Feeds

Invisible-shed spy beam tech detects hidden artworks

T-rays to reveal Da Vinci's lost masterpiece

Remote control for virtualized desktops

Last week was a big one for those who like their T-rays. The spy-beam technology has been used to view murals hidden beneath inches of plaster, and has also been linked to metamaterials - the stuff from which invisible sheds could be made.

In the first development, art boffins from Paris's famous Louvre museum - collaborating with American colleagues - announced they had used T-ray scanners to "detect coloured paints and a graphite drawing of a butterfly through 4mm of plaster". The technique could apparently be used in many similar feats.

"In France alone, you have 100,000 churches," said Professor Gèrard Mourou of the Laboratoire d'Optique Appliquèe, one of the team behind the T-ray plaster probe.

"In many of these places, we know there is something hidden. It has already been written about. This is a quick way to find it."

Mourou noted that a famous Leonardo da Vinci painting, "The Battle of Anghiari", is thought to lie hidden behind a fresco at the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence. The culture-loving electronics prof reckoned that T-ray imaging would allow the world to see da Vinci's masterpiece once again without damaging the overlying art.

Meanwhile, other T-ray boffins from Blighty and Spain were working on a way to control and guide the tricky spy beams, which is difficult using ordinary substances such as metal.

"T-rays have the potential to revolutionise security screening for dangerous materials such as explosives," said Dr Stefan Maier of Imperial College.

"Until now it hasn't been possible to exert the necessary control and guidance... for it to have been usable in real world applications. We have shown with our material that it is possible to tightly guide T-rays along a metal sheet, possibly even around corners, increasing their suitability for a wide range of situations."

The alternative stuff in question is so-called "metamaterial", much loved by physicists for its various qualities - not least the possibilities it offers of building invisible sheds and levitating ultrathin baco-foil mirrors.

T-rays get their name from their terahertz frequencies, lying between microwave RF and the far infrared - or as some say, between electronics and optics.

It could be good to use T-rays rather than X-rays for security, as this would allow the everyday scanning of people without upping their cancer risk. Quite apart from the possible speeding-up of airport queues, this would also allow the entry checks at secret spy agencies to finally live up to their movie image.

Brit warboffinry spinoff Qinetiq hopes so, anyway, and has managed to sell some T-ray gear to the American homeland-security people.

Qinetiq prefers the term "millimetre wave" to "T-ray", but one man's millimetre-wave radar is another's T-ray spy beam. Qinetiq's gear is passive, however: it scans the T-rays naturally emitted by human bodies and using automated software to check for non-emitting materials like metal, plastic, or ceramics.

If the easily-usable active gear has to wait for metamaterials from the lab at Imperial, though, it might be a while coming. The days of the through-clothes spy spectacle rig are not upon us quite yet, though the through-clothes airport scanner has already been trialled. But when the proper new metamaterial gear comes in, presumably the only place to hide will be in one's invisible shed. ®

Intelligent flash storage arrays

More from The Register

next story
Antarctic ice THICKER than first feared – penguin-bot boffins
Robo-sub scans freezing waters, rocks warming models
I'll be back (and forward): Hollywood's time travel tribulations
Quick, call the Time Cops to sort out this paradox!
Your PHONE is slowly KILLING YOU
Doctors find new Digitillnesses - 'text neck' and 'telepressure'
Reuse the Force, Luke: SpaceX's Elon Musk reveals X-WING designs
And a floating carrier for recyclable rockets
Britain's HUMAN DNA-strewing Moon mission rakes in £200k
3 days, and Kickstarter moves lander 37% nearer takeoff
Rosetta science team thinks Philae might come to life in the spring
And disclose the biggest surprise of Comet 67P
Bond villains lament as Wicked Lasers withdraw death ray
Want to arm that shark? Better get in there quick
prev story

Whitepapers

Seattle children’s accelerates Citrix login times by 500% with cross-tier insight
Seattle Children’s is a leading research hospital with a large and growing Citrix XenDesktop deployment. See how they used ExtraHop to accelerate launch times.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
Why CIOs should rethink endpoint data protection in the age of mobility
Assessing trends in data protection, specifically with respect to mobile devices, BYOD, and remote employees.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Website security in corporate America
Find out how you rank among other IT managers testing your website's vulnerabilities.