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Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP)

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New York Times

An international team of scholars, including MIT researchers, has published a new study exploring the history and use of letterlocking, reports William J. Broad for The New York Times. The researchers note that they hope their work prompts “novel kinds of archival research, and allows even very well-known artefacts to be examined anew.”

NPR

Researchers from MIT and other institutions have successfully uncovered the letterlocking technique that Mary, Queen of Scots, used to seal her final letter, reports NPR’s Tien Le. The spiral lock requires more than 30 steps and involves cutting out a ‘lock,’ often resembling a dagger or sword, out of the blank margin of the letter,” writes Le. “The lock acts as a needle and is sewn through the letter after folding it.”

The Guardian

An international team of researchers has found that Mary, Queen of Scots, used a complicated paper-folding technique called letterlocking to conceal the contents of her final letter, reports Alison Flood for The Guardian. MIT Libraries Conservator Jana Dambrogio explains that working on Mary's last letter “and figuring out its unique spiral lock was thrilling as a researcher – and a real a-ha! moment in the study of letterlocking.”

The Economist

The Economist spotlights how MIT researchers created a virtual technique to decipher the contents of a letter that was sealed 300 years ago. The letter was originally sealed by its sender using the historical practice of securing correspondence called letterlocking. The new virtual technique “seems to hold plenty of promise for future research into a fascinating historical practice.”

The Guardian

Guardian reporter Alison Flood explores the new technique created by MIT researchers to virtually unseal an unopened letter written in 1697. The researchers, “worked with X-ray microtomography scans of the letter, which use X-rays to see inside the document, slice by slice, and create a 3D image,” writes Flood.

NPR

Jana Dambrogio, the Thomas F. Peterson Conservator at MIT Libraries, describes the new technique developed by researchers at MIT and other institutions that has allowed for the virtual exploration of a letter that has been sealed since 1697. “It's quite beautiful and it's thrilling that we can read it without tampering with the letter packet, leaving it to study as an unopened object,” says Dambrogio.

New York Times

Researchers from MIT and other institutions have developed a new virtual-reality technique that has allowed them to unearth the contents of letters written hundreds of years ago, without opening them, writes New York Times reporter William J. Broad. “The new technique could open a window into the long history of communications security,” writes Broad. “And by unlocking private intimacies, it could aid researchers studying stories concealed in fragile pages found in archives all over the world.”

New Scientist

Using X-ray imaging and algorithms, MIT researchers have been able to virtually open and read letters that been sealed for more than 300 years, writes Priti Parikh for New Scientist. “Studying folding and tucking patterns in historic letters allows us to understand technologies used to communicate,” says Jana Dambrogio, a conservator at the MIT Libraries.

The Wall Street Journal

Researchers from MIT and other institutions have used algorithms and an X-ray scanner to decipher the secrets inside a letter that has been sealed since 1697, reports Sara Castellanos for The Wall Street Journal. “This is a dream come true in the field of conservation,” said Jana Dambrogio, the Thomas F. Peterson Conservator at MIT Libraries.

Mashable

MIT researchers have developed a new wearable device, called Dormio, that can be used to record and even guide a person’s dreams, reports Mashable. Dormio is aimed at providing “insights into how dreams work and their effect on various things like memory, emotion, creativity.”

The Boston Globe

Postdoc Gabriel Leventhal has created a project to track how the microbes in a sourdough starter change as it gets shared around the world, writes Alex Kingsbury of The Boston Globe. To track the starter, “Herman,” each descendant is given a unique name and number before the samples are returned to the lab to track how the microbes evolve, Kingsbury explains.