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Using X-ray Radiography To Reveal Ancient Insects

kdawson posted more than 6 years ago | from the bug-me-not dept.

Bug 67

1shooter writes "Researchers in France are using a synchrotron as a giant X-ray machine to peer into the insides of opaque amber to reveal insects dating from the age of dinosaurs. 'The European Synchrotron Radiation Facility in Grenoble, France, produces an intense, high-energy light that can pierce just about any material, revealing its inner structure... From more than 600 blocks, they have identified nearly 360 fossil animals: wasps, flies, ants, spiders.' The process reveals detailed 3D images that can be used to make near-perfect enlarged scale models of the bugs using a 'plastic printer.'"

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Didn't I see this... (0, Redundant)

Sorthum (123064) | more than 6 years ago | (#22936298)

Didn't I see this in Jurassic Park?

Re:Didn't I see this... (1)

ILuvRamen (1026668) | more than 6 years ago | (#22936378)

naw, they used needles and fat animated men saying "ah ah ah" to handle their whole system. Anyway, doesn't this method destroy DNA? Shouldn't they focus on getting the DNA out and cloning it? And for dinos instead of insects?

Re:Didn't I see this... (1)

Brian Gordon (987471) | more than 6 years ago | (#22937066)

and shouldn't they be constructing some sort of giant.. park? for them to roam freely?

Uh, how? (1)

Hamster Lover (558288) | more than 6 years ago | (#22936384)

How could you? This amber is opaque, as in, not clear.

Re:Uh, how? (3, Funny)

Naughty Bob (1004174) | more than 6 years ago | (#22936568)

It's almost as if they'd need a giant X-ray machine!

Question for Slashdot (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22936774)

Did you tea bagging kikes forget what today is? It's April Fools Day. Do some jokes already. The day is almost over.

Maybe I'm old fashioned... (1)

razrback (137142) | more than 6 years ago | (#22943718)

...reveal insects dating from the age of dinosaurs.

Maybe I'm old fashioned, but for that kind of investment, shouldn't they just get married already?

How many furlongs is that? (5, Funny)

Skevin (16048) | more than 6 years ago | (#22936306)

> From more than 600 blocks, they have identified nearly 360 fossil animals: wasps,
> flies, ants, spiders

Why so far away? They might get better resolution if they held the sample right up next to the machine.

Solomon Chang

Re:How many furlongs is that? (1)

fbjon (692006) | more than 6 years ago | (#22936380)

I thought the same. Damn, that's a powerful beam of light that shines 600 blocks into the ground!


Also, the video in TFA is worth the time. What I'm wondering is, why the need for a synchrotron? Why not just any old X-ray machine?

Re:How many furlongs is that? (4, Informative)

Kozar_The_Malignant (738483) | more than 6 years ago | (#22936412)

>why the need for a synchrotron?

Resolution. Details are shown at the micron level.

Re:How many furlongs is that? (2, Interesting)

jd (1658) | more than 6 years ago | (#22938280)

That and x-ray purity, and a highly controllable coherent source (you can set the energy to what you like), one ring can have hundreds of outlets whereas one laser has one, and they are Seriously Geeky.

Re:How many furlongs is that? (4, Informative)

sokoban (142301) | more than 6 years ago | (#22936704)

What I'm wondering is, why the need for a synchrotron? Why not just any old X-ray machine?
It seems from the video that the technique they're using needs collimated and coherent light. It seems that they are measuring the change in coherence based on the light being shined through the sample in order to calculate density differences and show structure. They're not doing diffraction measurements here, and the samples don't look like they're large enough to require the intensity generated by a SLS.

Re:How many furlongs is that? (5, Informative)

H0D_G (894033) | more than 6 years ago | (#22937000)

The technique is similar to in line holography, in that the resultant image (a phase-contrast X-ray image)is constructed from the phase information of the light, as distinct from the intensity. phase contrast imaging is good for 'squishy' structures as it only needs a very small shift in refractive index to influence the phase, meaning that structures similar in density (ie, that would look similar on a conventional X-ray) can be produced.

