New college rankings & AFC preview

News From Space:  In 2013, astronomers found three very large planets in the Goldilocks Zone -- not too hot, not too cold -- of the star system Gliese 667C. That's a triple star: The gravity and pressures of the planets, plus the degree of radiation from three stars orbiting each other, probably rule out any life we'd recognize. But finding this star system was another step closer to what seems inevitable: the discovery of distant Earth-like worlds.

In 2014, astronomers reported the first Earth-sized planet orbiting in the habitable zone of its star. The new world, Kepler 186f, about 500 light-years away, is the proper distance from its star for liquid water. Whether the planet is made of rocks like Earth, or of frozen gas like most "exosolar" worlds found so far, isn't known. Because the star of Kepler 186f is a red dwarf, a cool star compared to the sun, the planet gets only about one third as much solar energy as Earth receives; at noon on a summer day, its star would seem small and dim compared to a blazing noonday sun. And because Kepler 186f is closer to its star than Earth is to the sun, radiation levels are likely to be higher than here. So though fascinating, Kepler 186f is not Earth 2. Yet it continues to seem only a matter of time until an Earth 2 is discovered.

The upside of Kepler 186f is that red dwarf stars burn for billions of years longer than the sun is expected to. This suggests that if radiation-resistant life exists there or evolves in the future, Kepler 186f could host life for an unfathomable length of time.

Pittsburgh: Kevin Seifert reports that just before training camp, the Steelers were down to $6.5 million in salary cap space. That's a sign of a team approaching the end of a talent cycle. If so, what a cycle it's been. The Steelers have the most total victories since the AFL-NFL merger, the most home wins since the merger, and of course, the most Super Bowl rings.

Last season, Pittsburgh opened 2-6 then went 6-2 down the stretch, partly owing to a tactics change. At midseason, offensive coordinator Todd Haley began using the no-huddle, which shook up a previously plodding attack. No-huddle passing may be the Steelers' only hope, since the fearsome Pittsburgh rushing attack is but a memory. Pittsburgh was 27th in rushing in 2013, 26th in 2012. The last time Pittsburgh finished in the top 10 for rushing offense was 2007. The defense is faltering, too. The Steelers dropped from first in 2012 to 13th last season. It could be a long season for Pittsburgh, except for the two Cleveland games. The Steelers are riding a 25-4 stretch versus the Browns.

The Funding Gods Chortled: Do federal student loans essentially subsidize the lifestyles of overpaid, underworked college professors and administrators? Some conservatives ( Naomi Riley, for instance) contend this. The contention is that Barack Obama has pumped up spending on student loans not to help students but to pass money along to his social peers among the "tenured radicals" (Roger Kimball's phrase) who spend their time teaching kids that America is bad.

Is there another side to this coin? Austin Wright shows in a sharp piece on Politico that many big universities are essentially subsidized by the defense budget. Conservatives root for higher military spending, not realizing the tenured radicals are using some of the funds for their sherry hours.

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