Incredible radiation tool could see through mysterious, ancient books

Incredible radiation tool could see through mysterious, ancient books

It's an amazing bit of technology that could help uncover the secrets of ancient texts.

Scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have just developed a fascinating new technological marvel: a device that could read closed books using radiation. This device could allow museums and research facilities to uncover the secrets of ancient books that they are terrified to open for fear of damaging the valuable texts.

It uses technology similar to X-rays, allowing scientists to peer beneath the cover and identify letters on stacks of paper that are up to nine sheets thick. In addition to allowing scientists to examine ancient texts without fear of damaging them, this discovery could also lead to office machines that could scan entire reams of paper at once, according to an MIT statement.

It uses terahertz radiation, which is the band of electromagnetic radiation that sits between infrared light and microwaves. Terahertz rays are better than X-rays and other kinds of radiation because they can distinguish between ink and blank paper. They can also produce higher resolution images than ultrasound.

“In the researchers’ setup, a standard terahertz camera emits ultrashort bursts of radiation, and the camera’s built-in sensor detects their reflections,” the statement reads. “From the reflections’ time of arrival, the MIT researchers’ algorithm can gauge the distance to the individual pages of the book.¬†While most of the radiation is either absorbed or reflected by the book, some of it bounces around between pages before returning to the sensor, producing a spurious signal. The sensor’s electronics also produce a background hum. One of the tasks of the MIT researchers’ algorithm is to filter out all this ‘noise.’

“The information about the pages’ distance helps: It allows the algorithm to hone in on just the terahertz signals whose arrival times suggest that they are true reflections,” it continues. “Then, it relies on two different measures of the reflections’ energy and assumptions about both the energy profiles of true reflections and the statistics of noise to extract information about the chemical properties of the reflecting surfaces.”

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