The US Supreme Court : Case Umpire or Guardian of the Constitution of the United States?

What is the role of the Supreme Court of the United States in the American judicial system? What is its role in the American governmental system?

Professor Geoffrey Stone, former Dean of the University of Chicago Law School, has an important posting at the University of Chicago Law School Faculty Blog titled Chief Justice Roberts and the Role of the Supreme Court, in which Stone expresses his misgivings about the troublesome views recently expressed by U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts on the role and responsibility of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Stone writes:

In a recent speech in Chicago, Chief Justice John Roberts stated that the Supreme Court functions best “when it can deliver one clear and focused opinion of the Court.” He lauded the importance of judicial “consensus,” arguing that cases should be decided “on narrow grounds” and that differences of opinion among the Justices generally should be expressed secretly in the Court’s private conferences, rather than in published dissenting or concurring opinions.

As [a] student of constitutional law … I find his understanding of the role and responsibility of the Supreme Court disturbing. It reflects the same rather simple understanding of our constitutional system as his assertion during his confirmation hearings that Supreme Court Justices are like baseball umpires, whose job it is simply to call the balls and strikes of constitutional law.

We supported the nomination of Roberts to his position as Chief Justice because of his impeccable track record and intellectual qualifications, but we have since criticized the new Chief Justice once already for his jurisprudential inertia and we worry that he will be a “do nothing” Chief Justice. A man in his position does not “follow” the rest of the country’s legal community, rather, he must be their leader. If he is not able to exercise this function, especially in a time of great turmoil in legal areas such as intellectual property law, he is in the wrong job. Note that our dissatisfaction with Roberts up to now has nothing to do with partisan politics but rather with the fact the Supreme Court seems to be dozing away while certain parts of the legal system – such as intellectual property law – are in a shambles.

What Stone writes about Roberts speaks to the fundamental core of the problem: what is the role and responsibility that the Supreme Court of the United States has in the American legal and political system, seen as a whole, and what is Roberts’s job in that system?

The Judicial Role of the US Supreme Court

Anyone who has a good grasp of the fundamental elements of American jurisprudence will certainly agree with Roberts – at least in principle – on his recently expressed view regarding the transparent judicial role of the Court.

Obviously, that judicial role – on its face – is to decide cases, and to decide them effectively.

Optimally, effective exercise of that judicial role presumes the following objectives:
1) to form as great a consensus of opinion as possible among the Justices of the Court on cases brought before that Court; and,
2) to issue opinions on decisions of the Supreme Court which clearly and logically set out the applicable law for all citizens and lower courts to follow.

So far so good.

The Governmental Role of the US Supreme Court

However, the founders of the American system of government also foresaw an additional, perhaps even more important role for the judiciary beyond the mere duty of “deciding cases”, and this applies particularly to the nation’s highest court. The founders envisioned that the judicial branch of government serve as an equally strong member of the triumvirate of government formed by the legislative, executive and judicial branches. In this less transparent governmental role, the judiciary must act as a “check and a balance” on the other two branches of government.

That role makes the US Supreme Court an active player in the government process and not merely a passive umpire in a game played by others.

The Constitutional Role of the US Supreme Court

The judicial and governmental roles of the United States Supreme Court are inextricably joined in the Court’s power and responsibility to interpret and apply the Constitution of the United States to specific cases. In other words, even when the US Supreme Court simply “decides” or “umpires” a case, as Roberts might describe it, it actually does far more than that.

As written at The National Legal Center for the Public Interest:

Even though it only has 4,400 words, the United States Constitution is the most influential legal document ever created. This document – which was written by our Founding Fathers over 200 years ago – still plays a key role in our daily lives.

One of the chief responsibilities of the U.S. Supreme Court is to interpret this great document, and make sure that the vision of our Founders is carried through to this day. Although some may argue about the proper interpretation, no one can question the wisdom of its underlying principles.

To view the U. S. Constitution, click here:


It is perhaps time for Chief Justice Roberts to stop comparing his job to that of a baseball umpire. It is an analogy which does not hold. When a baseball umpire is in doubt, he can pull the rule book out of his pocket – BUT – the baseball umpire does not MAKE the rules he applies, though he is authorized to rule in the absence of a fitting rule. In the main, however, others write those rules for him and change them, as necessary, from season to season. The baseball umpire applies the rules to a given game situation, nothing more.

In the case of the Supreme Court, the general rule book is the Constitution but there the similarity with baseball ends. The US Supreme Court by its decisions itself writes the detailed interpretative rules to which other umpires (other courts) and players and coaches of the game (the citizens) are then mandatorily bound. That is a substantial difference in responsibilities.

MP3 Shows that America is being Trounced by Europe on the Corporate Battlefield

The MP3 Codec and its Licensing

MP3 is a codec, a standard for compression and decompression of music, developed in Germany by the Fraunhofer Institute.

The word CODEC is formed by the first letters of the words COmpression and DEComprression. MP3 is the short form for MPEG-1 Audio Layer 3. Wilson Yuen writes:

MP3 is currently the most powerful algorithm in a series of audio encoding standards developed under the sponsorship of the Motion Picture Experts Group (MPEG) and formalized by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).

The right to license the MP3 codec is owned by the French company Thomson (mp3licensing).

The MP3 Codec is a Standard for Compressing and Decompressing Music Files

MP3 is similar to the much older JPEG standard for graphics, which makes files smaller by removing color information while attempting to retain as much of the original picture intact as possible. MP3 is a two-pass compression system, utilizing Huffman encoding in the second pass, and in the first pass primarily removing music information to make music files smaller than e.g. the original CD versions. The fact that MP3 files are up to 12 times smaller than the original uncompressed files – with minimal loss of music quality – has made the MP3 codec very popular.

MP3 and Similar Standards should not be Subject to Patentability

MP3 is in our opinion one prime example of the kind of “alleged” invention that should never have been granted a patent in the first place (see the MP3 patent discussion here), nor should the alleged technology behind such an invention in any manner be eligible for patent protection. MP3 is a standard – there could easily be others. It is nothing more than a particular method of compressing and decompressing information, applying generally known principles and methods.

The Methods of Compression and Decompression are Limited and Known

There are only a limited number of basic ways in which information can be compressed and decompressed – principally by reducing the information indexed and by better notation of repetition and redundancies. Why should a codec like that be subject to patenting?

