Response from Vance T. Holliday

December 2003 Poll Question:
How would you characterize the discovery of hominid footprints in volcanic deposits at Laetoli in East Africa?

GSA Connection respondents said:
Good scientific investigation 3%
Solid science + dumb luck 79%
Good guess 4%
Dumb luck only 13%

The answer is both "solid science + dumb luck." The solid science comes in being able to recognize what you are seeing and the implications of what it means. A good scientist has a bigger picture in their mind than the immediate environment and time provides. However, the following story about Laetoli comes from a web link: "Thank goodness for the irrepressible urge of humans (and other animals) to joke and play around in nearly any situation. Sometimes, it pays big dividends. It certainly did in 1976, when paleoanthropologist Andrew Hill and a colleague were tossing elephant dung at each other in Laetoli, a hominid archeological site in Tanzania. As Hill dived out of the way, he stumbled on what turned out to be one of the wonders of prehistoric finds: a trail of hominid footprints about 3.6 million years old."

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