Re:How many furlongs is that? (1)

Farcalled (935779) | more than 6 years ago | (#22937918)

I would have written "ighy being shone"

Re:How many furlongs is that? (4, Funny)

RealGrouchy (943109) | more than 6 years ago | (#22937454)

*looks up from the amber specimen*

"That's not a bug, it's a feature!"

- RG>

Re:How many furlongs is that? (1)

NotmyNick (1089709) | more than 6 years ago | (#22937940)

- RG> -- Where did the "Hide replies" button go?!? Grr!
Slashdot changed their HTML which broke slashdotter. Slahdotter was updated without changing the version number. If you reinstall it, it will all work again.

Re:How many furlongs is that? (1)

RealGrouchy (943109) | more than 6 years ago | (#22947190)

Ah, thanks!

- RG>

Re:How many furlongs is that? (1)

Hoi Polloi (522990) | more than 6 years ago | (#22942732)

Combo death-ray and microscope.

Re:How many furlongs is that? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22945102)

Damn peeping toms. Some one should report them to the authorities.

Yes, but... (5, Funny)

Naughty Bob (1004174) | more than 6 years ago | (#22936344)

Researchers in France are using a synchrotron as a giant X-ray machine......Do they run Linacs?

MOD PARENT +5 FUNNY!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22936772)

Hey, that was actually a good joke!
I wonder how many of the "nerds" here actually got it?

Of course they do. (1)

Mactrope (1256892) | more than 6 years ago | (#22937258)

You would not want windows in the way when you inject your cyclotron.

Kids these days.

Re:Of course they do. (1)

Naughty Bob (1004174) | more than 6 years ago | (#22941362)

You would not want windows in the way when you inject your cyclotron.
O RLY? [google.ca]

Once I was able to draw my eyes away from the, ahh, scientist, and I spotted the screensaver, I had an involuntary 20 minute panic.

Almost enough to make me support a certain Hawaiian lawsuit...

Re:Of course they do. (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 6 years ago | (#22941850)

Obviously the picture is just part of a mock-up particle accelerator themed porn shoot - nothing to worry about, move along

Just an educated guess, they run Linux. (3, Interesting)

gnutoo (1154137) | more than 6 years ago | (#22937312)

HPC is pretty much Linux dominated and you need some serious horsepower to do 1000 angle sinogram backprojection of cm sized volumes with micron sized beams. A cubic cm would have 10E4 x 10E4 x 10E4 voxels, each with 10E3 angles. Hubba, hubba. They will also have to apply some kind of filtering to each sinogram and probably have to tweak that filter multiple times on lower resolution scans to get it right, and they want to do several a day. I've seen Microsoft clusters choke on networking problems for much less challenging work.

Re:Just an educated guess, they run Linux. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22937942)

1000 angle sinogram backprojection of cm sized volumes with micron sized beams

I do that with my Pocket PC. On Sundays, with my eyes closed.

I've seen Microsoft clusters choke

Of course you have.

Re:Just an educated guess, they run Linux. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22938524)

Woooosh, a Linac is a machine used to generate high energy X-rays, stick to the basement instead of reading around...

http://http//mekentosj.com/goodies/cubism/ [http] ,

Look down the page a bit, there is a LINAC

Re:Just an educated guess, they run Linux. (1)

Janek Kozicki (722688) | more than 6 years ago | (#22943232)

yes, we do use (suse) linux to operate synchrotron shutters, engines and other experimental devices. Sorry I don't want to explain more, because I'm reading slashdot backlog of news that accumulated from two weeks. And I want to do it quickly. I don't work with insect samples but with snow samples in the synchrotron.

There's a decent chance they do (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22937404)

It would, at the very least, be cost effective.

Of course there's just as great a chance that they don't use it, there's a ton of choices out there they could go with. Why bother to even bring it up? Obviously it was supposed to be a joke/troll, but I don't think it worked out they way you planned it to.