Take this sentence as an example of a unit to be compressed:
MP3 is a compression and decompression codec to compress and decompress music files.

We can compress that sentence by just leaving out “compression and decompression”, resulting in MP3 is a codec to compress and decompress files, without thus losing much meaning and we can reduce it further by better notation of the word “compress” which still appears twice in the remaining sentence, so that we could then write MP3 is a codec to c. and dec. files. Upon decompression, “c.” would again be replaced by the word “compress“.

To call a codec an invention stretches the definition of “invention” past logical limits because doing so prohibits others from utilizing similar AND obvious compression methods – which are limited in number by mathematics.

All digital information consists of 1’s and 0’s, so that any method that can more compactly describe those 1’s and 0’s is potentially useful for a codec. For example, if we have a picture of 10 lines, each 100 pixels long, and that picture is white for the first 9 lines but contains a black straight line the entire length of the 10th line, then we do not need to make a separate notation for each of these 1000 pixels. Rather, we can treat the first 900 pixels as ALL white (all zeroes) and the last 100 pixels as ALL black (all ones), so that our notation can be short “900 0’s in 10 lines and 100 1’s in 1 line”. If we set our default value to “0” then “100 1’s in line 10” is notation enough. The picture is thus compressed. The principle in music is the same. But this recognition is not “an invention”.

Although the actual application of any given compression and decompression standard such as JPEG or MP3 is of course more complicated when dealing with large masses of photo or music information, that is fundamentally all there is to it. There is nothing magical about it that needs the protection of patents. MP3 removes musical information that is hard for humans to hear but which microphones pick up. When such information is removed, music files are much smaller.

General Principles of Shorthand were known prior to Christ

General principles of information compression and notation were known long before JPEGs or MP3s came into existence. Shorthand has long been used in writing in law by court reporters (NCRA) and Greek and Roman tachygraphy was known already before the days of Christ. Hebrew language was generally written without vowels, presumably as a form of shorthand. Compression is simply a form of shorthand.

The Machine Rendition of Voice and Music began with Bell and Edison

Limitations of writing systems for recording purposes led man to develop machines for reproducing the human voice and music, which culminated in Alexander Graham Bell‘s invention of the telephone and Thomas Alva Edison‘s invention of the phonograph. The patents awarded to Bell and Edison created empires which still thrive today.

AT&T’s Patent-Based Monopoly remains Intact

One of the things that the political, corporate and legal establishment in the United States does not appear to appreciate is that patent monopolies, once granted, far outlive the actual duration of patents, and give the holders of those patents – on a silver platter – industrial empires which last centuries. The best example of that in Europe is the post monopoly of Thurn & Taxis, whose family, hundreds of years later, is still one of the wealthiest families in Europe.

Alexander Graham Bell’s patents were challenged something like 600 times during his lifetime, but his patent-based monopoly could not be shaken and AT&T (later known as “Ma Bell”) went on to control nearly the entire US telephone market, creating one of the most powerful monopolies of the modern business age.

The legal community in the United States appears to be overwhelmed by Ma Bell. The “trustbusters”, not understanding that patents were at the root of Ma Bell’s power, decided to break up America’s biggest and most powerful corporation in 1974. The result has been the creation of a multi-headed hydra of “Baby Bells” which resulted from the break-up of AT&T who now threaten to join together into one great corporation with even greater powers than before. Ma Bell is still quite alive and kicking – patent monopolies, once granted, have a long life.

“Ma Bell Still Has You by the Bells”

One used to say that “Ma Bell Has You by the Calls” (non-native speakers who do not understand that joke should be aware of the American idiom “have someone by the balls“).

Part of the Ma Bell legacy is found in the now spun-off Lucent Bell Labs of what is the French company, Alcatel-Lucent (Bell Labs was formerly AT&T Bell Laboratories viz. Bell Telephone Laboratories):

At its peak, Bell Labs was the premier facility of its type, developing a wide range of revolutionary technologies, including radio astronomy, the transistor, the laser, information theory, the UNIX operating system, and the C programming language. There have been 6 Nobel Prizes awarded for work done at Bell Labs.

This 6-Nobel-Prize-producing former American laboratory is now owned by the French.

The Alcatel-Lucent Patents in the Patent Suit Against Microsoft

An American jury has just awarded the French company Alcatel-Lucent $1.5 billion for the patents below, to be paid by Microsoft (but of course, the bill is actually paid ultimately by the American consumer), and Alcatel-Lucent have numerous patent suits more in the pipeline against Microsoft.

Will French ultimately own Microsoft?

US Patent 5,341,457 – Abstract
Perceptual coding of audio signals
A technique for the masking of quantizing noise in the coding of audio signals is adapted to include geometric interpolation between the thresholds for a tone masking noise and for noise masking a tone, in order to reduce use of bit-rate capability where it is not necessary for transparent or high quality. The technique is usable with the types of channel coding known as “noiseless” or Huffman coding and with variable radix packing. The stereophonic embodiment eliminates redundancies in the sum and difference signals, so that the stereo coding uses significantly less than twice the bit rate of the comparable monaural signal. The technique can be used both in transmission of signals and in recording for reproduction, particularly recording and reproduction of music. Compatibility with the ISDN transmission rates known as 1 B, 2 B and 3 B rates has been achieved.

One of the inventors of the above patent, James David Johnston, retired from AT&T and became an audio architect for Microsoft Corporation. See Perceptual Coding of Audio Signals – A Tutorial. Is that the root of the problem? Johnston is also the inventor of the following patent.

US Patent RE39080
Rate loop processor for perceptual encoder/decoder
This is a reissue application of U.S. Pat. No. 5,627,938 filed Sep. 22, 1994 as application Ser. No. 08/310,898 which is a continuation of application Ser. No. 07/844,811, filed on Mar. 2, 1992, now abandoned, which is a continuation-in-part of application Ser. No. 07/844,967 filed Feb. 28, 1992, now abandoned, which is a continuation of Ser. No. 07/292,598 filed Dec. 30, 1988 now abandoned.

A method and apparatus for quantizing audio signals is disclosed which advantageously produces a quantized audio signal which can be encoded within an acceptable range. Advantageously, the quantizer uses a scale factor which is interpolated between a threshold based on the calculated threshold of hearing at a given frequency and the absolute threshold of hearing at the same frequency.

