Part of the show How age affects DNA and How the Body Clock Works
Fossils can tell us an enormous amount about the kinds of things that were living on the earth before we came along, but fossils can’t tell us everything. That's because the fossil record becomes less reliable the farther back in time you go. So scientists at the universities of Aberdeen and Glasgow have hit upon the idea of analysing traces of water that have been trapped inside rocks for millions or billions of years. The scientists hope that the water will contain a chemical ‘snapshot’ of the conditions on earth at the time when the water was locked away inside the rock, and possibly also substances called ‘biomolecules’ – the hallmarks of life – providing us with an insight into early life on earth. The technique could also be used to analyse meteorites from outer space and the scientists are working on the possibility of building a miniature version of the machine that could be sent on space-craft to other planets.