Re:Yes, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22941218)

"Researchers in France are using a synchrotron as a giant X-ray machine to peer into the insides of opaque amber to reveal insects dating from the age of dinosaurs.

... and immediately surrendering to them!

dating? (4, Funny)

r00b (923145) | more than 6 years ago | (#22936386)

I didn't realize that insects have been dating for millions of years.

Re:dating? (2, Insightful)

nospam007 (722110) | more than 6 years ago | (#22937730)

I didn't realize that insects have been dating for millions of years.

That's how they survived (unlike us nerds) to this very day.

Holotype (4, Interesting)

Kozar_The_Malignant (738483) | more than 6 years ago | (#22936394)

A very interesting sidelight of this is that they "print" a 3d model of the data in plastic, and this model becomes part of the official holotype of the new species. A first for taxonomy, I believe. A 1 mm wasp gets turned into a highly detailed 30 cm model. Very cool, at least if you're a biologist.

Re:Holotype (1)

1310nm (687270) | more than 6 years ago | (#22936546)

I thought the 3D printing alone was a cool story, let alone the incredible advance in paleontological technology. Truly a great advancement.

Re:Holotype (1)

mikael (484) | more than 6 years ago | (#22937050)

Those models will look even cooler when they get an artist with an airfix paint kit to touch up those models. Or even add textures onto the geometry in the viewer. Sell them as hobby kits in the local museum.

Re:Holotype (1)

jimicus (737525) | more than 6 years ago | (#22938754)

Sell them as hobby kits in the local museum.

While the amber may be easy enough to sell in the local museum, I cannot shift the feeling that persuading parents to shell out for the millions of dollars of machinery needed to create a model from the insect contained within will be an uphill struggle.

Re:Holotype (1)

mikael (484) | more than 6 years ago | (#22939618)

I think that was meant to be a funny comment. I meant the plastic models themselves - paint your own Jurassic Bug kit.

Re:Holotype (1)

TheRealMindChild (743925) | more than 6 years ago | (#22937270)

I don't know. To me, the outer shell is the least important/interesting thing about these creatures. I would think the key would be more to look at how the insides worked, and how they have evolved since then... what made the grade and what was cast aside.

Re:Holotype (3, Funny)

Benson Arizona (933024) | more than 6 years ago | (#22939244)

The 3-D model is then encased in Amber, for protection and buried for the pleasure of future palaeontologists. Ohh wait...

Re:Holotype (2, Interesting)

ortholattice (175065) | more than 6 years ago | (#22942208)

The 3-D printing I've heard about builds up the model layer by layer. One thing I don't understand is how they "print" the legs, antennae, etc., since these (if pointing downwards) would have to be suspended in mid-air until the layers that attach them are printed, i.e. they would fall off. So do they print these separately then glue them on?

One thing I would like to see is the following. Even though I've never heard of it, it is possible that this has been thought of and/or patented. But if not, this post documents the idea here first as prior art, which I contribute to the public domain. Or if it has been thought of, kudos to the inventor.

The printer would start with a solid block of a mostly transparent, wax-like or plastic-like substance with a low melting point. When a focused laser beam or other focused source of energy is applied to a point (voxel) inside the block, the plastic in that voxel will "cure" i.e. harden. Perhaps it is the temperature that causes the hardening, or perhaps it is the action of a UV light like they do to cure fillings at the dentist. After all voxels constituting the model are scanned, the whole block is heated up (to below the curing point but higher than the melting point), and the uncured substance will melt away from the model for reuse in the next model.

With this method, you could even have hollow models by curing the voxels in a shell at the surface of the model, then leaving a hole at the bottom for the uncured substance to melt out of. This would save money if the strength of a solid model isn't needed. This shell could even be paper-thin if you just want a quick if fragile visual idea of what's going to be "printed", then strengthen it for the final version.

I'm sure there would be many technical hurdles to overcome, not the least of which is finding a suitable substance with the properties I described.

Next generation of machines (1)

smolloy (1250188) | more than 6 years ago | (#22936408)

If you think this stuff is cool, then LCLS and XFEL will blow you away when they come online. These are great times for accelerator physics, and great times for light sources (unless, of course, LHC destroys us all :S).

