Science Friday: Mini Kirk’s Kung Fu Grip, Alien Water, Ancient Computers + Cool Gadgets + more

This week Science Friday is back with more exciting science news! Learn about Captain Kirk’s magic physics-breaking fingers, H2O and CO2 on alien worlds, a 2000-year-old computer, science in San Francisco, and more. All this plus our Gadget Gift Guide for the priciest gifts of 2008!


How Kirk’s “Magic Fingers” Break the Laws of Physics
Either that, or our young heroine can be seen in the latest Star Trek trailer exerting almost 800 lbs. of force with those super strong digits to stop from falling of the edge of a precipice. recently did a little back-of-the-envelope physics calculation to determine just how strong young Capt. Kirk would have to be, based on the scene in the trailer, to be so formidable as to dig his fingers into the sandy ground and pull himself to safety after him and his car promptly fly off a cliff. Apparently, children of the future are either Kryptonian or bionic. Thanks to Russ for the tip!

Click to re-watch the trailer to see the magic fingers scene again

H2O and CO2 Found On Alien Planet
Recently, the Spitzer and Hubble Space Telescopes found H2O and CO2 on the large, hot planet 63 lightyears from Earth. HD 189733b, classified as a hot Jupiter, has a molten core and heavily gaseous atmosphere. Although NASA is keen to stress the planet is far too hot to support life, it says the finding represents an important proof of concept, showing that it is possible to detect CO2 in the atmospheres of distant planets orbiting other stars, and that the same method could be used to look at planets which might support life.

Molecules in space!

2000-year-old Computer Recreated
The battered pieces of a 2000-year old computer designed by Archimedes were discovered in a shipwreck more than a century ago. Today, we have the first working model recreating how that computer worked. A hand crank would wind a complicated set of gears and display various pieces of information: which constellations would be in the sky at what time, when eclipses were expected to occur, even the dates of the olympic games. The video below shows how the device works and all of its main features. More at New Scientist.

Science in San Francisco
This week in San Francisco the American Geophysical Union conference was held where plenty of findings from the latest Earth and Space research was released to the public. Among the presenters were scientists from the Mars Phoenix Lander, Cassini, and Universities from around the world. Your humble science editor was there to catch lots of the action. But, seeing as I was hanging around with petrologists all week, I refer you to the Planetary Society blog which has a nice recap of many of the planetary science talks.

The AGU Fall Meeting held at the Moscone Center in San Francisco

Image of the Week: Jupiter’s Moon Plays Peek-a-Boo with Hubble
NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has caught Jupiter’s moon Ganymede playing a game of “peekaboo.” The new image, released yesterday, shows Ganymede just before the seemingly tiny orb ducks behind its giant host. Images like this can reveal interesting information about Jupiter’s upper atmosphere.

Gadget of the Week: Best (Pricey) Tech Gifts of 2008
As long as you’re not on a budget, you might enjoy buying (or receiving) one of TrekMovie’s best pricey tech gifts for this year. If you are on a budget, like the rest of us, check out out gift guide for tech gifts under $30.

1. ‘Easy and Fun’ touch-screen kit for netbooks
From, $95.00
Give the hard-core techie in your life a tactile jolt with the $95 “Easy and Fun TouchKit” from Hoda Technologies. This modification adds resistive touch-screen abilities to those ultracompact, ultracheap netbook computers that are all the rage right now. Though no soldering is required, installing the kit does involve some dismantling of the netbook (which most likely will void its warranty); Hoda provides full instructions on how to proceed.

2. Back to the Future Flux Capacitor
From TFAW, $220.00
Short of going back in time to lift the original flux capacitor off the set of Back to the Future, this lit-up replica is the closest you’ll get to the time machine. Just hope the UPS truck that delivers it goes slower than 88mph, or you might have to wait a few decades to receive it. Or maybe check your attic, because it may have been sitting there since before you were born.

3. Ultimate Ears UE 11 Pro Custom Monitors
From Ultimate Ears, $1,150.00
For a truly unique set of headphones, get thee gift recipient to an audiologist for an impression of his ear canal and have the thing sent to Ultimate Ears, which will use it to mold a quad armature speaker config — dual subs, dedicated mid-range, and tweeter in each ear — with three-way crossover in a hearing-aid-esque earpiece to pass on flawless sound so invasively as to tickle the brain lobes.

