One day when the sun goes nova and our little planet is melted in an instant, everyone is going to be scrambling around to figure out exactly what famous historical artifacts we can throw on to our escaping spacecraft. But if we start digitizing our past now, there’s a chance that all of Earth’s fossils can be saved forever and possibly reconstructed at a later date by 3-D modeling. (There are, of course, other good reasons to archive our planet’s biological history. We just like exploding suns.)
Researchers at SMU recently used a portable laser device to scan a dinosaur track, store the data in a computer, and then reconstruct a 3-D facsimile of the footprint using said data. The impetus behind this venture comes from concerns paleontologists have about dinosaur tracks literally being lost to the sands of time. The people at SMU believe if 3-D imaging, and later 3-D reproduction becomes standardized across the filed of paleontology, then the notion of losing original footprints will cease to be an issue. With a larger data set of footprints from which to draw from, scientists can make more accurate deductions about the behavioral patterns, socialization, and make-up of the dinosaurs.
The “inaugural” footprint in question is a large tourist destination in Texas and was likely left by a dinosaur called Acrocanthosaurus, which once walked along a prehistoric shoreline near a Mesozoic sea that enveloped the area 75 million years ago.
Stubby the Rocket is the mascot of Tor.com and tends to be a handle for many of the staff, some of whom are highly evolved dinosaur-birds.