Monday, March 15, 2004

O'Keefe's Short-Sighted View of the Importance of Seeing Ultra-Deep Fields

If NASA administrator O'Keefe shuts off the Hubble, you may not see the likes of this again in your lifetime:

The Ultra Deep Field

  • Yes, my child, each one of those little oval blips probably contains more than 100 billion stars, very probably several hundred billion stars -- and also many planetary systems. So, yes, you may be looking at a part of the universe in which someone was also looking outward and upward.

    Save the Hubble!

  • Glorious Universe

    Surely you never even imagined (until now) that anything this glorious exists in our universe: Variable star V838 Monocerotis

    If so, you are obliged to help Save the Hubble!

    Natural Order in the Solar System

    Being wedded to the base 10 numerical system -- not having much choice about it, really -- I have always thought that our solar system should have ten planets, and not nine. Well, astronomers have finally put things right: there are -- some astronomers say -- 10 planets. See

    If you appreciate (our new knowledge of) our planetary order, you should really join the call to Save the Hubble!

    SIDS & Homicide in Australia

    The Australian Broadcasting Corporation is broadcasting a show, "Of Woman Born," about the Kathleen Folbigg case. See

    ABC's blurb about the two-part show – to be aired on the program “Australia Story” Monday, March 15, and March 22, at 8:00 p.m. “Australian time” (but which Australian time zone?) –, the blurb states:

    This is the first of a special two-part program, revealing the untold story of the investigation that brought Kathleen Folbigg to justice.

    Last year Folbigg was sentenced to 40 years jail for killing all four of her children, one by one, over a 10-year period.

    The conviction made the 36-year-old New South Wales woman Australia's worst female serial killer.

    But Kathleen Folbigg might very well have escaped justice had it not been for the dogged determination of a country detective and the unlikely alliance he slowly forged with Folbigg's doting sister, Lea Bown.

    Using many hours of previously unseen home movie footage, Australian Story charts Kathleen's own fractured childhood from her arrival, as a three year old foster child, into the home of Lea Bown's parents, the Marlboroughs. Lea, who was 17 at the time of Kathleen's arrival, "idolised" the youngster and regarded her as a blood sister.

    When Kathleen is 16 she learns the truth about her past - that her natural father stabbed her mother to death in a burst of rage.

    Compelling home movie footage, along with personal letters, reveals Kathleen's subsequent journey through marriage to motherhood. The short lives of all four of her children are vividly captured on videotape. One after the other, there is a sudden death and then a new baby, and then another death. All the children die between the ages of 19 days and 19 months.

    The first three deaths are all deemed to be from natural causes. But when Kathleen's fourth child, 19-month-old Laura, is admitted to Singleton Hospital on March 1, 1999 Detective Sergeant Bernie Ryan just happens to be on duty.

    Ryan says "It was a very dark day... it was the day that changed my life."

    It was just the start of a harrowing four-year battle for Ryan – and an emotional roller coaster for Lea Bown.

    See also the account of the case at

    At Kathleen Folbigg's trial for homicide one expert testified that the probability that all four deaths were sudden infant deaths was one in a trillion.

    What are we to make of Kathleen Folbigg's family history -- that her father had murdered her mother? Note that Kathleen Folbigg was not raised by her homicidal father.

    Kathleen Folbigg's diaries were admitted into evidence. Would you prefer that they have been treated as sacrosanct and inadmissible at her trial?