Tuesday, October 24, 2006

On The Non-Destructive Use Of Nuclear Science: The Renaissance Marriage Of Art And Science

"Eager for precision in a field notorious for ambiguity and frustration, curators at top museums in Europe and the United States have long reached for the instruments of nuclear science to hit treasures of art with invisible rays. The resulting clues have helped answer vexing questions of provenance, age and authenticity.

Now such insights are going global. The International Atomic Energy Agency, a United Nations unit best known for fighting the spread of nuclear arms, is working hard to foster such methods in the developing world, letting scientists and conservators in places like Peru, Ghana and Kazakhstan act as better custodians of their cultural heritage.

“It’s very exciting,” said Matthias Rossbach, an agency official who helps direct the endeavor. “I learn so much.”

The agency runs the program as an adjunct to its global advancement of nuclear and related technologies for peaceful uses. In a way, it is one of the carrots meant to offset the intrusive policing that the agency does around the world to try to make sure nations refrain from secretive cheating in pursuit of nuclear arms.

Here at the agency’s headquarters, in late September at its annual conference, Dr. Rossbach and colleagues set up a booth to publicize the program and took time to explain analytic gear and its applications to a reporter and delegates from the agency’s 140 member states. The booth brandished the team’s credo: “Protecting the Past for the Future.”

In a nearby building, beneath a rotunda decorated with flags from around the world, a display featured some of the collaboration’s recent findings. Exhibited were dozens of scientific papers and abstracts describing how research projects had used the nuclear methods to address historic and artistic riddles.

For instance, Chinese scientists had fired the subatomic particles known as neutrons at ancient pottery from the Tang dynasty, which ruled China from [C.E.] 618 to 906." ...

William J. Broad "Rays and Neutrons, for Art’s Sake" New York Times October 24, 2006


One building of the Pechersk Monastery, in Kyiv, Ukraine, and a part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, is home to the museum housing Ukraine's outstanding collection of Scythian Gold Treasures.

The other outstanding world heritage collection of Scythian Gold Treasures is housed at the Hermitage Museum, in [St] Petersburg, the Russian Federation.

Photo credit: (c) Galen R Frysinger http://www.galenfrysinger.com/ With thanks.


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