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<nettime> NASA photo analyst: Bush wore a device during debate
David Mandl on Sat, 30 Oct 2004 16:08:19 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> NASA photo analyst: Bush wore a device during debate


[Nelson's photos at the URL above]

NASA photo analyst: Bush wore a device during debate
Physicist says imaging techniques prove the president's bulge was not
caused by wrinkled clothing.
by Kevin Berger

Oct. 29, 2004 | George W. Bush tried to laugh off the bulge. "I don't
know what that is," he said on "Good Morning America" on Wednesday,
referring to the infamous protrusion beneath his jacket during the
presidential debates.  "I'm embarrassed to say it's a poorly tailored

Dr. Robert M. Nelson, however, was not laughing. He knew the president was 
not telling the truth. And Nelson is neither conspiracy theorist nor 
midnight blogger. He's a senior research scientist for NASA and for 
Caltech's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and an international authority on 
image analysis. Currently he's engrossed in analyzing digital photos of 
Saturn's moon Titan, determining its shape, whether it contains craters or 

For the past week, while at home, using his own computers, and off the 
clock at Caltech and NASA, Nelson has been analyzing images of the 
president's back during the debates. A professional physicist and photo 
analyst for more than 30 years, he speaks earnestly and thoughtfully about 
his subject. "I am willing to stake my scientific reputation to the 
statement that Bush was wearing something under his jacket during the 
debate," he says. "This is not about a bad suit. And there's no way the 
bulge can be described as a wrinkled shirt."

Nelson and a scientific colleague produced the photos from a videotape, 
recorded by the colleague, who has chosen to remain anonymous, of the 
first debate. The images provide the most vivid details yet of the bulge 
beneath the president's suit. Amateurs have certainly had their turn at 
examining the bulge, but no professional with a r=E9sum=E9 as impressive 
as Nelson's has ventured into public with an informed opinion. In fact, no 
one to date has enhanced photos of Bush's jacket to this degree of 
precision, and revealed what appears to be some kind of mechanical device 
with a wire snaking up the president's shoulder toward his neck and down 
his back to his waist.

Nelson stresses that he's not certain what lies beneath the president's 
jacket. He offers, though, "that it could be some type of electronic 
device -- it's consistent with the appearance of an electronic device worn 
in that manner." The image of lines coursing up and down the president's 
back, Nelson adds, is "consistent with a wire or a tube."

Nelson used the computer software program Photoshop to enhance the texture 
in Bush's jacket. The process in no way alters the image but sharpens its 
edges and accents the creases and wrinkles. You've seen the process 
performed a hundred times on "CSI": pixelated images are magnified to 
reveal a clear definition of their shape.

Bruce Hapke, professor emeritus of planetary science in the department of 
geology and planetary science at the University of Pittsburgh, reviewed 
the Bush images employed by Nelson, whom he calls "a very highly respected 
scientist in his field." Hapke says Nelson's process of analyzing the 
images are the "exact same methods we use to analyze images taken by 
spacecraft of planetary surfaces. It does not introduce any artifacts into 
the picture in any way."

How can Nelson be certain there's some kind of mechanical device beneath 
Bush's jacket? It's all about light and shadows, he says. The angles at 
which the light in the studio hit Bush's jacket expose contours that fit 
no one's picture of human anatomy and wrinkled shirts. And Nelson compared 
the images to anatomy texts. He also experimented with wrinkling shirts in 
various configurations, wore them under his jacket under his bathroom 
light, and couldn't produce anything close to the Bush bulge.

In the enhanced photo of the first debate, Nelson says, look at the 
horizontal white line in middle of the president's back. You'll see a 
shadow. "That's telling me there's definitely a bulge," he says. "In fact, 
it's how we measure the depths of the craters on the moon or on Mars. We 
look at the angle of the light and the length of shadow they leave. In 
this case, that's clearly a crater that's under the horizontal line -- 
it's clearly a rim of a bulge protruding upward, one due to forces pushing 
it up from beneath."

Hapke, too, agrees that the bulge is neither anatomy nor a wrinkled shirt. 
"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."

Nelson admits that he's a Democrat and plans to vote for John Kerry. But 
he takes umbrage at being accused of partisanship. "Everyone wants to 
think my colleague and I are just a bunch of dope-crazed ravaged Democrats 
who are looking to insult the president at the last minute," he says. "And 
that's not what this is about. This is scientific analysis. If the bulge 
were on Bill Clinton's back and he was lying about it, I'd have to say the 
same thing."

"Look, he says, "I'm putting myself at risk for exposing this. But this is 
too important. It's not about my reputation. 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."

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