Re:Next generation of machines (1)

Btarlinian (922732) | more than 6 years ago | (#22937548)

If you think this stuff is cool, then LCLS and XFEL will blow you away when they come online. These are great times for accelerator physics, and great times for light sources (unless, of course, LHC destroys us all :S).

True, the LCLS and XFEL are going to be awesome, but I don't know how well accelerator physics will do. Admittedly, more countries seem into making their own synchrotron light facilities. But the LCLS wouldn't have been built if it weren't for the linac lying around that had been built ~40 years ago . And despite their uses in light sources, accelerator physics still seems to be greatly driven by HEP, not photon science. There isn't going to be a rush to build XFELs everywhere, since two mile long linacs take up a lot of space. I've even heard that the XFEL was slightly hampered because the end of the tunnel extends into another county.

Re:Next generation of machines (1)

smolloy (1250188) | more than 6 years ago | (#22937748)

Having the use of the SLC linac certainly made life easier for LCLS, but XFEL is being built on completely virgin ground. If (and it's more of an "if" than a lot of people want to admit) LCLS works, then the demand for X-FELs will be *huge*. There are rumours of a second being planned at SLAC, and one in the UK. These machines are very very cool, and stunningly useful for many other fields of research. I'd bet they won't be able to build these machines fast enough to satisfy demand!

It's true that accelerator science has been driven by HEP, but most accelerator physicists (like me) will admit that their market is changing, and our future customers will be biologists and chemists, not physicists.

I've never heard the story about XFEL being hampered by length. Do you mean the German one, or were you referring to LCLS?

Re:Next generation of machines (2, Informative)

Btarlinian (922732) | more than 6 years ago | (#22938700)

Having the use of the SLC linac certainly made life easier for LCLS, but XFEL is being built on completely virgin ground. If (and it's more of an "if" than a lot of people want to admit) LCLS works, then the demand for X-FELs will be *huge*. There are rumours of a second being planned at SLAC, and one in the UK. These machines are very very cool, and stunningly useful for many other fields of research. I'd bet they won't be able to build these machines fast enough to satisfy demand!

I've never heard of that before, (specifically the second one at SLAC, would it use electron beams from the existing linac or a new one?). The only thing I've heard of is that there are talks of possibly turning PEP-II into a extremely low emittance synchrotron radiation source,a la PETRA, since there's basically not going to be any more accelerator based particle physics at SLAC. Are there really questions as to whether the LCLS will work (i.e., meet its stated design parameters), or do they center more around its actual utility?

It's true that accelerator science has been driven by HEP, but most accelerator physicists (like me) will admit that their market is changing, and our future customers will be biologists and chemists, not physicists.
I hope so, because it's a really amazing field, but I don't see much of a demand for advances in the field from chemistry/biology/applied physicists. As far as I can tell there isn't much of a point to building synchrotrons of an energy higher than 9-10 GeV. Even greater brightness isn't of much use anymore, at least in X-ray crystallography (according to the people I have talked to, IANAC(rystallographer)). The only thing that can really seems to be of use now is lowering emittance, which is not as monumental of a technical challenge as perfecting higher frequency klystrons, etc.

I've never heard the story about XFEL being hampered by length. Do you mean the German one, or were you referring to LCLS?

I was referring to the German one. I heard a story at SLAC from a presenter from DESY in which he said that there were a bunch of bureaucratic hassles with the linac for the XFEL since it extended into another county. (He wasn't actually working on the project though, and didn't say that it ended up causing any specific problems.) I think the main issue is the sheer cost of building something like that, according to the XFEL's website, construction costs 968 million Euros. That's only construction costs. At current (Google) exchange rates, that's about $1.5 billion and I don't think there are many countries willing to shell out that kind of money. On the other hand, the newest light source under design, NSLS-II, will cost a total of about $750-900 million (there are conflicting reports) and that's including the little R & D they need to do. For a more current example, DIAMOND, the new UK synchrotron, cost only 260 million pounds plus 160 million pounds for additional beamlines for a total 835 million dollars. New light sources such as 4GLS in Britain, an ERL and FEL combination of sorts, have been cancelled. I really don't think they are going to be that many new XFELs. At the very least I doublt they will become anywhere as common as synchrotron radiation sources, of which there at least 4 in the US with large user groups (APS, ALS, SSRL, NSLS).

