Science and Technology Facilities Council
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'Talking Science' in Swindon

What is Talking Science?

Talking Science is a series of popular science lectures that take place around STFC sites across the country. They offer a chance to hear about and discuss some of the hottest areas of science with some of the leading experts. You don't need to be an expert or even a scientist to come, they're aimed at everyone.

When is it happening?

Thursday 16th February 2012 - 6.00pm

'Synchrotrons, museums and dinosaurs'
Dr Phillip Manning - The University of Manchester

In this lecture, a number of iconic fossils will be introduced and their high-tech analyses explored. Fossils that preserve soft tissue are an important link to the origins, function and processes of life that once occupied Earth. The ability to unpick the chemical fossil enables a greater understanding of rare fossil insights to the past. But why are we interested in chemistry? This is quite simple, as chemistry can define the origins, synthesis, function and subsequent alterations from chunks of rock to the once living bones of dinosaurs and other animals.

The application of synchrotron based x-ray analyses has recently and successfully been applied to the field of palaeontology, not to produce 3D micro-CT images, but to resolve the chemistry of fossils. The chemical composition of plants and animals (both extant and extinct) has been shown to unlock crucial information on the decomposition and the mass transfer of elements between the environment and beastie in question. The chemical make-up of an object or the enclosing matrix in which it was entombed can also provide important information on what is contamination or has been significantly altered from original compounds built by the organism millions of years ago.

The analytical techniques available to detect, resolve, quantify and map the chemistry of objects can also potentially harm the very subject under study. When samples are rare, limited or priceless, sometimes all three, the analytical technique deployed by our team can still resolve chemistry but not at the cost of sample integrity. The potential for these techniques to gently un-pick the chemistry of long extinct species is quite breath-taking.

The hindsight that the chemical ghosts locked within the fossil record provides, will undoubtedly have benefits for understanding Earth processes, both today and in the future. Advances in this multidisciplinary field have the potential to yield a global impact in disciplines way beyond palaeontology.

Where are the talks held?

The talk will be held at STFC Headquarters, Polaris House Swindon. View a map of how to get to Polaris House (link opens in a new window).

How do I book?

  • by completing our online booking form; or
  • by telephoning 01793 442 025; or
  • by emailing the STFC Events Team (please ensure that you include your full name, address, telephone number and the number of people in your party

Attendance is free but places must be booked in advance.

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