How a Particle Accelerator Is Helping to Unearth Long-Lost Pieces of Art

Oli Scarff, Getty Images
Oli Scarff, Getty Images

A particle accelerator is revealing the people in 150-year-old photographs whose features had been lost to time, Science News reports.

For the first time, Madalena Kozachuk, a Ph.D. candidate at Canada’s Western University, and a team of scientists used an accelerator called a synchrotron to scan daguerreotypes, an ancestor of modern photography.

before and after image of a damaged dagguereotype
Kozachuk et al. in Scientific Reports, 2018

Invented by French painter and physicist Louis Daguerre, daguerreotypes were popular from around the 1840s to the 1860s. They were created by exposing an iodized silver-coated copper plate to a camera (the iodine helped make the plate's surface light-sensitive). Subjects had to sit in front of the camera for 20 to 30 minutes to set the portrait, down from the eight hours it took before Daguerre perfected his method. Photographers could then develop and fix the image with a combination of mercury and table salt.

Because they’re made of metal, though, daguerreotypes are prone to tarnish. Scientists can sometimes recover historical daguerreotypes by analyzing samples taken from their surface, but such attempts are often both destructive and futile, Kozachuk wrote in a study published in Scientific Reports.

Kozachuk found that using a particle accelerator is a less invasive and more accurate method. While some scientists have used X-ray imaging machines to digitally scan other historical objects, such instruments are too large to scan daguerreotypes. Reading the subtle variations on a daguerreotype surface requires a micron-level beam that only a particle accelerator can currently produce. By tracing the pattern of mercury deposits in the tarnished plate, the researchers were able to reveal the obscured image and create a digital photo of what the daguerrotype looked like when it was first made.

before and after image of a recovered dagguereotype
Kozachuk et al. in Scientific Reports, 2018

“When the image became apparent, it was jaw-dropping,” Kozachuk told Science News. “I squealed when the first face popped up.”

Scanning one square centimeter of each 8-by-7 centimeter plate took about eight hours. The technique, though time-intensive, may allow museums and collectors to restore old daguerreotypes with minimal damage.

“The ability to recover lost images will enable museums to expand their understanding of daguerreotype collections, as severely degraded plates would not otherwise have been able to be studied or viewed by interested scholars,” Kozachuk wrote.

[h/t Science News]

Dogfish Head and Kodak Team Up to Create Beer That Develops Super 8 Film

Dogfish Head
Dogfish Head

As digital technology has advanced and smartphones have become ubiquitous, the Super 8 movie cameras of the 1960s, '70s, and '80s have practically gone extinct. Dogfish Head and Kodak are collaborating on a product that makes the format a lot more convenient for modern amateur filmmakers. According to the Associated Press, their new SuperEIGHT beer doubles as a developer for Super 8 film.

Unlike digital video, which is ready to view as soon as its recorded, Super 8 film needs to be chemically processed first. In 2018, the founder and CEO of Dogfish Head Craft Brewery Sam Calagione went on Kodak's podcast The Kodakery to talk about analog film. There he learned that certain beers with high acidity and vitamin C content can be used to develop old-fashioned film.

Following that conversation, Dogfish Head joined forces with Kodak to create a beer specifically for that purpose. The new SuperEIGHT beer is a sour German-style wheat beer with 5.3 percent alcohol content. The key ingredients include blackberry, boysenberry, elderberry, raspberry, kiwi, mango, prickly pear, quinoa, and Hawaiian sea salt. According to Dogfish Head, the drink "has a slightly tart taste and pleasantly refreshing finish, with delicious flavors of berries and watermelon." And if imbibers can resist drinking it all, they can use some to develop their home movies.

The SuperEIGHT beer from Dogfish Head will be available at retailers across the country this April. To see how well it works as a processing agent, check out the short film Kodak developed with the beer below.

[h/t AP]

Intense Staring Contest Between a Squirrel and a Bald Eagle Caught on Camera

iStock.com/StefanoVenturi
iStock.com/StefanoVenturi

Wildlife photographers have an eye for the majestic beauty of life on planet Earth, but they also know that nature has a silly side. This picture, captured by Maine photographer Roger Stevens Jr., shows a bald eagle and a gray squirrel locked in an epic staring match.

As WMTW Portland reports, the image has been shared more than 8000 times since Stevens posted it on his Facebook page. According to the post, the photo was taken behind a Rite Aid store in Lincoln, Maine. "I couldn't have made this up!!" Stevens wrote.

Bald eagles eat small rodents like squirrels, which is likely why the creatures were so interested in one another. But the staring contest didn't end with the bird getting his meal; after the photo was snapped, the squirrel escaped down a hole in the tree to safety.

What was a life-or-death moment for the animals made for an entertaining picture. The photograph has over 400 comments, with Facebook users praising the photographer's timing and the squirrel's apparent bravery.

Funny nature photos are common enough that there's an entire contest devoted to them. Here are some of past winners of the Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards.

[h/t WMTW]

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