How can we tell if something is real? Forgeries of paintings by famous artists, even ones that have hung in museums for years, are now being identified using a new scientific method. Even the authenticity of a Jackson Pollack "drip" painting can now be verified.
A "library" of the artist's works is collected on a computer. The images are then turned into fractals using mathematics. These tiny areas of paint are a particular artist's signature, that he or she uses again and again, and are completely unique.
BBC News quotes its inventor, Daniel Rockmore, as saying, "Our hope is that it becomes more of what people call technical art history. Instead of asking 'was this painting done 40 years after these drawings?' one might instead ask 'how are these statistics evolving over time and what does that say about the working style?' For many people those are more central questions, and probably more substantial questions."
Paintings aren't the only things that can be faked: What was thought to be an ancient copy of the Gospel of Mark, house in the library of the University of Chicago, has been revealed as a fake. This was done by analyzing the paper, but fakes turn up from more "modern" authors, such as Shakespeare, all the time. In those case, scholars use "linguistic fingerprints" to detect their authenticity.
Margaret M. Mitchell, a biblical expert at the University of Chicago, together with experts in micro-chemical analysis and medieval bookmaking, has concluded that one of the University Library
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