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NASA scientist studies Bush “bulge”

You’ve undoubtedly heard about the battle of the bulge — the arguments over that weird lump on George W. Bush’s back during the debates. Critics say that it’s a radio receiver feeding him lines from an earpiece, which would explain his odd penchant for, when asked a question, stumbling around for words initially, then breaking off, staring into the distance, and then suddenly coming out with a terse, pithy proclamation. (It’s also a well-observed problem amongst neophyte newscasters that when someone is reading lines into your earpiece, it’s very hard to keep from shifting your eyes around; and when he’s answering questions at a press conference, Bush shifts his eyes around with a drama so cartoonish that it wouldn’t be out of place in a silent movie.) However, Bush and his advisors categorically deny he’s wired, and say the bulge is nothing more than bad tailoring.

The latest salvo comes literally from a rocket scientist. Robert Nelson is a senior research scientist for NASA and Caltech’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and a globally recognized expert in image analysis. (Currently he’s studying pictures of the Saturnian moon Titan.) Nelson got interested in Bush’s bulge and began doing image analysis of a videotape of Bush, taken by one of Nelson’s colleagues. The scientist’s conclusion? As he told Salon:

“I would think it’s very hard to avoid the conclusion that there’s something underneath his jacket,” he says. “It would certainly be consistent with some kind of radio receiver and a wire.”

Given how politicized this issue is, Nelson — a self-described Kerry supporter — will probably face enormous derision for even bothering to study this. But as he says: “If they force me into an early retirement, it’ll be worth it if the public knows about this. It’s outrageous statements that I read that the president is wearing nothing under there. There’s clearly something there.”

(Thanks to Boing Boing for this one!)

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I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

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