Those are the two patents for which a jury just awarded Alcatel-Lucent $1.5 billion. Not bad considering that Alcatel paid only about $11.5 billion for the entire company Lucent – and that was merely a stock deal, no cash at all. If Alcatel gets similar judgments on its other patent suits, its purchase will have been a STEAL, and we do emphasize the world steal. Lots of money flowing out of America into Parisian coffers.

At the same time, Alcatel-Lucent plans to cut 12500 jobs worldwide (12% in France) – which means more unemployed on the streets and more money for execs such as Patricia J. Russo, whose entire career is littered with thousands of people losing their jobs under her leadership.

European Commission Fines Microsoft

The European Commission found Microsoft to have engaged in anti-trust activities in Europe and fined it $357 million, threatening to continue to fine it several million dollars a day until it opens up its proprietary software to European companies. The European Commissioner for Competition, Neelie Kroes, who imposed the fines, was at the time on the board of directors of
…. Lucent.

France and Germany Seek to Force Apple to Open its iPod DRM

And how about Apple, which is being forced by France and Germany to open its iPod DRM?
Will Apple be another French company soon?

The European Strategy Against Corporate America

On the one hand, European companies are using the Alice in Wonderland US patent laws to relieve American corporations of billions of dollars of cash. On the other hand, European companies and the European Union are forcing American corporations to open their proprietary software to their European competitors and to dismantle their product protection in Europe for the benefit of European products.

Can it really be that corporate America does not understand what is going on?

Patent Insanity in the USA Continues as Jury Awards Record MP3 Verdict

Only one word accurately defines the current state of US patent law and its judicial consequences – and that word is “comedy”. Take a look at the newest record jury award of a preposterous $1.5 billion for some insignificant alleged Microsoft violation of some obscure alleged MP3 precursor patent of Lucent-Alcatel, a patent which is allegedly traced back to the initial witchly stirrings of a codec whose ingredients were initially cooked with the mice and the rats in the dungeon pots of Bell Laboratories.

As reported by Saul Hansell in the New York Times in his article MP3 Patents in Upheaval After Verdict, what is particularly hilarious is the standard for the measure of damages in this case:

“They told the jury to measure damages, not on the value to Microsoft of one of the 10,000 features in Windows, but on the value of the entire computer.”

Alcatel argued that the damages should be based on a royalty of 0.5 percent of the total value of Windows computers sold.

Ha. Ha. Madness. That is Alice in Wonderland run wild in law. It is jurisprudence by imbeciles.

0.5 percent of the value of the entire computer as the standard of damages? What legal and judicial glue-sniffing permitted that bizarre interpretation to surface and prevail in the courts?

Verily, we say unto you, that patent law and its judicial application in the United States in the modern digital era seems to have become the domain of many educated simpletons lost in a sea of jurisprudence which they do not fathom.

The irony of the jury verdict is that Microsoft has for years been dutifully paying royalties for use of the MP3 codec, as Hansell writes:

Microsoft and others have licensed MP3 — not from Alcatel-Lucent, but from a consortium led by the Fraunhofer Institute, a large German research organization that was involved, along with the French electronics company Thomson and Bell Labs, in the format’s development.

The current case turns on two patents that Alcatel claims were developed by Bell Labs before it joined with Fraunhofer to develop MP3.

As written at Wired News by Eliot Van Buskirk:

It’s not immediately clear what the implications of Thursday’s judgment are for other MP3 licensees, which include hundreds of companies who already pay royalties to Fraunhofer/Thomson — previously accepted as the only licensor of MP3 technology.

Microsoft has 1.52 billion reasons to paint this as a disaster, not only for itself but for the entire industry. So says Tom Burt, Microsoft’s corporate vice president and deputy general counsel.

“If this verdict is allowed to stand, companies will have to make hard choices about whether to continue to offer MP3 technology,” he said in a statement sent to Wired News late Thursday. Licensees would have to “pay twice for the same technology — one standard charge to the industry-recognized licensee of MP3 (Fraunhofer/Thomson), and again, an unprecedented amount to Alcatel-Lucent.”

Van Buskirk writes further as follows:

Although Thomson is widely accepted as the licensor of Fraunhofer’s MP3 codec, Alcatel-Lucent holds two MP3-related patents upheld by a jury yesterday: 5341457 and RE39080. (Neither patent is included in Fraunhofer/Thomson’s suite.)

This confusing state of affairs started in the 1980s, when AT&T’s Bell Labs and Fraunhofer started developing the codec under an agreement that both companies would be able to license aspects of MP3 developed during the collaboration. AT&T, which later became Alcatel-Lucent, spun Fraunhofer off in 1996, which then began licensing MP3 technology through Thomson.

A source close to the matter said when Lucent hit a rough patch financially after the dot-com bubble exploded, the company started looking to its patents as a means of pulling itself back into the black. Microsoft actually commenced the lawsuit that led to Thursday’s verdict when it asked a judge to block Lucent’s patent claims in order to protect its partners Dell and Gateway. After Alcatel bought Lucent last year, some onlookers thought the matter might end there. But Alcatel, sensing that there might be gold in those patents, decided to keep pursuing the suits. Audio is just the beginning; Alcatel-Lucent’s patents for video, speech and user interface are still being contested.

In an e-mail to Wired News, IDC analyst Susan Kevorkian said she believes Alcatel-Lucent may have a legitimate claim to some of the MP3 royalties, but the proper target should be Frauenhofer and not its licensees.

“It looks like there’s a flaw in the way that MP3 technology is being licensed, and that Alcatel-Lucent should have been cut into the licensing revenue from the beginning,” she said. “If this is the case, then the dispute is between Alcatel-Lucent and Fraunhofer (and other contributors to the MP3 patent), and not between Alcatel-Lucent and MP3 licensees, including Microsoft.”

It’s hard to say which companies will be affected by Thursday’s award. Those wishing to use MP3 have traditionally been subject to two sets of rules for using the codec: one for encoding, and another for playback. If the two patents upheld by the jury today apply only to products that encode audio into MP3s, the ruling would affect only companies such as Apple, Microsoft, Yahoo and others offering software that lets consumers make their own MP3 files.

