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31 January 2016


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Is that Sanders offering everyone a free gift, with Trump coming up behind him?



It seems to me there is general agreement, that the war of
attrition on ISIS is successful and there will be some
offensive starting in the not so far future. Once the collapse starts,
it seems possible to me, that the tortured souls of the neocons might
take one last gamble and invade Syria under the pretext of
fighting ISIS, and stay on as unwelcome "liberators". This
would prevent the Syrian government from taking complete
control, and give the neos something to bargain with. I would be
interested in your opinion on this matter.


Vaclav Linek

This probably is more suitable for the Athenaeum,
but the search for Planet 9 has been in the news:


It sure brings out the kid in me;
this is what I grew up on:


Vaclav Linek



IMO the neocons no longer have enough weight to cause the US to invade Syria from Turkey. I don't believe Obama would do it. If he does there will be a lot of warning signs. This would require a couple of divisions, a lot of air to be re-positioned and the ever present logistics apparatus. pl

Ken Roberts

Vaclav ... Yes, me too. The paper of Batygin and Brown is at http://arxiv.org/abs/1601.05438 but I found it tough reading.

Last Thursday I had a chance to ask one of the experts in planetary astronomy, and he said that there has been work going on along those lines by several people for a while, but Caltech leaped ahead with a press release.

The simulation software which Batygin and Brown used is called mercury6, I believe. In looking for that, I found "rebound" which is a research-quality package for simulating planetary orbits, particle cloud aggregation, and such. Rebound runs on lots of simple systems. I got it running on Raspberry Pi, but without the graphics -- have to do graphics later after simulation run over. So there is lots of scope for doing your own fiddling around.

The basic idea of Batygin and Brown (and others) is, I think, to notice that the orbits of far-out solar system objects (Sedna-type planetoids) tend to be more aligned than would randomly probable. Hence the guess that there is a "herding" large planet, much as Jupiter herds the asteroids. Then to run Monte Carlo simulations, putting a random mass-10-earths planet into far-out orbit, and ask if that is compatible with the observed Sedna-type orbits, or would have disrupted them in a few 100 Million years.

The tallies that lead to statement that 0.0007 percent probability that such a "planet nine" does not exist, are not something that I've delved into -- might be worth getting more data first. This is not like the deduction of Neptune's orbit from Uranus anomalies. It is much more a "try random guess and see if it fits". Open to amateurs, and also open to developing new methods for orbital calculations, I would think. Probably actively being worked on. I think there is much interesting re this topic, but beyond the press release.

One related topic is what could be the source of a mass-10-earths major planet so far out. Angular momentum issues. Would revise solar system evolution models, probably.

Best wishes,




What is your forecast for the result of the Iowa caucus tomorrow? My swag is Trump and Hillary come on top.

ex-PFC Chuck

If you're still interested in planets and their discovery, you would likely enjoy a recently published book I read last week: “The Hunt for Vulcan,” by Thomas Levenson. Vulcan was the name given in the mid-19th century to a hypothesized planet the existence of which would have explained an anomaly in the orbit of Mercury. Observations had shown that the perihelion of its orbit precessed by 565 arc seconds per century, and Urbain-Jean-Joseph le Verrier, a French theoretical astronomer whose previous work had led to the discovery of Neptune, had determined that all but 38 of those arc seconds were due to the influence of other known planets. He also computed an orbit for a hypothetical planet that would explain the anomaly. It was close to the sun well inside Mercury's orbit and therefore most likely invisible under normal conditions. Several expeditions were mounted to search for it within the few minutes of the totality window during solar eclipses over the course of several decades, but to no avail. After these successive failures the science community lost interest in Vulcan until Albert Einstein came along. The anomaly was ultimately explained by his general theory of relativity. That theory was validated during a solar eclipse in 1919 when the phenomenon of gravitational lensing, which it predicted, was indeed observed. The author is the head of the MIT science writing program and it shows. He elaborates these events in considerable detail, yet his writing is accessible to the general reader.


Col: And if we brought a couple of divisions into Turkey, wouldn't the Russians do the same in Syria?

I don't see how the Russians could back down. March of Folly....and all that.


In Malaysia the President, Najib Razak, has been involved in a long-running scandal of bribery and corruption. It involves (guess-who?) Saudi Arabia. The Saudis say they gave the President a literal gift of 680 million dollars (yes ...) for being a great guy.

