Of accelerators and art investigations

Date:1 July 2012 Tags:, , ,

The Louvre in Paris holds many of the world’s most famous works
of art – but most people never see the particle accelerator in its basement. Scientists use the machine to analyse the composition and origins of artwork. For example, the accelerator helped determine that the ruby eyes in a Babylonian statue of Ishtar came from a mine in Vietnam, indicating that the two regions established trade routes at least 4 000 years ago. Such high-tech forensics are employed elsewhere in the art world, too: an accelerator helped crack a R288 million art forgery scandal in 2011, when its proton-induced X-ray emissions provided damning evidence about paint pigments used in the forgeries. – ALEX HUTCHINSON