If they cover playback too, every company involved even tangentially with MP3 stands to lose big. Microsoft’s licensing bill for Thomson/Fraunhofer was only $16 million — about 1 percent of what it now owes Alcatel-Lucent. A significant number of the companies who offer MP3 encoders and/or players could face a similar judgment, with many being driven out of business.”

We repeat our message, previously broadcast on LawPundit, to the Rip van Winkles who currently populate the US Congress: when are you going to put a stop to this patent madness? when will there be an end to these absurd judgments? when will clueless judges and juries stop sticking their noses into technologies which they do not understand? when will there be an end to outlandish beyond-the-pale verdicts being issued in cases for which the jury system was never designed? when will an absurd intellectual property law run wild stop destroying the healthy balance of a capitalist system based on rewarding those who do rather than those who steal from those who are doing just because stupid intellectual property laws permit them to do so?

How can there be a respect for the law – the law – under these circumstances??

In a world where thieves are rewarded with billions – by the system – there can be no respect for the law, and it is small wonder that respect for the law is everywhere in decline. The little guy models his behavior after the big guys….

The sane man will retort to this whole intellectual property law mess with “patent – shmatent – burn, baby, burn – catch me if you can.

Extreme Sports : Eventyrisen Adventure Ice : The Law Pundit Glacier Climbing in Svellnosbreen in Norway

Did someone say “extreme sports”? Bloggers do not just sit at their PCs. How about glacier climbing in Jotunheimen in Norway? We literally “chanced” upon Adventure Ice (Eventyrisen) during a 1977 camping trip in Scandinavia. All photographs below are by the Law Pundit and we share them with you here (reproduced from 30-year old slides in various stages of quality).

Spiterstulen Svellnosbreen Ice Megalith

All photographs made by and copyright © 2007 by Andis Kaulins. In the Svellnos glacier.
Did glacial towers like this serve as the origination of the idea for man’s making of megaliths?

The above photo was taken in 1977 in Svellnosbreen (Svellnos Glacier), Spiterstulen, Jotunheimen, Norway, during a guided “tour” of the glacier. Saagar writes at Virtual Tourist:

Out of Spiterstulen cottage there are daily (season and weather permitting) guided trips to the Svellnosbreen glacier just below Galdhøpiggen, the highest peak in Norway. The glacier is a wonderland of crevasses, tunnels, towers and ice cliffs … it’s a great experience. Except hiking strength and relevant clothing (you will be told), no previous skills are needed. Daily tours 15 July-15 August. Contact Spiterstulen at 61211480.[Our comment: please note that Visit Norway gives different months for this 7-hour tour – inquire first.]


Jotunheimen means “Home of the Giants”.

Svellnosbreen Jotunheimen Ice Giants

These Giants are of Ice. Solid Blue Ice.

Svellnosbreen Ice Megaliths

Did our guide plan to go way up there? We had to follow.
(The sky background of this photo was damaged so we replaced it. The rest is original.)

Key phrases in the Virtual Tourist quotation above are “hiking strength” and “relevant clothing”. Guided glacier climbing in Norway like this (not quite the same as glacier walking or glacier hiking) is an extreme sport for most. Do not do this unless you are young and fit, and if you are older, in very good shape and sure-footed. This is mostly suitable for athletic types.

Svellnosbreen Glacier Climbing Norway Norge

The ice terrain to be mastered in the glacier is not always easy. This is wet ice and snow.

An example of the ice terrain to be mastered is found in the photo above which includes the lady in front of us on the mountain rope and her young daughter, who both made the tour with flying colors. In that photo we are coming down and out of the glacier. You have very steep ice terrain on your right, and a big crevice left. This is nothing for the weak-hearted or those without a good sense of balance. Plus, you have to have stamina for this kind of a climb.

Spiterstulen Climb Uphill to Glacier

This photo gives a good idea of the long trek from valley to glacier and back.
The difference in elevation is ca. 1000 meters but the hike is longer of course.

An ad for a “glacier tour” does not mean a comfortable tourist-type tour to view a glacier, as we thought. They surprised us. The description of the glacier tour further above says “no previous skills” required, but you do need to learn immediate skills, like climbing ice hills on crampons (metal spikes) and moving safely up and down steep icy slopes while tethered to a mountain climbing rope shared by 10-15 other people. When you do this the first time, you will have butterflies in your stomach. Guaranteed.

Jotunheimen Hiking to Svellnosbreen

This is the glacier trail at the beginning, but it is not all like this.

We did manage to survive and enjoy this “tour” immensely in 1977 as absolute novices. The young Norwegian guide, who does the glacier tour every day in season (which might be only one summer month, because otherwise the weather can be bad and quite dangerous), looked at us carefully from top to bottom, saw we were young and strong, made a sensible impression, and said we would make it, even though we did not have proper footwear or clothing. He was right, but it was rougher than we thought, as the Law Pundit lost one pair of eyeglasses in a crevice underway through a quick jerky tautening of the mountain rope as someone ahead of him slipped. The rope caught the glasses and they were gone. When the Law Pundit reached into his breast pocket for his replacement pair, he discovered that one eyeglass of those had also broken somewhere underway, so that only one healthy lens remained. It was a half-blind descent. But, not many people worldwide have ever been in this glacier, so we are proudly one of them.

Kaulins Norway Norge Svellnosbreen Blue Tunnel

Andis Kaulins, unshaven for 2 weeks, in the Blue Tunnel, Svellnosbreen, Norway, 1977.

Reinhard Penner Deutschland in Norwegen SpiterstulenReinhard Penner at the Entrance to the Blue Tunnel, Svellnosbreen, Spiterstulen, Norway, 1977

The guide, a strapping young Norwegian in great shape, said the glacier climb was not dangerous, unless the weather got really bad, in which case we would turn around and go back home. We were lucky and had sun nearly all day long. Here is a good quotation from elsewhere:

On a clear morning we packed up and began the climb from 5000 to 7000 feet. As we stepped onto the glacier we roped up. This put a guide at the lead and each person tied into a rope at about twenty foot intervals. Another truth about climbing was revealed to all of us. When a guide says, “one” you translate to, “two and a half.” For example, you ask, “how long is the climb to high camp?” The guide would say, “one hour.” You then translate this to “two and a half hours.” If the guide says, “three” the true answer is, “seven and a half” and so on. Once understood, it eased our anticipation….Leon Watts, Living the Life with

The guide told us that he made the hike down from the glacier in about one hour. It took us nearly 3 hours to go up to the glacier and nearly 2 hours down (plus 2 hours in the glacier), but we were in street shoes – that’s all we had along – as we were in Norway more to find and photograph elk than to do any glacial mountaineering. We had been in Lom , the gateway to Jotunheimen, to take a look at the Lom Stave Church, among the oldest stave churches in the world, and were headed South when Spiterstulen stopped us. Better planning is essential, truly.

