ONE-MA3 – Day XXIII: Gypsum, Gypsum, Everywhere!

July 26th, 20192019 News in Brief

By Sophia Mittman '22 Over the course of the entire trip, we’ve heard all about gypsum. Gypsum this, gypsum that. When I first heard the word during the information sessions for ONE-MA^3, I was confused by the strange word that I had never heard before, and I assumed that it was some crazy scientific material that would take a while to understand. But, I was pleasantly surprised by its simplicity. We got our first big exposure to applications of gypsum when we visited La Venaria Reale (a royal palace) in Turin. In this case, the gypsum was used to create the stucco sculptures that ornately decorated the massive rooms and hallways that we wandered through. At that point, I understood that gypsum was basically plaster of Paris. But how one could get from the original form of gypsum to the actual white powdery stuff that you can buy at craft stores was beyond me. Today though, we got to take a field trip to the nearby town of Cocconato and saw first-hand how that process takes place, starting from the ground up...literally. Sophia Fang ‘22 taking a photo from the upper rim of the gypsum quarry In this small town among hills near Aramengo is a giant gypsum quarry, and after we dressed ourselves with bright, neon orange construction vests and helmets, we had the opportunity to explore the depths of the quarry ourselves. Everything was blindingly white in the sunlight: the powder-covered ground, the big boulders on the side [...]

By Sophia Mittman ’22

Over the course of the entire trip, we’ve heard all about gypsum. Gypsum this, gypsum that. When I first heard the word during the information sessions for ONE-MA^3, I was confused by the strange word that I had never heard before, and I assumed that it was some crazy scientific material that would take a while to understand. But, I was pleasantly surprised by its simplicity. We got our first big exposure to applications of gypsum when we visited La Venaria Reale (a royal palace) in Turin. In this case, the gypsum was used to create the stucco sculptures that ornately decorated the massive rooms and hallways that we wandered through. At that point, I understood that gypsum was basically plaster of Paris. But how one could get from the original form of gypsum to the actual white powdery stuff that you can buy at craft stores was beyond me. Today though, we got to take a field trip to the nearby town of Cocconato and saw first-hand how that process takes place, starting from the ground up…literally.

Sophia Fang ‘22 taking a photo from the upper rim of the gypsum quarry

In this small town among hills near Aramengo is a giant gypsum quarry, and after we dressed ourselves with bright, neon orange construction vests and helmets, we had the opportunity to explore the depths of the quarry ourselves. Everything was blindingly white in the sunlight: the powder-covered ground, the big boulders on the side of the tractor paths, and the entire gaping hole in the ground. Well, it was definitely more than just a big hole in the ground, spanning multiple football fields across its width, depth, and length. We started by walking around the rim of the quarry, marveling at the sheer expanse of gypsum all around us while the sounds of giant drills and clanking could be heard in the distance from a portion of the quarry higher up on the hill. Then, we ventured down to the bottom floor of the quarry, stopping for brief respites from the sun in the tunnels that had been carved out of the hills of gypsum.

Gypsum crystals imbedded into the quarry walls

During these stops, we were able to take a closer look at the gypsum stone in its natural form. From previous descriptions of gypsum being a stone, I had imagined that gypsum looked like a normal rock or something like that. But, it was fascinating to see for ourselves that gypsum is a crystal that forms into chevron-like patterns. On a smaller level, it is formed from thin sheets of transparent, brittle crystal, very similar to mica, which also forms into sheets but takes on a darker color than gypsum. When crushed, these transparent crystals turn into the white powder that covered the ground everywhere—a clue that led on that this crushed-up crystal would indeed eventually become plaster of Paris. As we stood on the lowest level of the quarry, staring up at the tunnels and walls of pure gypsum that towed all around us, we were surprised to learn that the workers at this quarry intend to dig twenty meters father down to dig up even more gypsum before expanding their excavation in a horizontal direction.