4. Ferrari Segway
From Ferrari Store, $10,330.00
There’s one and only one way to truly travel in geek style across your massive 500-acre estate, and that’s on a Segway. Normal Segways are for cops and other dweebs, and golf carts are the epitome of lame, so this Ferrari-branded red Segway is the only way to go. And at a mere $12,000 each, you could get one for each day of the week.

5. Jetpacks!
From Jetpack International, $250,000.00 (to qualified jetpack fliers only)

Sure, the Ferrari Segway is great for getting around your estate, but what about getting to the different levels of your skyscraper? A jetpack is the obvious answer. The technology behind the jetpack has yet to be perfected, but for $250,000 you, too, can own a jetpack capable of flying for three minutes. You may want to buy jetpack lessons first, though, as only those who have undergone extensive training can buy one of these beauties.


Science Quickies

Here’s a warp-speed look at science tid-bits that didn’t quite make the cut, but nonetheless merit mention.

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That Greek computer has always fascinated me. I believe the first time I heard of it was on an episode of In Search Of with Leonard Nimoy. Makes you wonder what else is waiting to be found in the ground or sea that the ancients weren’t suppose to have.

First? Very inpressive, the science Friday so far!

Sorry, I meant the BEST science Friday so far!

I thought I said that about young Kirk the day I saw it. But I’m sure it will take Mythbusters to prove it once and for all.

Can we throw Jimmy B out of a moving car to find out?? Please!!

Only kidding, he’s very sweet

By the way, am presenting at AGU this afternoon, if any trekkies wanna drop by MC3007!

Let’s see… $220 could buy me one flux capacitor, or four models of the Enterprise-D. Choices, choices…

Interesting article at POPSCI but disagree with some of the assumptions, like the initial speed of the car and the fact that no mention is made in the calculations about the friction exerted by Kirk’s body and legs/feet in helping him keep from taking the plunge.


A replica of the flux capacitor from BTTF??? I want one! It’s only my favorite non-Trek sci fi movie ever!


for 220 bux, that flux capacitor better work!

After the holidays I will pick up a flux capacitor. I wonder if Spock uses one to travel back in time in Trek 09?

#10 DJT, The Deloren(sp) and plutonium are sold seperately. The Flux capacitor will not work without them ;)

One can only hope that they cut the “James Anikin Kirk” scene from the movie. Other movies have cut out bits in the trailer, why not this one?

I keep expecting the kid to fly over the cliff.

Would have been better if Kirk was some snotty nosed 23rd century punk rocker with a LED mohawk and cyber implants

#8 BK613, I had the same thought. I’m not a mathematician so I can’t tell if that was factored into PopSci’s calculations. On the other hand (sorry, pun intended), leaping from a car going about 80 miles per hour would leave one with a lot more to worry about physically than how much force one can summon to one’s fingers….

But hey, James Bond does that stuff all the time. : )

If I only had too much money to spend, I’d buy everything on this list.

Love the geeks that calculated how strong young Kirk would have too be. Just so useless that it becomes useful.
The 2000-year computer is cool.

Shouldn’t, “Either that, or our young heroine can be seen in the latest Star Trek trailer…” actually read, “Either that, or our young HERO can be seen in the latest Star Trek trailer…”?

I was going to mention the friction of mini-Kirk’s body as well.

I think I would have done it backwards: figured out the max speed at the start of the slide that the corvette could have been traveling for Kirk to save himself. And then see if that compares even closely to the visual.

Would also like to know where POPSCI pulled that friction coefficient for the tires from…

As much as I hate the “MY NAME IS JAMES TIBERIUS KIRK” scene right now, I’m thinking it will be better in the context of the film. Most likely we will see “little Jimmy” take a lot of crap from Uncle Frank through the early portion of the movie. This scene will represent the turning point and mark his official declaration of independence from the drunk.

It is quite possible that when little Jimmy finally stands up and shouts MY NAME IS JAMES TIBERIUS KIRK you will be cheering.

I hope so anyway.

“Although NASA is keen to stress the planet is far too hot to support life”

as we know it…

astrobiologists are such children.

I’m not much for physics, but I would be more concerned with a kid swan-diving out of a car doing between 60-80 mph.

100.8 kph is never the speed we saw ;)
And right, the body itself has more surface for friction than the fingers.

“Can’t you do simple arithmetic?!” – Newton, TNG

“Heroine?” Does young Jamie Kirk have a secret we don’t know about?

