Digging dino with homemade fossil finder
Utah man's invention helps locate bones
June 12, 1997
An expanded Web version of segments seen on CNN
Web posted at: 11:02 a.m. EDT (1502 GMT)
In this story:
From Correspondent Marsha Walton
NEAR PRICE, Utah (CNN) -- The hunt for dinosaur remains is a
little easier now, thanks to Ray Jones and his homemade
fossil-finder. The device, which clicks like a Geiger
counter as it uncovers bones hidden for millions of years,
tells fossil-hunters where to dig.
"I'd just say 'dig here' ... and they would find bone," said
Jones, an amateur inventor who works at a radiation analyst
at the University of Utah's Radiological Health Department.
When Jones first suggested his machine could pinpoint
dinosaur bones, paleontologists -- scientists specializing in
prehistoric life forms -- were skeptical, he recalls.
The reaction now is praise. Paleontologist Don Burge says the device is responsible for two discoveries.
Paleontologist Don Burge talks about new dinosaur discoveries. (611K/14 sec. QuickTime movie)
"It worked. He (Jones) converted us," agrees John Bird, a
fossil preparator from the College of Eastern Utah.
(149K/11 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)
What it is
The invention, placed on a handcart and pushed like a lawn
mower, is called a scintillation counter -- an instrument
that, like a Geiger counter, detects and measures radiation.
In this case, it's radiation from Utah's rich uranium
Dinosaur bones act as radiation magnets, "sucking in these
uranium ions" and giving the bones a higher concentration of
uranium than the surrounding soil, Jones says.
Scientists trying to apply the same principles to similar
fossil-finding devices have failed. But Jones was
successful, using his experience as a radiology technician on
a nuclear submarine and his interest in fossil hunting to
build the device by himself.
How it works
As the fossil-finder measures radiation, it maps "hot spots"
on a grid. After filtering out background radiation, Jones'
wife, Carole, charts readings that enable paleontologists to
know the right spot to start digging.
And what they find are not just any bones. The discoveries
of the plant-eating nodosaur and the duck-billed hadrosaur
help researchers fill in gaping holes between the days when
the brontosaurus hung out, 150 million years ago, and the
days of T-rex and the triceratops, perhaps 70 million years
ago. (66K/5 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)
"Virtually every bone we find comes from a new dinosaur,"
Compared to the dinosaurs in a Steven Spielberg movie, the
Utah discoveries might not look like much. But the Joneses
Just as these Cretaceous era dinosaurs left their mark, Ray
and Carole Jones will leave theirs. The "new" nodosaur will
be named after Ray, the hadrosaur after Carole.
Related sites:Note: Pages will open in a new browser window
- Surweb Search Engine - Please, type "Carol/rj" at the prompt to obtain dinosaur digging pictures.
- University of Utah Radiological Health Department - When he's not out looking for dinosaur bones, Jones works here as a radiation analyst.
- Interactive Exhibit at the Natural History Museum - view fossils using special virtual reality software, which can be downloaded from various Internet sites.
- Dinosauria On-Line - For the serious enthusiast and rank amateur alike, Dinosauria is intended to give the reader a broader exposure to dinosaur science.
- Palaeontological Association - a registered charity which aims to further the study of paleontology through publication of academic
journals, newsletters, a series of field guides, and regular meetings and field
- The PaleoNet Pages - a system of list servers, www pages, and ftp sites designed to enhance electronic communication among paleontologists.
- Dinosaurs & Fossils - Dinosaurs at the Hunterian Museum, University of Glasgow.
- Fossils - images of fossils at the Hunterian Museum.
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