August 4, 2016

Brilliant. Beautiful! The ultimate in art + science.

"Finding Degas’s Lost Portrait With a Particle Accelerator."
Until recently, attempts to capture the image underlying “Portrait of a Woman” with conventional X-ray and infrared techniques have only yielded the shadowy outline of another woman. In a study published on Thursday, however, a team of researchers reports that they have revealed the hidden layer underneath the painting, which hangs in the National Gallery of Victoria in Australia, at a very high resolution. It seems to be a portrait of Emma Dobigny, a model who was a favored subject of Degas.
Click through to the study for some great details.


David Begley said...

Didn't see a cost number in the study, but I might have missed it as I only scanned it.

David said...

Very interesting. Emma is very pretty. She has Vulcan ears.

I do wonder why the lovely Emma was sacrificed for the dowdy woman in the portrait.

fizzymagic said...

Wow, that description is so vague as to be nearly useless. But a few minor nits: a synchrotron light source is poorly characterized as a "particle accelerator;" generally, most of the acceleration is done by external accelerators and the electrons are kept in a storage ring with only enough acceleration applied to keep the electron energy constant. The x-rays used to induce the fluorescence in the painting are produced by synchrotron radiation caused by their acceleration in an "undulator" in a straight section of the storage ring.

The fluorescent x-rays emitted from the irradiation of a very small area of the painting are detected by silicon detectors that can measure the energy of the x-rays well enough to distinguish the emissions from different elements. In general, the higher the atomic number of the element, the more easily it can be identified, as the characteristic energies get larger. Using this technique you get a map of the relative abundances of elements at each spot you irradiate, and since different pigments contain different amounts of each element, you can distinguish colors.

Missing from the article is even the most basic description of how the fluorescence from the overlying painting was removed from the signal, since the x-rays will induce fluorescence from both.

Jupiter said...

Someone's tax dollars at play.

Eric the Fruit Bat said...

There are people in this world who genuinely think that mathematics and science is (are?) beautiful.

I admire them because they are (is?), among other things, very smart people.

But I think that mathematics and science is (are?), among other things, nifty, not beautiful.

I think that women are beautiful.


Among other things.

Sebastian said...

White nerds studying the work of DWEM. Who cares?

mockturtle said...

I think it's very cool! I've always admired Degas' work and knowing there is more lurking here and there is tantalizing.

coupe said...

...She is the subject of a painting by Edgar Degas, the French Impressionist painter..."

Ouch. Degas hated the term Impressionist. Isn't it odd, that the thing you utterly despise in life becomes your label in death.

Degas was famously known as an anti-semite. Captain Alfred Dreyfus was found guilty of treason for giving French secrets to the Germans. Trumped-up charges which sent him to French Guiana, where he was supposed to just die.

The truth finally came out, and Dreyfus was rehabilitated and brought home, but still the anti-Semites wished him dead. He served in the First World war, and died just before the second.

There's a statue of him in Paris. He is standing with his sword broken due to his having been branded a traitor. His statue is where it is because no one wanted it. He was called the "Wandering Jew" because it took so long to find a spot to put it. Finally, they chose a traffic circle in the middle of no-where. Not far from the Statue of Liberty in Luxembourg Gardens.

mockturtle said...

Degas was famously known as an anti-semite.

A fact that does not diminish his artistic talent in any way.

traditionalguy said...

Impressive! But does this mean a beautiful woman is nothing more than a collection of particles that flourence?

Good thing most women paint over themselves with make up. And color their hair. And outline their eyes. And enlarge their breasts.

Zach said...

In response to the "your tax money at work" folks:

1) The synchrotron is already built, so finding new areas where it's useful is actually a great use of tax money.

2) A synchrotron actually has several beamlines producing x-rays at any given time. They're in almost continuous use, so 30 hours on one beamline isn't a high fraction of the available beam time.

3) Reconstructing one painting under another painting is a useful technique with applications to things like reconstructing ruined pieces of art found in archaeology.

Zach said...

For example: the Villa of the Papyri:

Julius Caesar's father in law had a huge library that was carbonized during a volcanic eruption. The scrolls can't be unrolled or read, but the ink is still on the burned paper. So if you can cause it to fluoresce and reconstruct the 3D image, you could potentially read every book in the library of a fabulously wealthy and cultured Roman aristocrat.