Re:Next generation of machines (1)

smolloy (1250188) | more than 6 years ago | (#22941540)

The only thing I've heard of is that there are talks of possibly turning PEP-II into a extremely low emittance synchrotron radiation source,a la PETRA
Really?! I *work* there, and I've never heard anything like that!

Actually, this news, if true, reinforces my point. Light sources in general are in such demand, that there are plans to host up to four of them at one site (SSRL, LCLS, rumoured new Xray FEL, rumoured new PEPII based synchrotron)!

Are there really questions as to whether the LCLS will work (i.e., meet its stated design parameters), or do they center more around its actual utility?
Remember that Xray FELs have never been built before, and there is every chance that SLAC could discover some new physics that means that making LCLS actually lase impossibly difficult. They've already had a few nasty surprises (look up the papers on how their OTRs are completely blinded by the coherent light), and there's nothing to say that there aren't a few more surprises lurking ahead. My bet is that it will work just fine, but the physicist in me urges caution.

As far as I can tell there isn't much of a point to building synchrotrons of an energy higher than 9-10 GeV. Even greater brightness isn't of much use anymore, at least in X-ray crystallography (according to the people I have talked to, IANAC(rystallographer)).
Then why are LCLS aiming for 14 GeV, with upgrade plans to 30 (or even 50 is possible) GeV? Remember, the laser wavelength has an inverse relationship with the beam energy, so if you want to see smaller and smaller things, or you want to use shorter and shorter pulses, high energy is the only way to go.

IMHO I can imagine groups all over the place jumping to build an XFEL. They're just sitting watching LCLS's progress, and, once the first coherent photons come out of the switchyard, they'll start submitting proposals to their own funding bodies. Just my opinion though.

Peer through opaque objects (3, Funny)

garett_spencley (193892) | more than 6 years ago | (#22936490)

"The European Synchrotron Radiation Facility in Grenoble, France, produces an intense, high-energy light that can pierce just about any material,"

Does anyone know where I can obtain one of these devices ?

I always thought they were just a novelty sold via mail order in Mad Magazines. Can't tell you how many times I've been disappointed. If this is the real deal then please ...

Yours for $3.99 + S&H (2, Informative)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 6 years ago | (#22936548)

Re:Yours for $3.99 + S&H (1)

mark-t (151149) | more than 6 years ago | (#22937242)

Or, one can just learn how they are made [madehow.com] for free.

Re:Peer through opaque objects (4, Funny)

Caesar Tjalbo (1010523) | more than 6 years ago | (#22936590)

I want one on a shark.

Re:Peer through opaque objects (1)

Abreu (173023) | more than 6 years ago | (#22936710)

Darn! I was thinking of posting the same thing!

Men around the world have been waiting for the ability to selectively see through any kind of materials!

Why does the goverment allow Kryptonians to hoard this technology? It is all a conspiracy, I tell you!

Re:Peer through opaque objects (1)

JonathanR (852748) | more than 6 years ago | (#22936948)

What, so you can check out Amber's crabs?

Re:Peer through opaque objects (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 6 years ago | (#22936992)

What, you missed out on the whole video-cameras-can-see-infrared frenzy of five years ago?

They laughed! At ME!? I'll show these fools! (2, Funny)

Scrameustache (459504) | more than 6 years ago | (#22937406)

"The European Synchrotron Radiation Facility in Grenoble, France, produces an intense, high-energy light that can pierce just about any material,"

Does anyone know where I can obtain one of these devices ?