Spiterstulen Mountain Hiking to the Glacier

It is a long, rocky and partially watery trek from the base camp lodges in Spiterstulen to the glacier above,
probably ca. 1000 meters elevation difference with a hiking distance of about 3 km very steeply uphill.

How we got to Svellnosbreen was a surprise. We had no expectation of a 2-3 hour hike straight uphill to reach the glacier, with only 1 Coke and 1 Snickers along for thirst and hunger. We were not prepared for that. The Norwegians in our group shared their food and drink with us.

Jotunheimen Hikers to the Glacier

Experienced climbers had the right footwear, clothing and backpacks with food & drink.

A simple tourist brochure ad for a “glacier tour” which we saw by chance in Spiterstulen – with emphasis on “tour” – turned out to be a totally unexpected full day’s real-life adventure.

Andis Kaulins Glacier Tour Norway Svellnosbreen

The Law Pundit – August 1977 – near the end of the glacier tour on the return leg.
Whew. It was a bit cold in that rain outfit.
Wow! We made it. It was a thrilling experience and an unprecedented memory for a lifetime.
e are surely one of very few chance “passers by” to ever take this glacier tour unplanned.

Background Information and Links

Jotunheimen is the highest mountain range in Scandinavia. The name means “Home of the Giants”. Spiterstulen is at 1100 meters, at the border of the tree line, and serves as the base camp lodging for hikers and climbers in this area. We do not know the exact elevation of the glacier tongue at Svellnosbreen.

Arnstein Berg has a superb photo of the entire Svellnosbreen Glacier from the front as seen from Visdalen – with Galdhøpiggen, the highest mountain in Norway, at the immediate back
High Resolution map of Svellnosbreen
Spiterstulen (Norwegian, English, German)
Høgskulen i Volda (Volda University College) nice page on Spiterstulen
Svellnosbreen rundt map of the glaciers around Spiterstulen (bottom of page)
Per Gustaffson at Eventyrisen climbers at Svellnosbreen
Eventyrisen at Flickr
Traildatabase for this region of Norway
Den Norske Turistforening (The Norwegian Trekking Association)
Jotunheimen at Wikipedia
Jotunheimen – in Norwegian, but see picture gallery
Jotunheimen Links of various kinds for hiking in Norway
Till Topps Guide to Jotunheimen
Visit Lom
Trygg i Jotunheimen (Feel Safe in Jotunheimen – only in Norwegian)
Jotunheimen-Turist – Vågå Reiseliv (Norwegian, English, German)
Fjellsiden (Norwegian – some photos of Jotunheimen)
Adam Cagliarini has a photo of Svellnosbreen glacier looking from Galdhøpiggen
Mike Greenfield has great pictures of the glacier and surrounding area
At Fjellweb you see how people are properly dressed for climbing in this region
Britta Schönenborn has a great photo of the Giants of Svellnosbreen
Hakadal KFUK bildegalleri of Svellnosbreen
Aktiv i Oslo
Gletscher Touren und Kurse (Fjell-touren, Gletschertouren, Gletscherkurse)

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Where are We? The Universe and Man : Religion Cosmology Philosophy Theology Cosmogony & Astrophysics

Where are We? The Universe and Man

Cosmology is the study of the nature of the universe, forming the root foundation for all human philosophy (what is the nature of existence), theology (what is the nature of God), cosmogony (what is the origin of the universe) and in our modern age, astrophysics (what is the actual observable physical nature of the universe).

All are concerned with a question once well formulated by Giordano Bruno, a thinker who envisioned the universe as a wheel within a wheel, who thought the universe might be populated by intelligent beings other than man, and who was burned at the stake by the organized Church (the word catholic derives from Greek katholikos meaning universal) as a heretic for expressing these ideas.

His question was : “If the world has no beginning and no end, then where are we?

The question remains even if the universe is finite, rather than infinite, and does have a beginning and end: Where are we then?

Cosmology Drives the World Religions

It is the question of “where are we” which drives the world religions, for each presumes through its proprietary religious dogmas to provide its adherents with the required answer. The worldwide strife and conflict we witness every day in the news is the inevitable result.

A Photographic Infrared Image of our Galaxy – The Milky Way

In this context, it is interesting to look at a photograph which we personally consider to be one of the greatest photographs ever made (rivalled perhaps only by space photos of our own Earth): it is an infrared view (infrared measures “heat”) of our Milky Way Galaxy assembled from six months of data taken by the Infrared Astronomical Satellite (IRAS):

What you see above is our compressed version of the original (to save download time & space). See the original larger IRAS image here. This “All Skyfar infrared survey photograph is by the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center, Caltech/JPL. IPAC is NASA‘s Infrared Astrophysics Data Center. The photo is described as follows at the CalTech IRAS Gallery:

The bright horizontal band is the plane of the Milky Way, with the center of the Galaxy located at the center of the picture…. Hotter material appears blue or white while the cooler material appears red…. Celestial objects visible in the photo are regions of star formation in the constellation Ophiucus (directly above the galactic center) and Orion (the two brightest spots below the plane, far right). The Large Magellanic Cloud is the relatively isolated spot located below the plane, right of center. Black stripes are regions of the sky that were not scanned by the telescope in its first six months of operation.” [links added by this posting]

For more detailed information, download the free Digital Universe Atlas from the Hayden Planetarium.

Where are we – now?

That “All Sky” photograph brings us one step closer to an answer of the “where are we” question posed at the beginning of this posting. Indeed, it provides us a different kind of “big picture” than other types of photographs or depictions of our galaxy, which show more its spiral form or the distribution of stars within that spiral as individual points.