Did he have the complete works of Sappho? No one knows. She was extremely popular, and it's the sort of thing that would be found in a library of that type, but only about 650 lines of her poetry survive. There are whole books by Aristotle and plays by Aristophanes that have no surviving copies today. Figuring out a way to read those scrolls would be an incredibly big deal.

David Begley said...


You know your stuff. Now get that project you outlined going. Wondering if Father in Law had his SIL's book.

Zach said...

Not my idea, I'm afraid: I heard about it when they did some preparatory work at the Berkeley Lab synchrotron:

PBandJ_LeDouanier said...

Call me crazy, but when I think of particle accelerators, I'd say that investigating the Higgs field is exponentially cooler.

Just sayin.

mockturtle said...

I used to work with an electron accelerator but it was to catalyze changes in pulp fiber.

Laslo Spatula said...

This is just high-falutin' up-skirt panties shots.

Where you take a photo from below of a woman in a skirt wearing panties.

You're not wanting to see vagina: you want to see vagina in panties.

The Vagina is an intimacy you are not looking for: you are looking for the mystery that shrouds the intimacy.

Beneath light white cotton fabric the vagina has its greatest allure.

The white cotton fabric is hairless, ageless, honest.

The vagina will, when seen, disappoint you. This is why women are so depressed. They have taken a mirror to their vagina, they know.

The white cotton fabric hides the skin of uneven plums and peaches.

The white cotton fabric brings a suggestion of youth.

As women get older they try fancier and fancier panties,skimpier and skimpier, to feel again the Truth of when they were Young.

A G-String covers the meat but not the mystery.

Beneath those white cotton fabric panties lies the Youth of Man's Pursuit: the Young Man has never even seen a woman's asshole. He only imagines the vagina. A slot, a cut, a tear.

But the woman's asshole is there, beneath the white cotton fabric.

The distance between a woman's vagina and her asshole?

A half-inch, as the crow files?

The distance of the Universe, North to South?

White Cotton Panties contain the Truth in a way that Nudity does not.

White Cotton Panties beneath a Catholic Schoolgirl Skirt contain the Truth in a way that Religion does not.

I don't get people with toe fetishes.

I am Laslo.

Laslo Spatula said...

I think I was trying to talk about electrons.

I don't know what the fuck happened.

I am Laslo.

cubanbob said...

Wow Laslo! Just wow! A real Hedley Lamarr.

mockturtle said...

Laslo, that's just as profound as Keats' Ode on a Grecian Urn.

Whereupon you are to ask: What's a Grecian Urn?

And I answer:, Oh, about 40 drachmas a week.

mockturtle said...

Truly, Laslo, Sappho couldn't have said it better.

Unknown said...

PBandJ_LeDouanier said...
Call me crazy, but when I think of particle accelerators, I'd say that investigating the Higgs field is exponentially cooler.

Just sayin.

8/4/16, 10:02 PM

And they say there's no virtue signalling in STEM!

Rusty said...

PBandJ_LeDouanier said...
Call me crazy, but when I think of particle accelerators, I'd say that investigating the Higgs field is exponentially cooler.

Just sayin.

Order of magnitude cooler.
There's a perfectly goods accelerator rusting away under the prairies of Illinois. Get thee hither.

Gabriel said...

Ann, this image is exactly the sort of false-color technique that you characterized as "fake" when done with astronomical images. What caused the change in your outlook? I'd like to think it was my well-reasoned argument...

The reconstructed image is exactly that: the image does not "look like" this, it's a spreading black stain. The fluorescent signatures of the chemicals used in that paint allowed the team to reconstruct what the image may have looked like. Isn't this just as fake as you said Hubble was?

Gabriel said...

@fizzy magic:Missing from the article is even the most basic description of how the fluorescence from the overlying painting was removed from the signal, since the x-rays will induce fluorescence from both.

A description might have interested you but it's not a difficult problem I would think. The surface image is known and can be subtracted off, perhaps in the fluorescence since its signal is presumably much larger, or perhaps from the reconstructed image.