“Hot Jupiter” should be elided to “Hoopiter,” and you’ve got your planet name right there.

Why is there a giant fried egg on Ganymede? It’s making me hungry!

If Segways weren’t banned on my local sidewalks, I’d so have one of them shiny red ones.

I want a jet pack, now if I could just keep from burning my legs!

A flux capacitor would be nice too. I wonder if it would fit in my stocking?

Listen to Star Trek Christmas music.. for free!

re: Kirk’s “Magic Fingers”

All I have to say is that some people have WAAAAAAAAY too much time on their hands! LMAO

16 — agreed.
“Either that, or our young heroine can be seen in the latest Star Trek trailer exerting almost 800 lbs. of force with those super strong digits to stop from falling of the edge of a precipice.”

Maybe one o’ them rocks did a job on James Tiberius Kirk’s cahones. Now, ‘he’s’ a heroine. ?? (Dang, I wanted to be first on that snide side of that one.)

The flux capacitor seems a tad pricey. How much for a Mr. Fusion?

Oh, and personally, I think I’m more salty than sweet, but whatever…

Thanks Kayla!

Maybe it’s another alternate timeline and what we are really seeing is Bionic Baby Kirk.

Ok. Ill get the Flux Capacitor and then ill use it to go to may.Then come back to the present and give the entire plot of The New Star Trek Movie Away. Long Live The Terran Empire.!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

# 19.

I don’t think that is the final version of that scene. Directors often shoot many takes and it is VERY common for them to show us alternate takes (or even scenes that didn’t make the film) in trailers.

They don’t want to give away all the best dramatic bits in the trailer, and I suspect this is what is happening here. At the very least I suspect his “MY NAME IS JAMES TIBERIUS KIRK” will be a differnt take. In fact I suspect the same for the Leonard Nimoy bit at the end as well.

Doesn’t that English gentleman who built and demonstrated the 2,000 year old computer look like he’s straight out of Central Casting? That guy was born to figure that dealie out! :-)

I remember seeing pix of the rusty bits in a grade-school publication when I was a kid and being amazed by whatever it was. Archimedes was obviously one of the handful of super-geniuses in human history.

Scott B. out.

#10 DJT, The Deloren(sp) and plutonium are sold seperately. The Flux capacitor will not work without them ;)

Sure it will. You just need the cigarette lighter adapter, available at QuikTrip.

OK,I just watched the trailer again and it during the opening there’s a close-up on the speedo of the corvette. So, . . . I’m thinking that if young JTK buys himself one of those $220 flux capacitors, he could hit 88mph, then go back to avoid driving into that quarry.

Did they account for the braking friction of the rest of his body dragging along the ground (which would suck tremendously), or did they assume that his fingers provided ALL of the braking force?

It seems like they did the latter.


“our young heroine”

What? James T became a girl?

HERO, please.

A heronie is a female hero.

Hiro told me so when we were talking about saving cheerleaders.

Ok, put them there 1,150 dollar earbuds right there on that shelf with the $500 speaker cords and that $50 green marker that’s supposed to make your cd’s sound better.

( I’ll bet it’s phenomenal sound, tho…. 3 way crossover indeed…)

Oh I just hate nitpickers, and this finger power physics calculation is just off the charts nitpicking. It is sooo bad because it is based on an assumption of the speed of the car, and that assumption is so clearly wrong. Little James T Kirk wasn’t even moving fast at all when he jumped.

It looks like the back-of-the-envelope physics determined Little JTK’s initial speed to be 100kph. This is slower than the speedometer says earlier in the trailer, but probably not slow enough by far at the time of the actual jump. If you watch the scene when he jumps from the car, he appears to be almost stopped relative to the ground. Since there is no way a human could jump at speeds necessary to counter near 100kph, I think it is safe to assume that in approaching the cliff, then downshifting and sliding the car sideways, a lot of speed was lost before he jumped.

Re: 29

I had thought about multiple takes myself, and that a low and deliberate james… tiberius…. kirk would have been more effective. But again, there’s no context. If the scene builds up to his shouting that name it may flow quite nicely.

Re: 36

The car does spin out before going over and falls almost straight down as it topples over the edge (as opposed to launching out into the air), so I would assume most of the forward momentum had indeed stopped.

……$12,000. I could buy the car I want for that. If only, if only.

