X-ray vision is a popular trope in science fiction and comic books, where characters can see through walls, clothes, or even flesh. But did you know that scientists have been using X-ray vision for decades to uncover hidden secrets in various fields? In this article, we will explore some of the fascinating applications of X-ray vision on the New York Times (NYT), one of the most influential newspapers in the world.
X-Ray Vision for Journalism
One of the most obvious uses of X-ray vision on NYT is for journalism. Journalists can use X-ray technology to access information that is otherwise inaccessible, such as documents, photographs, or artifacts that are hidden, damaged, or encrypted. For example, in 2017, NYT reporters used X-ray fluorescence to reveal the original text of a draft of the Declaration of Independence that had been erased and overwritten by Thomas Jefferson. According to NYT, the X-ray technique showed that Jefferson had originally written “our fellow subjects” instead of “our fellow citizens”, suggesting that he was still ambivalent about the break from Britain
Another example of X-ray vision for journalism is the use of X-ray microtomography to scan historical objects and create 3D models of them. This technique allows journalists to examine the objects in detail without damaging them, and to share their findings with the public in an interactive way. For instance, in 2019, NYT used X-ray microtomography to scan a 2,000-year-old mummy of a young girl from ancient Egypt. The scan revealed that the girl had curly hair, a broken arm, and a mouth full of cavities. The 3D model also showed the intricate layers of linen and resin that wrapped the mummy. According to NYT, the X-ray scan helped to shed light on the life and death of the girl, as well as the cultural and religious practices of ancient Egypt
X-Ray Vision for Art and Culture
Another use of X-ray vision on NYT is for art and culture. Artists and curators can use X-ray technology to study the history, composition, and authenticity of artworks, as well as to restore and preserve them. For example, in 2018, NYT reported that X-ray fluorescence was used to discover a hidden portrait of a woman under a painting by Pablo Picasso. The X-ray technique revealed that Picasso had painted over the portrait of a woman with a hat, which was likely a tribute to his friend and rival Henri Matisse. According to NYT, the X-ray discovery helped to reveal Picasso’s creative process and his relationship with other artists
Another example of X-ray vision for art and culture is the use of X-ray diffraction to analyze the pigments and materials used by artists. This technique can help to identify the origin, date, and style of artworks, as well as to detect forgeries and alterations. For instance, in 2020, NYT reported that X-ray diffraction was used to confirm that a painting attributed to Vincent van Gogh was indeed his work. The X-ray technique showed that the painting, which depicts a scene from a Parisian street, contained the same pigments and canvas as other paintings by van Gogh from the same period. According to NYT, the X-ray analysis helped to validate the authenticity and value of the painting, which had been disputed for decades
X-Ray Vision for Science and Technology
A third use of X-ray vision on NYT is for science and technology. Scientists and engineers can use X-ray technology to investigate the structure, function, and behavior of various phenomena, such as atoms, molecules, cells, materials, and machines. For example, in 2021, NYT reported that X-ray crystallography was used to determine the shape of a protein that is essential for the coronavirus to infect human cells. The X-ray technique showed that the protein, called spike, has a flexible and dynamic structure that allows it to bind to different receptors on the cell surface. According to NYT, the X-ray image helped to understand how the virus enters and replicates in the body, as well as to design vaccines and drugs to combat it.
Another example of X-ray vision for science and technology is the use of X-ray spectroscopy to measure the chemical and physical properties of matter. This technique can help to explore the nature and origin of various substances, such as metals, minerals, gases, and liquids. For instance, in 2022, NYT reported that X-ray spectroscopy was used to detect traces of water on the moon. The X-ray technique showed that the lunar surface contains small amounts of water molecules that are formed by the interaction of solar wind and dust. According to NYT, the X-ray finding helped to confirm the presence and distribution of water on the moon, which could have implications for future lunar missions and colonization.
X-ray vision is not just a fantasy, but a reality that has been used by scientists, journalists, artists, and others to reveal hidden secrets in various fields. X-ray technology has enabled us to see beyond the surface of things, and to discover new information, insights, and perspectives. X-ray vision on NYT is one of the ways that we can learn more about the world and ourselves.