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Virtual Chicago

image: Campus NewsRecipe for discovery: three dinosaurs, 14 people, 75 paintbrushes, 144 AA batteries, 320 ounces of creamy peanut butter, 20,000 pounds of miscellaneous supplies and equipment, and one Internet link. Mix well and let bake in the Sahara sun for four months. Watch Web site rise.

Although "dinosaur" and "Internet" may not be the most homogenous of images, Chicago paleontologist Paul Sereno has set out to bring you one by using the other. Since August 13, Sereno and his team have been crisscrossing northern Niger in search of dinosaur fossils in three previously explored beds and two brand new ones, and you can join the expedition any time you like.

At, viewers can watch the group unearth fossils halfway around the world and read about their findings before newspapers have a chance to print the story. The brainchild of Sereno and his wife and team member Gabrielle Lyon, AB'94, AM'94, Project Exploration is a not-for-profit science education organization dedicated to making paleontology and natural science accessible to city kids.

By feeding the site with weekly updates, photos, video, background information, and interdisciplinary activities that resemble challenges faced in the field, Sereno and Lyon hope to make visitors feel like they are on the expedition themselves.

But the broadcasting may be just as complicated as the digging. The Web site is operated out of a special lightweight "clean tent," with the computers powered by a gas generator. The team photographs and writes during the day and works on the computers at night. The computers are connected to a satellite phone that sends the information 23,000 miles into the atmosphere and then 23,000 miles back down to the United States with only a one-second delay. "A technical breakdown will be a real challenge," quips Sereno. "FedEx still doesn't deliver to this neighborhood."

Lyon agrees with Sereno on the difficulties of broadcasting from the middle of the Sahara. "Not only will the computers need to work in 130 degree heat, there are no sockets to plug into and we will be working in one of the dustiest environments on the planet. According to our technical advisors, the only thing worse would be to have live dinosaurs tramping through our equipment tent daily."-C.S.

World Wide Web locations:

  OCTOBER 2000
  > > Volume 93, Number 1

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Déjà views
  > >
Women in white
  > >
Gay studies at Chicago
  > > Reclamation project

  > > Class News

  > > Books
  > > Deaths

  > > Investigations

  > > Editor's Notes

  > > Letters
  > > From the President



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