 Exploring the many forms of gypsum stone at the mini-museum in the Nicola home

After seeing where gypsum actually comes from, we returned to Aramengo and proceeded to try our hand in the next step of processing gypsum. We had brought three large hunks of gypsum from the quarry and took a hammer to each while taking turns until all that was left were small pebbles of gypsum, ranging in size from sandy granules to grapes. These were then placed into terracotta pots and put into Marco Nicola’s furnace to be fired overnight. Ideally, this would result in a dehydrated gypsum, and after being crushed into a powder, it would be ready to be mixed with water to form plaster, perfect for making stuccoes, fixing walls, or using as a surface to paint on. After spending most of the day learning about the geological science behind gypsum and its production, we dove into gastronomical and physical culture by making our own delicious pizzas and dancing late into the night. Within our group of MIT students and Professor Masic, we were all able to participate in traditional dances from around the world! For example, we learned popular dances from Jamaica, Africa, England, and even a fancy-footwork Balkan line-dance from Admir. Without a doubt, it was a night that we will all remember as a one filled with amazing food and charismatic company, having a blast together under the stars that sparkled over the Italian countryside all around us.

Making our own pizzas the Italian way! (Left: Carene Umubyeyi ’22, Right: Jade Arbuckle ‘22)

 

 

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PhD student Mohamad Sindi’s paper selected as Best Paper Finalist for 2019 IEEE High Performance Extreme Computing Conference

July 22nd, 20192019 News in Brief

PhD student Mohamad Sindi’s paper is selected as Best Paper Finalist for the 2019 IEEE High Performance Extreme Computing Conference (HPEC). Sindi’s paper titled “Using Container Migration for HPC Workloads Resilience” is focused on making long running HPC applications fault tolerant. The paper was rated as "Outstandingly Novel" in terms of novelty. The conference's technical committee includes some of the world's top HPC pioneers​. HPEC is the premier conference in the world on the convergence of High Performance and Embedded Computing​, and the largest computing conference in New England​. It brings together experts and people interested in computing hardware, software, systems and applications. Read more here.

PhD student Mohamad Sindi’s paper is selected as Best Paper Finalist for the 2019 IEEE High Performance Extreme Computing Conference (HPEC). Sindi’s paper titled “Using Container Migration for HPC Workloads Resilience” is focused on making long running HPC applications fault tolerant. The paper was rated as “Outstandingly Novel” in terms of novelty. The conference’s technical committee includes some of the world’s top HPC pioneers​. HPEC is the premier conference in the world on the convergence of High Performance and Embedded Computing​, and the largest computing conference in New England​. It brings together experts and people interested in computing hardware, software, systems and applications. Read more here.

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Professor Elfatih Eltahir’s article in Top 50 (#10) most read Earth and planetary sciences Nature Communications articles published in 2018

July 22nd, 20192019 News in Brief

Breene M. Kerr Professor Elfatih Eltahir’s article titled “North China Plain threatened by deadly heatwaves due to climate change and irrigation,” is one of the Top 50 (#10) most read Earth and planetary sciences Nature Communications articles published in 2018. The journal published more than 5,000 papers in 2018, featuring authors from all around the globe. Read more here.

Breene M. Kerr Professor Elfatih Eltahir’s article titled “North China Plain threatened by deadly heatwaves due to climate change and irrigation,” is one of the Top 50 (#10) most read Earth and planetary sciences Nature Communications articles published in 2018. The journal published more than 5,000 papers in 2018, featuring authors from all around the globe. Read more here.

