Doctors tested the recovered pen by writing “HELLO”
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. Long, long ago—well, in the 1980s—a middle-aged British woman noticed a spot on her tonsil. To get a better look, she grabbed a mirror, opened wide, and started poking around with a plastic felt-tipped pen—which is where she ran into trouble. The woman claimed that she slipped and fell, swallowing the pen in the process. But between the implausibility of consuming a pen and the fact that X-ray scans failed to reveal the writing implement, everyone assumed she had made up the story…
Researchers have decided to get personal with Mona Lisa–by irradiating her face. In a study recently published in Angewandte Chemie, researchers trucked around the Louvre to look at nine faces painted by Leonardo Da Vinci with a portable X-ray machine.
Their particular technique, as reported by the BBC, is called X-ray fluorescence (XRF) and is a way to uncover the layers of paint without damaging the paintings. By looking at this layering, they learned more about Da Vinci’s brush strokes and a technique called sfumato, which he used to hide transitions between dark and light areas and to create realistic shading.
The Da Vinci researchers aren’t the only X-ray art historians. Another recently published study looked at “Mayan blue”–a long lasting pigment made by the civilization that lived in Central American from 2500 BC to the 1600s.
If you’re flying to Australia anytime soon, be prepared to show a lot of skin at the airport. From now until the end of November, Melbourne airport is testing out new X-ray scanners that can see through clothing and leave little to the imagination. The scanners may soon replace pat downs with “virtual strip searches,” which officials say will save time at security check points. For the trial period, only passengers who volunteer will be scanned.
The full-body scanners use low-energy X-rays that reflect off skin to provide chalky images of naked bodies. They will reveal any hidden objects, even nonmetal ones that would be bypassed by traditional metal detectors.