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April 8, 2010

Using satellites to find skeletons

Posted: 12:14 PM ET

Sometimes when you're looking for something, and you really want to find it, the best thing you can do is step back from the situation a bit.

That's kind of what happened recently for scientists in South Africa, who announced Thursday that they found a new and important link in the human family tree. The University of the Witwatersrand archeologists didn't find the skeletal remains of a new hominid species, Australopithecus sediba, just by trudging around on foot.

They used satellite images from Google Earth.

[Read CNN's story about the find]

In 2008, when they started their search in Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site in South Africa, there were 130 known caves, which tend to yield archeological finds.

After the team surveyed the area with high-res satellite images, they discovered 500 caves, "even though the area is one of the most explored in Africa," writes Google's Michael Jones in a blog post. So, in effect, the satellites helped up the odds for a discovery - or at least gave researchers more places to look.

Google put together a cool list of other times satellite imagery has been used to make discoveries. I'll paste some highlights below, and let me know if you've heard of other instances. I'm sure NASA or others have used GPS to advance research, too.

Reef in Australia

A villa in Rome

Lizard in Mozambique

The fact that cows are magnetic (kind of)

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Filed under: Google • Google Earth • science • Scientists


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JoeGuest   April 12th, 2010 2:37 pm ET

I was replying to Scott, not Sam, for any of you following at home.


Scott   April 12th, 2010 2:37 pm ET

But what if you are wrong ?


Scott   April 12th, 2010 2:38 pm ET

i was replying to Sam "But what if you are wrong ?"


Scott   April 12th, 2010 2:40 pm ET

I stand corrected. Science is not a belief system. But it is of men, and men have been wrong. So that means science could be wrong, no ?


Scott   April 12th, 2010 2:44 pm ET

And thre is compelling evidence on both sides, regarding creation versus evolution or whatever...

My argument (and i'm not arguing, just provoking thought) is,
if you are wrong about God, you sacrifice eternity. Isn't that worth reconsideration ?


Sam   April 12th, 2010 3:01 pm ET

Scott: Religion is exactly what it is.. Religion. Science begins with theory and then turns to fact until disproven or more excitingly, built upon. Science is encouraged to be proven wrong. Let me explain. No one is offended when new facts or theories are presented. But try digging into the past of any religion, many ppl become very angry if there believe system is disproven. In fact, Dante’s Inferno is a great place to start and nothing is scientific about it. Every one just believes… or was crucified by questioning it.


Scott   April 12th, 2010 3:14 pm ET

Science is a wonderful thing. I'm not trying to dispute scientific findings. Although they are wrong at times.

Religion is a wonderful thing, and it is wrong at times..and bad things have happened in the name if religion.

I am not pitting science against religion.

The original topic I believe was a possible piece of evidence that was found in a cave that may or may not support the theory evolution.

The topic then turned to religious versus scientific theory on the origin of the universe. And I am merely posing the question. "What if there is a God and you are wrong ?"


Andy   April 12th, 2010 3:22 pm ET

My religious affiliation has nothing to do with the scientific discoveries made in the past 200 years. Science answers questions regarding what I can construct from what I see in front of me. To me, religion answers the "why" questions in a way that allows me to harmonize myself with my place in the Universe and my purpose for being here. Anything more than that is pseudoscience and self-delusion.


Scott   April 12th, 2010 3:32 pm ET

Again, I am not disputing the validity of either science or religion.
I'm a religious person who is a professinal in the field of computer "science". I love science.

The problem with this discussion often seems to become a territorial dispute of sorts. "don't tell me i'm wrong your wrong" kind of thing.

Everyone is out to prove they are correct.

As a Christian, i've asked the question "what if I am wrong" ? If I am wrong – oblivian when I die. I turn to dirt and I am none the wiser.

I'm asking those who might ridicule my beliefs, what if you are wrong ?


buster   April 12th, 2010 3:38 pm ET

Scott – I think any scientist (and many atheists) will happily concede that they may be wrong about any number of things. Facts can lead to contradictory theories, and some contradictions cannot be resolved with certainty. In addition, it is impossible to prove the negative, so even an atheist cannot say with certainty that there is no God, just that they have not seen evidence of one that compels them to believe. I defy you, however, to find that kind of openmindedness in the faithful about their faith.


