Geek Trivia

Under the Famous Louvre Museum You’ll Find A Laboratory Devoted To?

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Answer: Particle Physics

Beneath the famous Louvre museum in France there’s a laboratory that is not open to the public and, at first glance, is seemingly out of place. Beneath the courtyard of the famous museum, roughly 49 feet below the iconic glass pyramid sculpture in the courtyard, you’ll find a particle accelerator.

This particle accelerator, known as The Accélérateur Grand Louvre d’analyse élémentaire, is not just a surprising find, but also unique in its use. The accelerator is the only particle accelerator in the world whose use is entirely devoted to the analysis of cultural artifacts. The research team uses the accelerator like a lesser institution might use a simple spectrometer: to analyze the material content of artifacts in the collection of the Louvre in order to accurately assess their composition and to verify their authenticity.

Since 1988, they’ve used it to check the composition of everything from Napoleon’s personal effects to the life-like eyes of an Egyptian sculpture known as The Seated Scribe (yes, the saber scabbard gifted to Napoleon from the French government was really solid gold and those striking eyes in the Egyptian sculpture are veined with thin red lines of iron oxide).

Image courtesy of the Fournier/C2RMF.