Science Friday: Pre-human Feet, OCO Fail, Sucking Ocean, Lunar Tonkas + Zero-G Java

Get your weekly dose of science today by discovering 1.5 million year old prehuman footprints, watching an unfortunate mission failure, vacuuming the reef, and playing with robo-tonka trucks on the moon! All this and more plus our gadget of the week: the astronaut designed weightless cup o’ joe!

1.5 Million Year Old "Prehuman" Footprints Found
Footprints uncovered in Kenya show that as early as 1.5 million years ago an ancestral species, almost certainly Homo erectus, had already evolved the feet and walking gait of modern humans. An international team of scientists published an article in Science last Friday saying the well-defined prints “provided the oldest evidence of an essentially modern humanlike foot anatomy” and added to the picture of Homo erectus. Until now, no footprint trails had ever been associated with early members of our long-legged genus Homo. More info at Science.

Do you ever wonder if scientists a million years from now will be pondering your fossilized Chuck Taylor impressions?

"We Have Mission Failure", Orbiting Carbon Observatory Fails to Make Earth Orbit
I was passively "watching" the Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO) launch into space until I was startled by NASA’s tweet, "OCO launch update: We have a mission failure." Nine years of work disappeared in five minutes yesterday when the satellite crashed into the icy waters near Antarctica. The OCO was designed to observe CO2 entering and exiting the Earth’s atmosphere. Now climate scientists who worked on the ambitious effort to map the world’s carbon dioxide are trying to figure out what comes next. According to NASA’s very short press release:

Preliminary indications are that the fairing on the Taurus XL launch vehicle failed to separate. The fairing is a clamshell structure that encapsulates the satellite as it travels through the atmosphere.

We won’t know for sure exactly what went wrong until a team of engineers can get together and work it through.

The OCO at launch.

Vacuuming the Reef
In the Hawaiian Islands, researchers have developed the "Supersucker," a machine for removing reef-damaging, seaweed-like algae, which poses a problem for reefs worldwide. This alien algae has been brought into Hawaiian reef systems from other parts of the world and grows like weeds, killing the natural native reef species. Divers hand pick and feed the algae into their Supersucker vacuum and bag up the stuff. Even better is that they ship off bags of algae to local farmers who use it to put nutrients to their soil. They’re saving the reefs and putting the waste to good use!

Check out the above video of the Supersucker in action

Robo-Tonka Trucks to Build Moon Base in 2020
NASA wants to build a polar outpost on the moon in 2020, and one of the most promising ways to get that done is by using rovers to do it for us! The space agency is partnering up with Astrobotic Technology and researchers from Carnegie Mellon University to design the rovers, which would be charged with fleshing out a landing pad and launch site for rockets and other spacecraft. It’s thought that two 330-pound ‘bots working together would be able to get the berm done in as little as six months. As for the landing pad, the researchers concluded that the task could be completed by smaller robots combing the moon’s surface for rocks to construct the hard surface of the deck. After that, NASA could start landing materials on the moon and begin constructing a base from there.

Artist’s rendering of the Robo-tonkas in action

Gadget of the Week: Zero-G Coffee Cup
Astronaut Donald Pettit loves his morning coffee, but it just wasn’t the same drinking it out of an aluminum bag as he soared above the earth on Space Shuttle mission STS-126. That’s when he invented the On-Orbit Coffee Cup, rendered here by designer Travis Baldwin. The cup works using surface tension, that same attractive property that allows soap to lift grease and dirt from your body, and lets you fill a glass of water fuller than its top. Drinking coffee in orbit will never be the same.

Mmmmm, weightless cup o’ joe


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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Frist!!! I love technogy.

As long as the coffee doesn’t float out of me.

Well. I did not make that foot print. No seriously i didn’t. I would like my cup to have Tea. Earl grey. Hot. Moon Base Alpha here. Scotty. Can you get her done on time. Just build it man. No im not Daft !! Kool Science.

The latest in NASA’s overly optimistic and never-to-be-realized projects, the Moon Base idea still sounds like a really, really cool one! They should have done that years ago…in which case “Space: 1999” might have gone from being a sci-fi show to a documentary. ;)

Can’t you just use a naval ship, like a guided missile cruiser, to scrap the algae off of the reef?

They tried that in Hawaii about a week ago….

Those NASA / Tonka Lunar Rover / Robo-Dump Trucks are COOL!!! hehe..

Robo tonka trucks = Wall-e the prequel

I want the coffee cup for my office.


You may want the cup for your office but dont you really want zero G with it too to make it really worth it.

What if I burn my tongue and eyeball at the same time?

I got the 100 Billion Earths story on our TV station in Atlanta. Fonted it: “Trekkies: Told Ya!”

Thanks, Kayla!

Heck yeah! But it’s gonna be tough getting the building in free fall… and all my pens and papers will float away.

Ah, it’s worth it. Repeal the law of gravity!

Cool! I hereby donate my mint condition Tonka dump truck and grader to science

Absolutely ridiculous. Like they can tell what kind of animal made that print. Man’s ancestor? Give me a break. The smarter these scientists think they are becoming, the dumber they get.

