Science!: Chickens, Musclefish and X-Ray Vision

Lauren Admire | 15 Mar 2010 21:00

See Through Walls!

Yes, you heard it right. Scientists have found a way to see through walls...well...really, really thin walls. OK, fine, not walls, but a thin layer of paint. Spoil all my fun.

The reason you can't currently see through even the thinnest layer of paint is because any light that does manage to pass through it is randomly scattered. However, scientists from the City of Paris's Industrial Physics and Chemistry Higher Educational Institution have found a way to analyze the seemingly random scatterings of light after it passes through an incredibly thin layer of paint and "see" what's on the other side.

Researchers shot a green laser beam through an 80 micrometer thick layer of paint. On the other side of the paint was a series of tiny dots. Using some fancy formulas and analyses, researchers were able to translate the light that passed through the layer of paint and reconstruct the pattern of tiny dots that was directly behind it.

However, the accuracy of their analysis depends entirely on how much light manages to pass through thin materials such as skin, paint or paper. Less light will pass through more opaque objects, so reconstructions of anything behind, say, a stack of paper, would be grainier and less clear.

"Looking through a hundred-millimeter [four-inch] wall would be a million times more difficult than looking through a hundred-micrometer layer of paint," explains Allard Mosk of University of Twente in Amsterdam.

However, co-author of the study, Sylvain Gigan, states that this technology could possibly be used to look through skin and straight into our bodies. Imagine the possibilities: no need for exploratory surgery or dissections. Although I do fear for those of us who prefer gauzier garments such as lace or silk.

Source: National Geographic


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