The “All Sky” infrared “heat” photograph above shows clearly that our universe is “a galactic burning ring of fire” which in its profile looks like a bit like a gigantic ignited galactic egg.

How do the religions portray our universe?

Now consider how the world’s organized religions portray our universe to control their adherents. The ignorant masses are kept in fear by the threatening allegation that their deeds – bad and good (as determined by that particular organized Church management) – will be rewarded either by eternal heaven or eternal hell, with hell pictured as a region of eternal burning fire.

Take a look again at that infrared photograph of our current “heaven above”. This is where we are NOW. Galactically seen, speaking of the Devil, we are already in a burning ring of fire.

The portrayal of the cosmological universe by man’s organized religions, including their cosmogenic visions of paradise and hell, is thus so antiquated as to offend normal intellect and elementary independent thinking. There is surely no hell in this universe, and if there were one, we are already in it, because the universe, according to the big bang theory, is conceivably one, big expanding exploded fireball. The IRAS infrared photo confirms the big bang theory.

The fact is that man’s religion is rooted in ancient astronomy, when God was seen to have an abode in the heavens at the immovable center of those heavens in the night sky of stars. In ancient days, mankind did not yet know that there was a Celestial Pole and an Ecliptic Pole, resulting from the 24° tilt of the Earth’s axis. If there is a God and if he has a location in heaven, it can not be the one that the ancients imagined, because both the celestial and ecliptic poles only have relevance to Planet Earth and not to the entire Milky Way Galaxy.

Similarly, man’s concept of hell developed from the ancient observation of the internal workings of Earth in volcanic eruptions, showing ancient mankind that the Earth, underneath its surface, was a world of fire. This was the “underworld” of souls, whereas heaven was the “upper world” of souls, to whose stars, for example, the ancient Pharaohs of Egypt thought that the souls of the deceased would rise.

Thousands of years have since passed since these primitive cosmogonies were developed.

These ancient antiquated beliefs no longer conform to what we know, neither in the world of astrophysics (the big visual picture) nor in the world of genetics (the sub-visual world).

It is time for a change.

Man’s organized religions must be reformed to conform to modern knowledge

If we are to obtain healthy religious views and achieve a semblance of peace among humans on this planet, it is essential to achieve a reformation of the outdated, antiquated and simply grossly erroneous cosmologies and cosmogonies which the organized world religions still impose on their believers.

This does not mean that God must be abandoned, but the religious view of God must be modernized to conform to modern knowledge, otherwise, religion is simply a sham, and a scam.

The Greatest Cloak & Dagger Mystery : Forensics & the Gerum Cloak of Sweden : Gerumsmanteln

Bring on Sherlock Holmes . . .
and at least one lawyer, trained in evidence . . . pro bono publico.


The more than 2000-year old Cloak of Gerum (photos and info below) provides us – as we will show – with the greatest “real” (non-fiction) cloak and dagger mystery of all time, unsolved up to now, but – as we allege – for the most part solved (but not entirely) in this posting.

The technology that we use to solve this mystery is demonstrated in the following graphic – which contains a secret message – to which we give the simple and ultimately helpful clue:
42 (read further below to understand its significance in the context of this posting). Any change to this graphic by, e.g. compression, destroys the secret message:

The mainstream archaeologists recently determined,

via the Swedish Museum of National Antiquities
and the Swedish National Laboratory of Forensic Science
(which “performs laboratory analyses of samples collected from various scenes of suspected crimes” and uses the most modern investigatory criminal forensic techniques available to man – the Scandinavians are indeed top in many scientific and engineering fields)

(stated in our free translation from the Swedish using the assistance of Systran)

[T]he Gerum Cloak has five cuts made by knife or dagger and that these stabs [if the cloak had been worn at the time] would have struck the body in the chest, abdomen, spine and neck.

This is cloak and dagger at its best. You have an – alleged – ancient cloak and you also have – alleged – multiple dagger incisions, but – thus far – you have no dagger, and no corpse.

Worse, when the Gerum Cloak was subjected to follow-up tests for blood and DNA, none were found. No human remnants. None.

How is this to be explained?


The Gerum Cloak, neatly folded and almost perfectly preserved – a great rarity for archaeology – was found in the year 19201 by peat bog diggers in Gerumsberget, Sweden, along with three small stones (found sitting on top of the cloak) which from the photos appear to be about the same size as a super-oversized computer mouse, interpreted – questionably – by the mainstream archaeologists as weights to weigh down the cloak in the bog.


[Please note: All photographs below are copyrighted by their owners. We use them here in reliance on the fair use copyright exception for non-profit research. See the original linked articles for more details about each photograph. For the analysis below, one of the photos used MUST be the original, and we do use it.]

Photograph left above by ATA – Photograph right above (3 small stones) by Falbygdens museum
in Falköping,
which is also a very important Swedish megalithic site

Photo left above by ATA of cloak 1920 – Photo middle (virtual cloak and stones)
and photo right (cloak hung) by Falbygdens museum

Gerum Cloak Overhead View
(Original Photo Essential for Forensics)

ABOVE: Overhead photograph of the Gerum Cloak by Gabriel Hildebrandt / SHM
(The discussion below shows that it is important to use the original photograph for analysis)

Gerum Cloak “On the Table View”

ABOVE: Photograph of the Gerum Cloak investigation, photograph by Christer Åhlin / SHM
The white points on the cloak here played a role in our solution of the mystery.


The lower two photographs above were the key photographs for the solution of this mystery:
1) the table photograph because we wondered what the white points were; and, 2) the overhead photograph because we looked for those white points, wondering where they had vanished.


Modern chronological dating shows the Gerum Cloak to originate around several hundred years before the birth of Christ (ca. 360-100 BC). The cloak is thus at least 2000 years old and is the oldest intact piece of “clothing” (or what is alleged to be clothing) ever found in Sweden.

Given its oval nearly elliptical shape, the identification as a cloak (rather than, for example, as a tablecloth or wall tapestry) is however certainly susceptible to doubt. We have many cloaks but we have never seen one with an oval shape and with no cut or incision for the head. The peat bog finders, not knowing what else to do with their finding, threw it over their shoulders as if it were a cloak and it has been regarded as a cloak ever since, but it is most likely NOT a cloak. Indeed, if not a cloak, then the dagger marks of the archaeologists are not stab marks at all, which seems likely given their overly wide distribution on the cloak, mostly near the edges.

