Get your 3D glasses out
Many of us have an ammonite or two knocking about at home, but some of the fossils researchers work on are so precious and delicate they can't be handled by anyone else - and this can limit the experience people have when learning more about them.
The display of resin model fossils and 3D reconstructions.
Dr Imran Rahman received NERC funding to create resources to allow the public to get up close and personal with fossils. He worked with colleagues to produce digital reconstructions of the fossils, and then turned them into 3D images so that visitors could put on 3D glasses to better interact with them.
But we have five senses, and using more than just our sense of sight makes for a much more enriching experience. So not only can people now view the fossils in 3D, but Rahman has now made it possible to handle them too. He used a medical imaging technique to create resin models of the fossils to allow anyone to experience what they actually feel like.
It's just one of the new ways researchers are finding to engage people with areas of science that have traditionally been inaccessible for one reason or another.
A model of a trigonotarbid - an extinct group of arachnids that lack silk-producing spinnerets.
The models give people much more enriching interactions with the subjects of research - in this case, with long-dead organisms. Members of the public were able to handle the model fossils, view the digital reconstructions and speak with Rahman in person at the University of Birmingham's Community Day in June. The model fossils are still at the university's Lapworth Museum of Geology for others to see and use.
Rahman has written a paper about the use of this kind of 'virtual palaeontology' in engaging people with scientific research.
Some other resources that NERC-funded researchers have produced to help get their research across to the public include Sea Level Change resources (this includes a worksheet on creating a clay model salt marsh to understand changes in sea level over time), Disaster Zone posters and factsheets and Simple Science factsheets and experiments to help with some of those more commonly asked questions – questions that are actually really hard to answer!
Posted on 10 December 2012
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