Malaysia is a very interesting country. It is majority Sunni muslim, but with large minorities, including industrious and well-educated Chinese-Malaysians. There has been for some time relative peace and harmony. The country's prosperity had been based on petroleum (Petronas), but it has had a long standing policy of diversifying the economy, and maintaining an educated populace. I've long thought that Malaysia ought to serve as a role-model for muslim-majority countries, especially those with significant minorities. Mahathir Mohamed was the long serving President, until 2003, and is regarded by many as a key architect in Malaysia's economic and social prosperity. (He has run, for quite some time, a very interesting blog.)

The bribe-like gift by the Saudis to the country's embattled prime minister ought to cause the US to re-examine its policy towards Malaysia. I think the United States have made a serious mistake in letting relations with this country slide so severely. The first jolt was under Bill Clinton, during the Asian economic crisis. Mahathir came out against the IMF, and for capital controls, and was proven right when Malaysia weathered that economic storm better than its neighbours.

The diplomatic snubbing has for some time now been over the long-standing travails of Anwar Ibrahim: he had been a member of the ruling party, and likely destined for the premiership when he was charged with Sodomy.

Mahathir's blog: http://chedet.cc/
A little story on the Sodomy conviction of Anwar Ibrahim: http://thehill.com/policy/international/232265-white-house-rebukes-malaysia-over-sodomy-conviction



You are correct. Also, for a division force invasion with armor, Turkey’s assistance is required. Turkey would only agree if they take part. Without Russia’s concurrence, the invasion would immediately start a World War.

Libya is an alternative war which could be justified to stop the flow of migrants into Italy. If a regional Middle East holy war isn’t sufficient for the war parties, North Africa and the Balkans will do fine; not to mention, the pivot to Asia.



All that would go into Obama's "commander's estimate," and for that IMO he would not do it. pl


Dude, you live o'er yonder?

Yes, there ARE worse countries till I read this.


They'd better start learning how to respect those minorities you spoke of before assuming the mantle of 'model country' for the rest of 'em ragheads.



Nice caption photo. Surf and Turf. I hope he's got some Blanton's open so the golden haired fellow can relax after a hard day's work.



Sander's is turning a new leaf in the new millennium. Out with the tax and spend liberalism, in with the spend and spend liberalism.


Ah... Cynic (I love your online nom de guerre),

we Ching Chongs have a saying from an old book:


"the mantis stalks the cicada, unaware of the oriole behind";

i.e. to pursue a narrow gain while neglecting a greater danger.

Reminds you of US policy, yes?


But I'm sure this guy will come to the rescue.


The all too long silly season is starting to bear fruit starting tomorrow and some of it already seems overripe. To start this in IOWA is a big mistake. It is not even close to representing the nation.

But with apologies to Sir Winston Churchill: Seldom has so much about so little been said by so few to the so many.

SAC Brat

The John West series of commercials handled the Bear-Salmon-Fisherman problem well:

Christopher Fay

Print and spend, spend, spend, and we have to loot Social Security as we have no money Liberalism, Jeb/Hillary

Babak Makkinejad

Not according to MRW - all is well.

Babak Makkinejad

Actually, there were two independent claims of observation of Vulcan prior to Einstein's theory of gravity.

Babak Makkinejad

You are seriously deluded about potential of Malaysia as a source of emulation by other Muslim countries.

The Malay hate Chinese - because Chinese are smarter then them and more industrious and marry among themselves and are successful.

Next in the hatred hierarchy are the Hindus - not as numerous - but equally successful.

Next are the Buddhists....

Malay wish for the fruit to fall on their lap....

Once the oil is gone, I wonder what they are going to do, expropriate the Chinese?


Col. Lang, I recently found your blog and am favorably impressed. I was wondering what you made of today's global headline news of Turkey's unchallenged assertion that a Russian warplane had entered its airspace again, and was warning Russia of consequences, with the NATO commander(?) backing Turkey up saying Russia has to respect NATO member airspace. Russia denies the incursion.

Posturing during the peace talks? Preparing the ground of public opinion for another Turkish aggression? Russia baiting Turkey into a misstep? Other?



Happy to know you are favorably impressed. I will write about this tomorrow. pl



You clearly didn't get the memo from MRW. Don't you know that spend, spend, spend by government = nirvana. And totally disregard the boondoggles that Old Microbiologist noted. As long as government spends like a drunken sailor its all good!

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