Sam   April 12th, 2010 3:42 pm ET

I am very comfortable with knowing that there is not a heaven, hell. I am very comfortable knowing when I die my cremated remains will be scattered on earth and will contribute to the same life cycle process that everything else goes through when it dies.
If I am wrong and there is an eternal life after death, I would not base it on religion and fantasize (heaven or hell) what it would be like. It would just be a natural process of what has always happened theoretically. It has not been scientifically explained because there is not any factual information to base and test a legitimate theory yet. (But the big bang theory is coming along nicely.) So, If there is an eternal life after death I would not base on religion and I think I would not even have an awareness of it if dead. And if that is the case, I feel the whole debate is interfering with what we can do in this life time instead of imagining “what it would be like” every night at bed time or having someone tell me. I feel evolution is very plausible if I compare it based on the extensive research that has gone into proving the religious possibilities of where we came from.


Scott   April 12th, 2010 3:46 pm ET

Buster – great point. christians do tend to be stubborn and often judgemental of non-christians. part of the reason christians get bad press sometimes. (lets face it alot of the time)

we're not a whole lot different from atheists in our ability to be "christ-like". the only difference is our faith...it's what we believe saves us in the end.

for me, personally – i know the truth, and you are correct i'm not open to anything else


buster   April 12th, 2010 3:49 pm ET

Back on the original topic – I think the discovery discussed in the article is a terrific example of applied technology, and I look forward to new finds and new information in the future. Given that we continue to find new things alive in the world today that we never knew about, there are surely many discoveries about our past to look forward to that will surprise and illuminate.


Scott   April 12th, 2010 3:54 pm ET

Well Sam, at least you had the guts to answer the question.


Scott   April 12th, 2010 3:55 pm ET

And buster, on the original topic. gottaa love google earth, huh ?


Sam   April 12th, 2010 4:05 pm ET

Thank you Scott.


Bob Hope   April 12th, 2010 5:02 pm ET

Interesting how we want freedom of speech, only if the right things are said. Some say it is a privilege, not a right. Others talk about posting comments that do not have to do with this article, which has nothing to do with this article. Freedom of speech means you have to take the bad with the good. I do not support any comments posted. I am just stating an observation.


zunedog   April 12th, 2010 8:57 pm ET

i lost my keys,how do i get a hold of these people?


Sadge   April 13th, 2010 2:01 am ET

At first I was annoyed with the distraction of the religious discussion Vs. the scientific process comments... then I thought there must be some connection or we wouldn't be spending this much time discussing it. Life is certainly an amazing phenomena...


JOKER   April 13th, 2010 5:08 am ET

I read last week that Dick Cheney's wife used google earth to find his wenis. Unfortunately however, according to Mrs. Cheney, technology in the video enhancement arena has not advanced significantly enough to locate his brain, though she's yet to give up hope.


poopsicle   April 13th, 2010 8:24 am ET

did ya find my uncle eddy????hes three feet tall and he has a really big beard.....i love him


poopsicle   April 13th, 2010 8:25 am ET

oh and aunt harriot


Joe   April 13th, 2010 10:08 am ET

WOW. I wanted to see how they actually did it but all the posts are mostly junk. I like to bear hunt and also treasure hunt. Hidden caves figure highly in these endeavors.

Perhaps they just looked for openings but a lot of cave entrances are very small and many covered over or hidden by branches, rocks, and leaves, etc ...

Also what are they looking for. There are no signs that say cave here with an arrow. Does water run put of caves, is there an animal path, can they be seen at certain times of the day only, does it look like a hole from space. It is not as simple as you might expect.


Susan   June 7th, 2010 10:57 am ET

I long ago made my peace with evolution and the creation of the Bible. Whether it took a hundred billion years or 10,000 is a miracle that we were created. Everyone save your energy getting up in arms about this subject. Amazing how all natural things of this world work together and need. in million of cases, one another to survive.
Evolution? Creation? One day when I leave this old body I do believe I will understand and have knowledge of what exactly happened. Until then, I say amazing the tech we have. My son was on foot thru out the mountains in Afghanistan and from his photos it made it clear to me why it is so extrememly difficult to track anyone in those caves. Just abt impossible to get back into the ravines unless you know where a path is...


Bob   June 7th, 2010 11:14 am ET

There is no god.


Ein Vogel-frei   June 7th, 2010 2:10 pm ET

lizards . . .skeletons . . .blogtrolls . . . .all just reminds me of my Dad's wise saying about finding things: it's always in the last place you look. How old was I when I realized the truth of this – because after you find it, you stop looking?


DS   June 7th, 2010 2:39 pm ET

Susan,
They interperet the satellite images to find or identify geologic information that leads them to where caves are likely to be.


