The lore of fossil hunting that fills your five-year-old with wide-eyed wonder is nothing but romantic nostalgia. The age-old notion of dusty, well-built men and women in wide safari hats wielding tiny brushes and painstakingly removing years of sediment to reveal a bounty of bones of ancient creatures has, well, gone the way of the dinosaurs. The practice made famous in the opening minutes of the 1993 film classic Jurassic Park, which has been used since the "bone war" days of the 1800s, has received an upgrade. Now, thanks to a new bounty of technological marvels, we are far better equipped to investigate the extinct creatures that have captured our imaginations for centuries, essentially breathing them into figurative life. These days, instead of fine-bristle brushes, you will find X-ray tomography, virtual reconstruction and dissection, and 3D printing in a palaeontologist’s tool kit. In fact, a large chunk of research and experimentation happens long before the bones are brough...

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