines for preserving trees, but adds that contractor compliance with those guidelines is sometimes an issue. To ensure that contractors take them seriously, she says a task force of engineers and forestry staff will review the standards by the end of this year and also look into adding monetary penalties for failing to follow them.

“The specifications were changed (recently), the sidewalk program had the most changes,” Bachmann says. “One thing that wasn’t added is we haven’t had some type of penalty, which is what I think everyone is saying we should do now. … The best way to get someone’s attention is to put a fine to it.”

“Citizens have to be responsible,” he says. “Marla would protect these trees if she could, but there aren’t enough people. Contractors are protecting their bottom line and they do things as fast and cheaply as they can. Residents have to take action.”

Ultimately, the goal should be prevention of tree loss rather than remediation, he adds.

Ertugrul Osman, ‘Last Ottoman’, Dies In Istanbul

Another chapter closes.

Ertugrul Osman and his wife, Zeynep, file pic from March 2007

Ertugrul Osman – the would-be sultan known in Turkey as the “last Ottoman” – has died in Istanbul at the age of 97.

Osman would have been sultan of the Ottoman Empire had Turkey’s modern republic not been created in the 1920s.

As the last surviving grandson of Sultan Abdul-Hamid II, he would have been known as his Imperial Highness Prince Shehzade Ertugrul Osman Effendi.

Born in Istanbul in 1912, Osman spent most of his years living modestly in New York.

He was a 12-year-old student in Vienna when he heard the news that his family was being expelled by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the soldier who founded the modern Turkish republic out of the ashes of the old empire.


Osman eventually settled in New York, where for more than 60 years he lived in a flat above a restaurant.

Always insisting he had no political ambition, he only returned to Turkey in the early 1990s at the invitation of the government.

During the visit, he went to Dolmabahce – the palace by the Bosphorus where he had played as a child.

Characteristically, he joined a tour group in order to avoid any red-carpet treatment.

Ertugrul Osman is survived by his wife, Zeynep, a relative of the last king of Afghanistan.

Your NFL Vote Helps Campbell’s Soups Fight Hunger

This seems worthy of a blog post this foggy morning.

Before I get to the post here I might mention the Green Bay Packers are heavily dominating the votes….any Chicago Bear fans out there………?  Viking’s fans…..helloooooooooo out there.

Help fight hunger and vote for your favorite NFL team!  Campbells will donate their soups with 100% Lean Meat and a Full Serving of Vegetables to local food banks.

  • Each week, NFL teams are featured in matchups that mirror the actual NFL schedule. (Teams with byes will be matched up against each other, with one team being designated as the home team by Campbells® Chunky™.)
  • You pick one matchup a day and vote for the team you want to win Click for Cans™. (Your vote has no bearing on the outcome of actual NFL games.)
  • Wins are based on the top vote-getting team in each weekly matchup. In the event of a tie, the win will be awarded to the team that is playing on its home field.
  • When the game week ends (from Tuesday 12 AM, EST to Monday 11:59 PM, EST), votes are reset and teams are matched up against a new opponent.
  • You only get one vote a day, so come back every day to help your team win.