I always thought they were just a novelty sold via mail order in Mad Magazines. Can't tell you how many times I've been disappointed. If this is the real deal then please ...
I was thinking more along the lines of a small device for amplification by stimulated emission of radiation of that "high-energy light that can pierce just about any material", and having said contraption affixed to the pericerebral cartilaginous structure of a shark.

I expect that the project would cost around... one MILLION dollars!

Re:Peer through opaque objects (1)

Benson Arizona (933024) | more than 6 years ago | (#22939272)

Does anyone know where I can obtain one of these devices ?

Have you tried Grenoble, France?

Why Now? (1)

NuclearError (1256172) | more than 6 years ago | (#22936622)

It seems that this kind of technology has been around for a couple of years - when did they start and how long have they been doing this? This kind of technology could vastly improve our ability to uncover new facts about the past, and not just for fossils.

Re:Why Now? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22937152)

Because time on synchrotrons is generally difficult to come by. Time at a facility is in demand from industry as well as academia.

Generally you'd have to promise publishable results from your time spent there.

Jurassic Park (1)

Pennidren (1211474) | more than 6 years ago | (#22936684)

How long until this "high-energy light that can pierce just about any material" can read the DNA from the blood of a dinosaur bitten by a mosquito trapped in amber?

No particular intent behind my question...

From 600 blocks!!! (1)

greyhueofdoubt (1159527) | more than 6 years ago | (#22936726)

>>From more than 600 blocks, they have identified nearly 360 fossil animals

I'm sure the people in the 600 city blocks between the x-ray machine and the amber weren't too happy...

-b

New application (4, Funny)

Roger W Moore (538166) | more than 6 years ago | (#22936744)

I wonder if this technique will work with Fortran code we still use in our Monte-carlo generators for the LHC. I'm sure it also contains ancient bugs....

Re:New application (1)

mapleneckblues (1145545) | more than 6 years ago | (#22936958)

and COBOL too..

Today must be redundant day today. (1)

enoz (1181117) | more than 6 years ago | (#22936826)

Find and locate for all the redundant and unnecessary terms in this post:

X-ray Radiography
into the insides
intense, high-energy

Re:Today must be redundant day today. (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22936924)

X-ray Radiography - as opposed to Gamma-ray Radiography
into the insides - yeah that one is redundant
intense, high-energy - it's possible to have high intensity streams of low-energy photons, likewise low intensity streams of high-energy photons.

Re:Today must be redundant day today. (5, Informative)

H0D_G (894033) | more than 6 years ago | (#22936966)

Actually, intense and high energy are not necessarily the same thing, especially in terms of radiation. intense means that the number of photons over an incident area is high, whilst high energy means that the photons are from the higher frequency end of the X-ray spectrum.

A 'plastic printer'.... (1)

trouser (149900) | more than 6 years ago | (#22937182)

...which is, of course, a 'printer' which makes a 3D object out of 'plastic' as distinct from the more common plastic printer which.....oh never mind.

I'm Impressed (1)

grcumb (781340) | more than 6 years ago | (#22937700)

From more than 600 blocks, they have identified nearly 360 fossil animals: wasps, flies, ants, spiders.

Six hundred blocks? That's, like, miles away!

Medical applications (1)

Quato (132194) | more than 6 years ago | (#22938402)

I work in Cardiovascular Imaging. Synchrotron radiation != a conventional X-Ray they give you for a broken arm. Read the Wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Synchrotron_radiation [wikipedia.org]

We have a Heart Scan program that uses synchrotron radiation. It's called EBCT, it's basically synchrotron radiation used for computed tomography used to create an angiography. This is used for calcium scoring, to detect calcification in vessels leading to the heart.

Why is this better than an ordinary CT scan? Less radiation for the patient. It's an order of magnitude less radiation. You can even go in many facilities and get a scan without a doctor's order.

Oh yeah, this isn't new technology. Our scanner is about ten years old, and the app to read it runs good old Windows NT 4.0. :D

They would clone dinosaurs from this... (1)

Macblaster (94623) | more than 6 years ago | (#22940732)

but they would all have cancer :P
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