From Dirt To Web: Fossils Go Digital Using CT scans, DigiMorph, a project run out of the University of Texas, has compiled hundreds of 3-D visualizations of fossils, skeletons and other specimens. Highlights from the collection included the famous hominid fossil "Lucy."
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From Dirt To Web: Fossils Go Digital

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From Dirt To Web: Fossils Go Digital

From Dirt To Web: Fossils Go Digital

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Joining us now is Flora Lichtman, our digital producer, with the digital Pick of the Week. Flora, I know you have a good one this week for us, as always.

FLORA LICHTMAN: Thanks, Ira. This week - yeah, it's a fun one. It's fossils, bones, skeletons.


LICHTMAN: Dinosaurs. It's hard to beat.

(Soundbite of laughter)

LICHTMAN: It's a project called DigiMorph, which is run out of the University of Texas at Austin. And what they do is basically take specimens - all kinds of stuff.

FLATOW: Like a fossil.

LICHTMAN: A fossil or a pickled snake or any kind of thing - mostly biological - and they send it through sort of this industrial-strength CAT scanner, which takes X-rays from all directions. And then, with some sophisticated computing, they can put together these really cool-looking 3-D models of skeletons and of the specimens.

FLATOW: And so, they make these slices - they put 3-D models, and then they - so you can rotate them and see them in all different angles. And you've done that. You've put together how many different...

LICHTMAN: I mean, we - I tried to squeeze in as many (Laughing) different movies as I could into this one little video. But you know, they range - everything from a flower to a hooded - to a veiled chameleon. And their most recent addition is pretty neat. It's the famous hominid fossil, Lucy.


LICHTMAN: Lucy has gone 3-D and digital.

FLATOW: Wow. Wow. That headline is in. We've got Lucy, 3-D and digital. If you want to see Flora's digitized, wonderful video, it's at It's the Sci-Fri Pick of the Week. It's that little window on the upper left. You can actually expand it and make it bigger. And they can also - as part of this, they can actually can fill in the brain case, right? A hollow and show what it look like and...

LICHTMAN: Right. I mean, that was one of the neatest thing. So, Tim Rowe, who's the director of DigiMorph, says that, you know, mostly, he studied fossils and fossils of dinosaurs, and he always - he kept asking museum curators - you know, I want to know what's inside that brain case. I need to break open the skull. And the curators were like, forget it.

(Soundbite of laughter)

LICHTMAN: It's not going to…

FLATOW: Not my skull you're breaking open.

LICHTMAN: That is not going to happen.

FLATOW: So, they could do it digitally.

LICHTMAN: So this way, they scan it, they see the inside, and they can fill it in and...

FLATOW: All right.

LICHTMAN: Know what the brain is.

FLATOW: Flora's Science Friday Pick of the Week at, our video. Thanks.


FLATOW: We look forward to you next week, too.

(Soundbite of credits)

FLATOW: Surf over to our Web site. We are podcasting and blogging and still Twitter. Our Twitter is @scifri, and if you go to Second Life, there's a whole bunch of people hanging out there today. And you can get a T-shirt and join our Second Life community and become a member of our Twitter. I'm Ira Flatow in New York.

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