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B. A Three-dimensional Look at the Sea Floor

Narrator: This is Science Today. A new, three-dimensional laser imaging instrument developed by researchers at the University of California's Scripps Institution of Oceanography, is providing scientists with a detailed look at life on the sea floor. Jules Jaffe, the project director, says conventional systems with two-dimensional cameras are limited because of their lack of range and depth.

Jaffe: We've been operating a system called 3-D sea scan, which is basically a pretty powerful laser, coupled with some scanning mirrors and a very wonderful camera, much like the camera in your desktop scanner. This one's more sensitive of course, and it works at a higher speed.

Narrator: The apparatus itself looks like an underwater manta ray and is towed by the scientists when taking pictures.

Jaffe: We've seen these wonderful sand waves, we're imaging coral reefs, we have pictures of sea grasses. I believe the whole future of imaging will be going three-dimensional, so we see ourselves as sort of pioneers in optical oceanography, but also in the general area.

Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.