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Last Updated: Thursday, 19 May, 2005, 11:59 GMT 12:59 UK
Britain's rock map is 're-drawn'
By Brady Haran
BBC News, East Midlands

Take a closer look at the UK map and see other famous places

A strange thing is happening in room H004 at the British Geological Survey headquarters.

People wearing oversized goggles are staring at a large TV screen - and seeing Britain in a way it has never appeared before.

The survey, based at Keyworth in Nottinghamshire, is employing the latest three-dimensional technology to re-draw its old fashioned maps of the country's geology.

Earthquake foci appear as white bubbles below the surface and an undulating purple plain represents the mysterious "Moho", where the planet's crust ends and the mantle begins.

Bruce Napier has been working on the project, converting the survey's endless piles of data into 3D models, which appear to float off the screen and appear in the middle of the room.

The mass of knowledge that has gone into the model is quite vast
Bruce Napier
He says: "Some people get quite excited when they first see it.

"They are ducking as the Cornish granite swings past their head, or laughing as someone gets an earthquake in the centre of their brain."

But there is a serious side to the new form of mapping.

Mr Napier says: "Even experienced geologists have come in and seen things they have never seen before.

"They have been really enthusiastic about using this as a tool for their own modelling projects."

The three-dimensional visualisation facility (dubbed the 3DVF) is also being used to share the survey's knowledge with people who cannot visualise geology from complicated two-dimensional maps.

The survey has spent about 150,000 on the 3DVF, but its real value does not lie in its fancy projector, oversized screen and high-tech goggles.

"This sort of technology is readily available for people to buy - but the real value in this 3D model of Britain is the geological work behind it," Mr Napier explains.

"The mass of knowledge that has gone into the model is quite vast... it has come from years and years of BGS work and many people have been involved."

What can be seen when the goggles are put on

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