A big chunk of the money spent on OCO was for spacecraft design and instrument development. NASA will probably quietly announce an OCO-2 to be launched in a few years. That’s what they did when Orbital’s Pegasus rocket (a cousin of Taurus XL) failed to launch HETE (High Energy Transient Explorer) in 1996. HETE-2 was launched in 2000.

They’ll start it by using some of the money originally allocated to mission ops, since now that money isn’t needed.

Zero-G coffee cup, pshaw! Nearly a decade ago students at the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands designed, built and test-flew a zero-G beer keg!

Details are at: or (scroll down)

OMG….that footprint has only 4 toes…

We evolved from SIMPSONS characters!


our republican, anti-science government preps and launches a rocket that will help prove the continuing deterioration of atmosphere and global-warming. and SURPRISE, it fails and falls back to earth ruining 9-years of work.

perhaps a complete examination of this event will allay concerns that deliberate sabatogue is involved here.

can trek fans get a workbee nameplate painted on the side of these bots.
or maybe Weyland-Yutani “building better worlds”

now hers my thought.
isnt there a rad prob. wed have to built heavier and costlier habs with shielding or bury them. and if we bury then why not have the bots dig the trench where the habs will go in BEFORE you send the matrials up there.

wont we and already do. have an issue about the construction being visable from earth. thus lending to a all underground or dark side only arguement. camer/lense/mag/telescope tech will inprove so imagine the arguement about the size of the project, now now beiling abe to be seen from earth but will be visable in later years.
people get romantic about the moon. not everyone cries for the worlds forest/jungles. but deface the moon…… remember the story a while back about lunar ice and sending a robot up there to comb the surface to get it. the article accompanied by a pic of a back and forth vacume pattern on the lunar surface. do you realy want to look up at the moon and see that?
all the lunar features gone?

or do you want to see lake armstrong :D

I’m sad that no matter how long I live I probably wont see the day when we discover actual life somewhere else.

#16 “OMG….that footprint has only 4 toes…”

‘I don’t know which is more troubling… that the rest of the statue is missing, or that it has only four toes…” Sayid Jarrah

(BTW, the footprint actually has five toes – the “middle” toe is slightly indistinct. But ‘There are FIVE TOES!!!’)

1.5 Million Year Old “Prehuman” Footprints Found –
Good news for science, true and people – bad news for Creationist Nonsense

13. Science is Esotericism and Charles Darwin is Satan? lol

“The Final Mind Frontier” :
God – Brave souls, welcome.
Mc Coy – Is this the voice of God?
God – One voice, many faces. (Shangdi, Shen, Tian Zhu, Tengri, Bhagavan, Ishvara, Adi Purusha, Vishnu, Krishna, Rama , Ek Onkar, Mahavir , Ra, Jupiter, Zeus, Mithra, Allah, Elvis Presley ………)
God – Does this better suit your expectations?
Creationist – New Testament God?
God – It is l .Your journey could not have been an easy one.
Creationist – It was not. We had to breach the Logic Barrier.
God – Magnificent. You are the first to find me. (ha ha ha)
Creationist – We sought only your infinite wisdom
God – How did you breach the Logic Barrier?.
Creationist – With a Money for propaganda, Tv, politics, book, church…… This Money …
God – Could it carry my wisdom beyond the Logic Barrier?
Creationist – It could, yes !!!
God – Then I shall make use of it.
Creationist – It will be your chariot
Kirk – Excuse me…
God – I will reach every corner of creation. Book, music, Tv, science, schools,order, family, Law, Government ……..
Kirk – I’d like to ask a question…. What does God need with a Money?
God – Give me the Money for The propaganda……..
Kirk – What does God need with The Money?
McCoy – What are you doing?
Kirk – Asking a question.
God – Who is this creature?
Kirk – Don’t you know?. Aren’t you God?
Creationist – He has his doubts.
God – You doubt me?
Kirk – I seek proof.
McCoy – You don’t ask the Almighty for his ID.
God – Then here is the proof you seek. (rednecks sniper : BANG! BANG! Kirk is injured)
Kirk – Why is God angry?
Creationist – Why have you done this?
God – He doubts me.
Spock – You have not answered his question. What does God need with The Money?
God – Do you doubt me? (Sarah Palin : BANG! BANG! Spock is injured)
McCoy – I doubt any god who inflicts pain for his own pleasure.
Creationist – Stop! The god of Bible would not do this.
God – Bible? A vision you created. An eternity I’ve been imprisoned in Unconscious mind, in lunetics dreams, in delirium. The Money. I must have the money. Now…give me what I want.
Spock – Creationist …… This is not the god of Bible any other god.
Creationist – I don’t understand. Reveal yourself to me.
God – What’s wrong? Don’t you like this face? Don’t you like this gods novel ? Maybe Qur’an, Bhagavad Gita, Vedas, The Upanishads, Zoroastrian Avesta, Diamond Sutra, Eda, Book of Mormon, Svetambara, Talmud, Siddhanta Shikhamani, Qolusta, Arzhang, Orphic Poems, Royal Parchment Scroll of Black Supremacy, Scientology texts, The Guru Granth Sahib, The Kojiki, The Gospel According to Spiritism, Daozang …….. I have so many, but this one suits you best – Jesus
Creationist – No, it’s not possible.
God – Give me the money or I will destroy you. The money. Give me the money so that I might join with it. Do it, or watch these puny things die horribly.
Creationist – What have I done?
Kirk – Enterprise, listen carefully.
Creationist – This is my doing. This is my arrogance. My vanity.
Spock – Creationist, we must find a way… space…….. to explore strange new worlds…….. to seek out new life and new civilizations ……… to boldly go where no one has gone before.
Creationist – No, save your selves.



