A UCLA "world summit" will bring together internationally renowned scientists from 12 countries including the U.S., Russia, China, Japan, Australia and India to address ancient microscopic fossils, from July 27 to Aug. 2.
"We are bringing together the world's best scientists in the field of ancient life," said summit organizer J. William Schopf, founder and director of the UCLA Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics' Center for the Study of Evolution and the Origin of Life (CSEOL). "Many of the participants have never before met one another. I expect that as a result of this five-day meeting, many of these scholars will collaborate on research."
The scientists will participate in hands-on scientific demonstrations using new state-of-the-science techniques.
"I have asked them to bring their most difficult rock specimens with them," said Schopf, a paleobiologist, geologist, microbiologist and organic geochemist. "People will say, 'Come look at this.'"
Schopf believes that the participants, and their students, will be ready to analyze microscopic fossils inside rocks returned from Mars to search for signs of life.
New research techniques are re-shaping the study of ancient life. High technology equipment allows scientists to look inside rocks and produce sharp three-dimensional images of ancient microscopic fossils inside rocks. The equipment includes Raman spectroscopy, a technique that allows scientists to see the molecular and chemical structure of ancient microorganisms in three dimensions; confocal microscopy, which uses a focused laser beam to make the organic walls of the fossils fluoresce, and enables scientists to take images inside living cells, allowing cells to be viewed in three dimensions; and secondary ion mass spectroscopy to analyze the isotopes in the chemistry of individual fossils.
These new techniques are not available in many countries; Schopf, who helped to develop the
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University of California - Los Angeles