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What is Very high Resolution Computer Tomography? April 21, 2008

Posted by tomography in HRCT.
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Digimorph

In my latest post titled: “Dissecting Spiders with VHR-CT” I mentioned a technique called very high resolution computer tomography, and its use in the study of biological specimens. Now I offer you a large database called Digital Morphology that has several images that were taken using this technique at The University of Texas at Austin. But first, let us read the definition:

“High-resolution X-ray CT (Computed Tomography) is a completely nondestructive technique for visualizing features in the interior of opaque solid objects, and for obtaining digital information on their 3-D geometries and properties. It is useful for a wide range of materials, including rock, bone, ceramic, metal and soft tissue. High-resolution X-ray CT differs from conventional medical CAT-scanning in its ability to resolve details as small as a few tens of microns in size, even when imaging objects made of high density materials.”

It seems that these people are constantly throwing animals into their scanner so that they can render their 3D models and study them thoroughly afterwards. But they have come a long way. Digital Morphology visualizations have been featured by BBC’s HORIZON, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC EXPLORER, and in print by NATURE, SCIENCE, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, and THE NEW YORK TIMES!

Their scanner differs from your everyday medical-use CT scanner in that is has more penetrating power, and greater resolution. In fact, it was custom built for this sole purpose. I know I would not want to be scanned by this one!

– Andras

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Dissecting Spiders with VHR-CT April 21, 2008

Posted by tomography in HRCT.
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Dr. David Penney, from The School of Earth Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences (SEAES) at The University of Manchester, and his colleagues have used very high resolution computer tomography for the first time to dissect tiny fossils without even touching them.

This specimen comes from a place called Paris Basin, and it is though to be around 53 million-years-old. It was found preserved in amber, so it has been intact, waiting for somebody to discover it all these years! It is amazing to see such fine detail considering that this spider is still in a drop of amber.

My colleagues in the department of Subatomic and Radiation Physics at Ghent University in Belgium have significantly increased the resolution of the technology, bringing some quite amazing results. This is definitely the way forward for the study of amber fossils. This technique essentially generates full 3D reconstructions of minute fossils and permits digital dissection of the specimen to reveal the preservation of internal organs.

– said Dr. Penney.

At the moment, dr. Penney is in the depths of the African Jungle studying more exotic species. Penny would not be a famous researcher without his own spider; he already has a slightly younger spider named after him: a 20 million year old species found by a colleague in Mexico was named Episinus penneyi in his honour.
Other readings about David Penney:

– Andras

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