I did realize that…but it was too good an opportunity to pass up…

And this is why I am NOT a comedian…

17. patrick…
“our republican, anti-science government preps and launches a rocket that will help prove the continuing deterioration of atmosphere and global-warming. and SURPRISE, it fails and falls back to earth ruining 9-years of work.

perhaps a complete examination of this event will allay concerns that deliberate sabatogue is involved here.”

News flash: since 2006 we’ve had a Democratic Congress and since January 20, we’ve had a Democratic President.

Further, OCO was to join a series of satellites orbiting in close formation, called the “A Train” designed to monitor global warming and the like.

All of the A Train satellites were launched by a “Republican, anti-science government.”

Finally, rockets sometimes fail. That’s the nature of the beast, and that’s why we have the popular phrase “It’s not exactly rocket science” to indicate something that is easy.

But who are we to let facts get in the way of a good, paranoid rant.

Hey 22, I object to the fact you saying those of us who believe in creationism is “nonsense”. Were those scientists who found that print there when our supposed “ancestor” made that print? No, so they don’t really know what animal left that foot print. Evolution is the ultimate in complete nonsense. It’s like throwing a stick of dynamite in a pile of wood and expecting a perfectly built house standing there when the smoke clears. It just does not calculate, and is surprising when intelligent people add two and two and get five. Scientists want science to prevail as a ultimate authority; so they’ll manufacture “evidence” like that print (In the sense that they can unequivocally pronounce what the print is from when they weren’t even there to see it!) If the Almighty Scientists told you to jump off a cliff, would you? I do believe you would.

Once again may I point out that Charles Darwin believed in God until one of his children died, and his wife never lost her faith. Darwin did NOT become an agnostic because of his own “Theory of Evolution” and he kept correspondence with many of the religious leaders of the time, not once asking them to stop believing, but instead trying to reconcile both Creation and Evolution.

The real idiots are the ones that believe in only one or the other and wont allow for BOTH. After all, none of us were there, and if there is a God (and yes I think there may well be) who are we to know what he was thinking or whether or not evolution is just another tool in his bag of tricks.

The forgotten history of creationism & evolution is that old bones were once used as “proof” that Genesis occurred as many times as the Lord needed to find one that finally worked. In other words, evolution was once used to PROVE creation.

Neither Darwin nor any scientist has ever claimed to know everything or have all the answers. Even the best Saints never claimed to have all the answers. Beware the idiots who claim they know. Those are the dangerous ones.

Even Socrates said he knew he was smarter than everyone else because he knew he did not know anything at all.

In other words, keep an open mind and keep asking questions!

Class Dismissed

Dear # 25
ya know, we could be polite, we could take the high road, and try to engage creationists in a active and civilized debate on the differences between science and faith and discuss the current fact-based models on which modern sciences like physics, biology, chemistry, cosmology (to mention a few) are based, but…. been there, done that.

You’re a creationist? You’re an idiot.

Montel, knock it off

Science cannot prove creation did not happen, and Hawking proved the big bang “let there be light” did happen.

No one can say for sure what happened because none of us were there.

Not even you

What’s the difference between Science and Faith, in some eyes there is none, in others there is a whole lot.

The real answer is the simple fact that with science to make it true science the event can be repeated over and over with the same results and by different people of different beliefs at different times under different conditions.

The Pope an Satan can hang Christ the Son of GOD on a cross, Science says the man will die, when he dies that’s science, when he comes to life again. it is a belief and not science until you can prove how not why he came back to life.

And for Darwin, just remember that the Creationism words were written when communication was in a vocabulary of some 1000 to 5000 words at the most. And now as were are taking the first trials at such powers the vocabulary is some 10,000 to 25,000 words. That’s like trying to teach a cave man how to program a DVR (since the VCR is now history along with the VHS tape) and then making that cave man teach others with 10 times the words in use and have them understand words they have never conceived of being used or how to use them. It’s all a down speaking and comprehension factor and the big argument over Creation -vs- Evolution is all based on the translation and comprehension factors. And those two factors is what the arguments are over. It will never be settled until both original sides can make their statements to give truth to the reasons for the fight. We know the odds of that happening.

Death may become us all before that answer can be resolved.