DS   June 7th, 2010 2:40 pm ET

That was for Joe, not Susan, sorry


just a thought   June 20th, 2010 12:33 am ET

I've read a lot of hate on this board and that is quite sad. Just because we disagree is no reason to be rude. That applies both to the hateful comments against fundamentalist religious beliefs and to the holders of those beliefs.

Many Christians, myself included, have no problem with science and think that science only helps explain God's works and our appreciation of them. So attacking any religion on the basis of a few peoples remarks is totally uncalled for. Even about 40% of scientists (based of Gallup polls) like Francis Collins (head of the Human Genome Project from 1993-2008) believe in God, so insinuating that only the unintelligent can have religious beliefs is faulty logic.

Please, don't attack all of a religion/political viewpoint based on the views of a few.

thanks.

(disclaimer... I'm not only a Christian, I'm a scientist, and a liberal)


Mekhong Kurt   October 4th, 2010 6:39 am ET

nadia malik wrote "the universe and everything in it was created by a supreme being and for a purpose, I wonder why the atheist just find it too difficult to accept in the face of overwhelming evidence."

"Overwhelming evidence." WHAT evidence, nadia? Some stories records, at the earliest, several decades after their supposed occurrence? Stories of fantastic magic circulated among mostly illiterate people? Or is it "evidence" when someone says, "I KNOW it's true because GOD SPEAKS TO MY HEART!!!" Yeah, right. If God speaks to so many hearts, how come He doesn't settle the issue for once and for all and appear as a giant image out in space talking to everyone - sound to our ears - all simultaneously? Actually, maybe several images spaced around the Earth, so everyone could see at least one simultaneously. Then do something neat like maybe make the Sun go out for a second on the daytime side, and the stars vanish on the night side. And do that repeatedly, using different ways of demonstrating godly power - maybe empty the entire world's oceans and seas all for a second or two, then letting them refill? - over months.

In any case, why should anyone accept one particular story over another. Everyone who claims this stuff to be true claims THEIR fairytale is SPECIAL and DIVINE and it's BLASPHEMOUS even to doubt it. But why *shouldn't* I worship, say, the Egyptian sun god, Ra? (Who, by the way, is a partial model for Christ.) Why should I believe that Pacific islanders, for example, who were born after Christ but before they had any contact with the outside world are damned to hell forever just because they hadn't converted to Christianity? Is the Christian god that cruel? Damn people who don't even KNOW to hell forevermore? Well, how about keeping that god locked up and in chains?

Nadia, there isn't a shred of SCIENTIFIC evidence. Another point you probably can't understand any better is that neither can science DISprove the existence of a god or several gods. Evidence? What evidence? The Bible? Even Christians can't agree among themselves - look at the differences, for starters, between the Catholic Bible (and there's no disputing the Catholics were the first organized church on the block) and, say, the St. James Version widely used by various Protestant denominations. There are comparable disputes in the other two Abrahamic religions, Judaism (Reformed, Orthodox, etc.) and Islam (Shiite, Sunni, Sufi, etc.).

Don't forget this historical fact, which sometimes shocks a devout Christian who has never considered it before: Christ was a JEW. He allegedly started a new religion, but he was born and raised a Jew. In Judaism.

But I'm probably wasting my breath. Fundamentalists think "The Flintstones" is a documentary series.


Mekhong Kurt   October 4th, 2010 6:51 am ET

"Lee April 10th, 2010 10:10 pm ET

It's really fun to watch all the liberals in here posting about the hate from those who don't agree with their view of things. If you want to see true hate, just read the comments under some Sarah Palin articles on CNN, or maybe take a trip over to DemocraticUnderground and read a while."

==================================

You're right, Lee. Sometimes reading the comments from the Loony Left and the Wingnut Right (the latter whom you conveniently omit) reminds me of what Fox offers up as "fair and balanced" news.

Why do people shake their heads at times? Well, what else can anyone do when some people believe (to take a single example) that Palin gazing at Russia across the Being Strait gives her foreign policy experience? Oh - I forgot: she also went to Canada for medical care, apparently a long time ago, though. So, since she looks at Russia and got a dose of medicine or some such in Canada, she's well-prepared for the 3:00 A.M. call. She might be a great lady - but presidential she is not. And don't blab about others aren't presidential, either. So what? For someone ELSE to lack presidential timber doesn't mean Palin somehow magically has ANY, much less MORE. That's like me saying that if you killed someone then if I kill someone, mine doesn't count.


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Personal training Long Island   January 11th, 2014 11:22 pm ET

I guess it is a cool thing. It's not what i thought when i first read the title. Really the satellite's are really just narrowing down locations.


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