The shape of the cloak, as we shall see, as well as the dagger slashes on the cloak, are, however, important clues to the resolution of the real secret of the cloak.


If someone had committed a murder and was trying to hide a bloodied cloak, they would not use three such unusually-shaped and differently weighted stones this small to sink the cloak in a bog, nor would they first fold the cloak neatly. The fact that the cloak was still neatly folded when found indicates additionally that the stones had no effect on sinking the cloak, which, if effective, would have destroyed the folding. Rather, it appears that the cloak and stones were intentionally and neatly hidden together – but possibly too near an inviting bog, probably by someone who thought that he or someone else might recover them soon. Perhaps they were hidden in the bog by someone thinking they could not be found there, would not sink too deeply and could be retrieved shortly. But no one came to retrieve them and so they sank slowly (retaining the folding) into the bog which preserved them for over 2000 years.

The bottom stone looks almost like an iron for ironing clothes or fabric, i.e. something to slide along a surface, and in my opinion the upper two smaller stones appear to be made to fit exactly on top of the larger stone. Each of these smaller stones has what appears to be a sculpted straight edge, suggesting a maneuverable usage intended for marking something, much like modern markers for lines or locations on a map, perhaps a kind of angle-setter? We leave this issue to the engineers out there in cyberspace.


Does the Gerum Cloak hide a different real secret, and if so, what is it?

We have discovered that all that is required to reveal the hidden secret of the Gerum Cloak are the right tools and the right detective work in using them.

With apologies to other forensic experts, but in the case of the Gerum Cloak, every internet user potentially possesses tools necessary for decipherment success in the instant case.


All that one needs to decipher the Gerum Cloak are:

1) an otherwise unformatted original overhead photograph copy of the Gerum Cloak laid down flat, such as the original photograph of Gabriel Hildebrandt (who we do not know personally) reproduced above, and;

2) a graphics program such as Paint Shop Pro (“PSP”, by Corel, formerly JASC) having a “threshold level” menu option for showing the most minimal color differences in any image. We use the German version of PSP 7.00, where the threshold value menu option is found under the colors menu as the option “Schwellenwert”: [Farben/Farbeinstellungen/Schwellenwert]. Note that this menu is activated only after an image is loaded into PSP.


The ability to depict very precisely the minutial differences in color of adjacent pixels on a photograph allows the identification of marks or etchings on surfaces which are as good as invisible to the human eye or which can otherwise only be found with great difficulty – or not at all – by more modern technologies. To our knowledge, we were the first ever to use precisely this graphics technology in archaeology, already applying it to the study of figures found on photographs of megaliths, megalithic sites and petroglyphs (see Stars Stones and Scholars).


Using Gabriel Hildebrandt’s original photograph above and available at Gabriel Hildebrandt / SHM, anyone having the graphics program Paint Shop Pro (it may also work with other graphics programs having a comparable menu option) can duplicate our results by using the threshold settings that we provide below. The three rows below show the color blue (#0000ff) progressively differentiated by 1) brightness, 2) saturation and 3) hue.

Each of the 46 colors above (48 boxes but 3 are identical) is a different RGB blue color. The differences in blue in each color row above are very hard to discern with the human eye, though the eyes do “see” these colors, as shown by our comparison of the leftmost and rightmost elements of each row (you need true color on your monitor to see all of these colors).

However, such subtle color changes, when close to each other, are turned by the brain into flowing color schemes by a process called optical mixing. This facility of our brain was exploited in Neo-Impressionism, a school of art founded by Georges Seurat, whose computer-futuristic and greatly underestimated Pointillism (try it out here) consisted of painting by small dots too small to be seen individually, which gave his paintings a tremendous brilliance because of the miniscule white space surrounding those dots. Pointillism clearly anticipated pixel technology on television screens and computer monitors.

In a similar way, the PSP threshold value menu option permits us to isolate real but otherwise imperceptible color differences between pixels and to discover actual figures present in an image which we otherwise would not recognize as such.

In PSP the color threshold settings can be given a minimum value of 1 and a maximum of 255.

Below you see Hildebrandt’s original photo viewed using the Paint Shop Pro color threshold settings of 81 in the first case, and 85, 86 and 87 in the second case. We presume these settings work identically on all computers running the same program. Run the threshold values on the original photograph first and not on a resized version of it, which gives less accurate results:

The Hildebrandt photograph shown at PSP threshold level 81
Look at the middle of the above 81-PSP-thresholded image. What do you see?
Lots of dots, right?
Do you see anything familiar in those dots?

The Hildebrandt photograph shown at threshold levels 85, 86 and 87
We call your attention again to the center of those three Gerum Cloak images, using PSP threshold settings of 85, 86 and 87, and we ask you, what do you see? If you see nothing recognizable, we suggest you call in your resident astronomer for advice and assistance.


Do not read further here
if you do not want us to tell you what you see
and/or if you want to decipher the Gerum Cloak on your own. Otherwise, read on.

What those images clearly show in the middle of the Gerum Cloak – thresholded at 81 by PSP – are the stars of Ursa Major (the Big Dipper, the Great Bear, the Wain), Virgo, Boötes, Hercules and Lyra – and they show those stars pretty exactly. Recall that we are seeing here just a tiny photographic image of a large piece of fabric. More sophisticated photo equipment taking OPTICAL close-ups of sections of the Gerum Cloak will give even better results.

Below are two digitally-made close-ups of the Gerum Cloak photo. In the first we compare the Gerum Cloak with the stars of Ursa Major, Virgo, Boötes, Hercules and Lyra as shown by Starry Night Pro. We have a clear match of stars.

In the second close-up we view the images representing the threshold values of 85, 86 and 87 as compared to the stars produced by Starry Night Pro. Opposite of Ursa Major we clearly find the stars of Draco marked on the Gerum Cloak (this is at the North Ecliptic Pole):

Some of the star groups in the course of life of the Gerum Cloak appear to have been painted over with an appropriate figure, for example, Cygnus, which is shown as a bird (head at the top middle) at threshold level 74, although the stars iota and kappa Cygnii are clearly identifiable:

Also important are the images which result for the stars Orion and Scorpio – which are across from each other in the heavens and build a traditional historic ancient celestial meridian. At the identical PSP threshold value of 54 for both of these groups of stars, a threshold identity which suggests that these stellar groups were both marked on the Gerum Cloak in the same manner at nearly the same time, the main stars of Orion and Scorpio can clearly be identified (see the close-ups in the final decipherment image below.