Attach the $222.00 Flux to the $10,333.00 Segway & presto, instant personal time-machine.

That is if the Segway in question can get up to 88MPH.
For that price it had better be able to do so.

As for Young Jimmy Kirk….
Car was going 108 ?
LOST reference perhaps ?

Ok. I put the Flux on the Coravette thats actualy an Autobot and we got it to 88 and time warped to may of 2009. We Watched the New Movie of Star Trek and Yes. The Shat does make an apperence. me and Bumblebee were a little Surprised but we thought it was so cool to see the Shat in the new Star Trek Movie. The Effects Were Great and All things Cannon Are Explained in full Detail and the Ending is Both Shocking and Wonderfull.

No one noticed that Jimmy B’s cute little polo-neck would have been shredded? Either that, or it would be pushed up,shredding his tummy.

*nerd voice* according to my calculations…
/nerd voice

PopSci assumes Jimmy Boy’s velocity when he hits the turf to be about 63 mph (v0 in the equation), when if you watch the trailer he is not traveling anywhere near that speed. Others are correct in pointing out that his body would have a much higher coefficient of friction than his fingers alone, so we can assume that his clothing and body were exerting much more force on the ground than his fingers were.

One can also see that as Kirk pitches over the edge of the cliff that he is still moving, therefore his final velocity (v2 in the equation) cannot be 0. He doesn’t come to a stop until he hangs over the edge, where all of his weight rests on his fingertips, which at this point don’t have to exert much more than 110 lbs of force to stop him.

Sorry, engineering student who had to put my two cents in

From the POPSCI article but recalculated at 40 mph (18m/s) instead of the ridiculous 80 mph (36m/s) that they propose:

Fnet = Ffriction = µmg = ma

where the acceleration of the car is completely due to the friction force. M is the mass of the car, g is equal to the acceleration due to gravity (9.8m/s2) , µ is the coefficient of sliding friction between sand and tires (0.5 at most), and a is the acceleration of the car. Solving for a we get:

a = µg = (0.5)(9.8m/s2) = 4.9 m/s2

If we assume a relatively constant acceleration then

a = (v^2 – v0^2) / 2x

where v0 = 18m/s, a = – 4.9 m/s^2 and x = 30 m.

Solving for v we find that the car goes over the cliff at a speed v = 5.477 m/s.

the POPSCI article gives Kirk a 4m/s difference because of his jumping but let’s give him only a tenth of that (the .477m/s.) And we’ll keep the 5 meter distance from the cliff.

a = (v2 – v02)/2x = (0 – 5m/s)^2 / 2(5.0m) = 2.5 m/s^2

requiring a force of

Fnet = Ffingers = ma

and assuming that the young Kirk has a mass of around 50 kg we get

Ffingers = ma = (50kg)(2.5m/s^2) = 125 Newtons (or 28.1 pound-force)
Doable (but I wouldn’t try it at home.) I still think other factors are not accounted for in this analysis but even they’re own methodology with a reasonable input yields a reasonable result. Of course a fair evaluation doesn’t generate as many hits :-)

E = bonehead x geek squared….It’s a bloody movie! get a life!

Considering how much Jimmy T.’s shirts would get torn and shredded later in his life, looks like he got off to a better start and just went downhill from there!

As for their calculation sayin he couldn’t pull himself up that quickly, I just tried it by hanging off my room then pulling my self up, if you go slow it’s hard, but if you do it fast and hard you can do it at pretty much the same speed he did, no wires required.

Hey, PopSci opened this can of worms, we’re just keeping them honest ;-)

Besides, I like science. And I like it when the real science in a science fiction movie works correctly, even if it’s at the edge of what’s possible.

That Archimedes, he was such a smart old screw.

That young Kirk finger grip! I gripe, because that turned me off to the trailer immediately, with a heavy Lurker groan.

With all the recent discoveries of “Extremeophiles” here on Earth, I can’t believe Planetary Scientists still say that a planet is “too cold, too hot, too high or low an atmospheric pressure, too much radiation (whatever) to support life.” Given what we’ve found here at home, I don’t think we can rationally rule anything out anymore as “Too extreme an environment” for life. We have found some microbes that can survive in the vaccum of space for God’s sake!

Kayla, another fabulous job! Thank you, as always, and congrats on making the AGU!

I must Segway off to my Jetpack now. };-D>