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Sonic fingerprinting could safeguard masterpieces, detect fakes

Darren Murph

We know, we're suckers for cheesy art, but we give props where props are due for the well designed, masterfully engineered pieces as well. While we doubt the Digital Stag is atop any thief's list of things to swipe, there's a decent chance the Italian funeral urn Cratere dei Niobidi is. This urn spurned (ahem) a restorer and a geophysicist to envision sonic tomography as a means to protecting authentic works of art and giving museums and art buyers alike a way to spot fakes. The system works by attaching a network of sensors in and around the artifact, and when tapped with a rubber hammer, computer software can record the sonic fingerprint that will only match up with the original. Additionally, the waves could inform restorers if a segment of a structure is weaker than the eye can tell, giving them extra time to build reinforcements on ancient buildings, walls, etc. The chance of such a system ever being used outside of highly trafficked museums, however, is slim, primarily due to the $19,000 to $26,000 price range that the system falls in, not to mention the "trained staff" (read: loyal and innocent) required to run it.

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