Knowing now the position of the above stellar groupings on the Gerum Cloak, we can possibly identify the knife or dagger marks on that cloak, as intentional dagger slashes acting as permanent edges for major astronomical lines of orientation, specifically the Equinoxes and Solstices and the 24° degree axis tilt of the Earth relative to ancient cardinal points at Orion and Scorpio. Perhaps the cloak was hung on an ancient wooden wall using sharp objects at the focal areas. Seasonally seen – the tilt of the Earth’s axis is “equalized” at both the Autumn and Spring Equinoxes, when the days and nights are equally long everywhere, and when the ecliptic (angled 24° to the celestial equator) crosses the celestial equator at the two crossing nodes.


Armed with the above knowledge, knowing that an oval viz. elliptical shape is the shape of the heavens, it is easy to see, using the threshold value of 81 as the basis for the graphic below, that the Gerum Cloak is a sky map of the heavens of the northern hemisphere. It is an ancient planisphere.

We have added the positions of the North Ecliptic Pole and the North Celestial Pole to our decipherment graphic for purposes of understanding, but these circles are not marked on the Gerum Cloak directly as far as we can tell, although the fact that the heaven’s pole positions are centered in the middle of the cloak would seem clearly to demonstrate a knowledge of those positions on the part of the cloak’s makers, as we have seen for Scandinavia in the rock drawings.

If the Gerum Cloak is a cloak at all, then it is similar in function to the heavenly cape found in e.g. Verse 33854 of the Latvian Dainas,2 where the Moon is seen to ride his steed in the sky with a cape of stars on his back. It was surely an important motif in ancient astronomy. Indeed, Johann Bayer, a German lawyer and amateur astronomer, published his famous star atlas Uranometria in the year 1603 with Diana pictured on the front cover of the book as the Moon goddess wearing a cape of stars. When we view some smaller modern fabrics, such as “banners”, for example, the flags of the United States of America or the European Union, then we see that the stars have not lost their importance as symbols of choice.

We hope that the archaeologists in Sweden, perhaps with the help of this posting, may elevate the Gerum Cloak to the noble position in ancient astronomy which it would seem to deserve.

1 Post, L.v., Waltersdorff, E.v. & Lindqvist, S., Bronsåldersmanteln från Gerumsberget i Västergötland. (Der bronzezeitliche Mantel von Gerumsberget in Västergötland.) 1924–25. Out of print.
2 Latviešu tautas dziesmas, (Chansons populaires lettonnes), in 12 volumes, volumes I — XII, edited by Arveds Švābe, Kārlis Straubergs, Edīte Hauzenberga-Šturma, Copenhagen, Imanta (publishers), 1952-1956, Vol. XI, p. 375. In Latvian, Verse 33854 of the Latvian Dainas reads [with our translation next to it]:

[Daina number 33854]

Mēnesītis nakti brauca, [The Moon rides the heavens,]
Zvaigžņu deķis mugurā; [A blanket of stars on his back;]
Rīta zvaigzne, vakarāja, [The Morning Star, (and) Evening Star]
Tie Mēneša kumeliņi. [Are the steeds of the Moon.]

This electronically searchable text of the Latvian Dainas at the University of Virginia is one of the great book digitization achievements of historical literature in the modern era and we heartily congratulate all of those who made it possible, some of whom are listed here and here.


We were of two minds about our initial result for the astronomical lines on the Gerum Cloak, so that we have recalculated the entire thing by placing several layers of thresholded pictures on top of one another to give a composite photograph – which allows a more accurate placing of the lines, and give the somewhat amended results below.

The positions of the stars have not changed, but we do interpret the lines a bit differently. Theoretically, the angle between the vertical celestial meridian running between Scorpio and Orion and the dagger mark on the upper left edge of the cloak (presumably the Autumn Equinox) gives an angular separation by Starry Night Pro of about 30°, which would in fact correspond to around 300 BC, the date to which the Gerum Cloak is dated by the archaeologists.

As for the Spring Equinox (the right lower corner of the Gerum Cloak), this is a troublesome cloak region for interpretation. We previously calculated it as 24°, measured from Orion’s bow viz. shield, which gave us a date of ca. 1750 BC, so that we were concerned about that date, as it did not mesh with the archaeology dating of the cloak at ca. 300 BC.

In the recalculation above we now have the alternatives of 15°, measured from Bellatrix, i.e. the right edge of Orion, which would measure to Aldebaran and the Hyades, whereas 30° would measure from Bellatrix to the Pleiades and it is about a 50° angular separation to the Spring Equinox in 300 BC. This corner of the decipherment one can best view as “unclear” and we have marked it so in the revised decipherment above. Perhaps the ancients marked Aldebaran and the Hyades and the Pleiades in that era, but we are sceptical.

What should happen now?

The first thing that must be done – based on the results of our work – is for the Gerum Cloak to be examined in Sweden by the forensics experts there to confirm or deny whether stars of the heavens are marked on that Gerum Cloak, as we allege they are.

The second thing to be done by the forensic experts in Sweden is to mark exactly the contours of the dagger incisions (i.e. the slits in the cloak made by some kind of a sharp object) and then to draw the various possible lines which can be drawn to and from these various slits (both from the back as well as the front of the slits) across the cloak to see what kinds of exact angle measurements one obtains.

Only then would one be in a position to determine exactly where the lines were originally intended to run and then one could measure the resulting angles exactly, thereby permitting a more dependable interpretation.

Even then, we have no assurance that the astronomy depicted on the cloak necessarily coincides with the era in which the cloak was made. The cloak could be a copy of an earlier cloak or some other planispheric object. (We have this problem, for example, with chronologies found on cuneiform tablets – which in part have simply been copied from much earlier predecessors – see our discussion of MUL.APIN ).

We think that our discovery of star representations on the Gerum Cloak can be reproduced and substantiated. We think it is less clear as to how the lines of astronomical orientation on the cloak may ultimately be interpreted.

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