Sept. 3 - Thousands of prehistoric fossils have been rescued from dusty museum archives and made available online as highly detailed 3D models, with plans afoot to also digitally scan dinosaur fossils. Researchers and the public can now access the virtual fossils and even print a highly detailed 3D replica. Jim Drury has more.
The British Geological Survey says its online collection of almost 20,000 3D fossil scans is the first of its kind. SOUNDBITE (English) DR. MIKE HOWE, CHIEF CURATOR AT THE BRITISH GEOLOGICAL SURVEY (BGS), SAYING: "Nobody has attempted to put out for the public and for the whole academic community a large collection of 3D fossil models, so this is the first one world-wide that has ever been attempted." Dr Mike Howe oversaw the mammoth task of scanning and photographing almost every fossil type found in Britain. Technician Michela Contessi says it was a time-consuming process that required attention to detail and great patience. SOUNDBITE (English) DR. MICHELA CONTESSI, DIGITATION TECHNICIAN FOR BRITISH GEOLOGICAL SURVEY, SAYING: "It depends how much information you want and how the fossil it is like, in this case it is completely 3D ammonite, so you want to take a 3D scan and that will involve at least ten scans to capture all the details." All the scans can now be browsed and downloaded for free on a computer, tablet or phone.....and then printed. Howe's team say it's an outstanding resource for geologists at all levels - removing access costs and the need to handle original fossils. And the concept could also be applied to larger specimens, such as dinosaurs. Monica Price of the Oxford University Museum of Earth History says she's excited by the prospects. SOUNDBITE (English) MONICA PRICE, HEAD OF EARTH COLLECTIONS AT OXFORD UNIVERSITY MUSEUM OF EARTH HISTORY, SAYING: "You can actually scan quite large objects, so yes that is definitely coming. The challenge is reproducing all those bones. It is quite a complicated process building up your scan, filling in the holes where the laser doesn't go." But the challenges presented by printing popular dinosaurs like the 30 metres-long Diplodocus on display at London's Natural History Museum, will have to wait until the fossil project is finished later this year.