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ONE-MA3: Castle on the Hill

July 19th, 20192019 News in Brief, ONE-MA3 2019

By Anna Landler '22 I went into this trip with few expectations. That’s not the same as low expectations. I simply did not have any concrete things that I expected. I had a notion of general positive feelings towards the trip to Italy, and that’s about it. The first few days were incredible. We arrived in Sermoneta, a hilltop town purposefully stuck in a prior century, I’m talking cobblestone roads that barely fit a large car. These streets were soon home to 15 jet-lagged, travel-dressed American students. As we traipsed through the town, the locals, who are always inexplicably sitting outside their homes, were confused by the sudden crowd of students. Dinner the first night             Over the next couple of days, we engaged in a medley of activities from leisurely strolls around the town (including exercises in surmounting a language barrier to buy shampoo) to kayaking down a stream (someone accidentally turned the wrong way every 60 seconds) to examining old limestone kilns (Admir karate chopped a block with his hand, and can now say he broke a rock) to playing volleyball in the courtyard (the record currently stands at 55 consecutive passes). That was all well and good. We eased into our learning with Vitruvius readings and introductions to conservation tools after lunch (pasta + more) and dinner (pasta + more) at the castle (Castello Caetani, a 16thcentury castle where we are staying at for 10 days). The Gardens of Ninfa, where the ruins are integrated into the [...]

By Anna Landler ’22

I went into this trip with few expectations. That’s not the same as low expectations. I simply did not have any concrete things that I expected. I had a notion of general positive feelings towards the trip to Italy, and that’s about it.

The first few days were incredible. We arrived in Sermoneta, a hilltop town purposefully stuck in a prior century, I’m talking cobblestone roads that barely fit a large car. These streets were soon home to 15 jet-lagged, travel-dressed American students. As we traipsed through the town, the locals, who are always inexplicably sitting outside their homes, were confused by the sudden crowd of students.

Dinner the first night

            Over the next couple of days, we engaged in a medley of activities from leisurely strolls around the town (including exercises in surmounting a language barrier to buy shampoo) to kayaking down a stream (someone accidentally turned the wrong way every 60 seconds) to examining old limestone kilns (Admir karate chopped a block with his hand, and can now say he broke a rock) to playing volleyball in the courtyard (the record currently stands at 55 consecutive passes).

That was all well and good. We eased into our learning with Vitruvius readings and introductions to conservation tools after lunch (pasta + more) and dinner (pasta + more) at the castle (Castello Caetani, a 16thcentury castle where we are staying at for 10 days).

The Gardens of Ninfa, where the ruins are integrated into the beautiful landscape as you walk through them

Then, we hit the ground running (literally) after going for a quick run in the morning, I boarded the bus and soon enough we were at the “The Gardens of Ninfa,” the “most romantic gardens in the world… or maybe just in Europe” according to Admir. But they are more than just gardens. They are gardens embedded in medieval ruins. And there, in the romantic-medieval-garden-blend, we proceeded to take thousands of photos…not joking. We were doing photogrammetry. Photogrammetry is essentially taking lots of pictures at various angles and distances in order to recreate 3D objects digitally. We had an introduction yesterday with a small statue, but here is an enormous difference between recreating a lovely, symmetric, smallstatue and vegetation-covered, crumbling, largecastle ruins. We learned this the hard way, as we struggled to capture every angle possible in 100s of similar-looking photos clogging our camera rolls. We even used drones to aid in our data collection. Finally, we used X-ray fluorescence (XRF) to determine the molecular makeup of the ancient flaking frescos on the wall and thermal imaging to determine the presence of water.

Professor Masic uses the XRF gun to evaluate elements in pigments of a fresco

            Now, here’s the important part: why? Why did we spend 7 hours in 90-degree weather taking the same photos over and over? Well this trip is ONE MA3: “Materials in Art, Archaeology and Architecture”, a precursor to MIT’s class 1.057: “Heritage Science and Technology”. So not only are we learning about those 3 A’s, but we are applying them to conservation. Heritage is an essential part of the human experience: it’s ingrained in our traditions, pride, and culture. And it’s hard to preserve. You think that water, vegetation, a cobblestone make for resilient structures? They don’t. And it’s up to conservation scientists such as Admir and the group working with us (Area 3) to evaluate risks and preserve precious parts of our history.

Lessons on cement composition; followed by us digging into all of those buckets as 4 teams competed to make the strongest and most sustainable cement. 

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ONE-MA3: More Than Travel Companions

July 19th, 20192019 News in Brief

By Anna Landler '22 ONE-MA3 has provided each of us with an unrivaled experience. We have had experts lecture in every aspect of conservation from history to preservation methods. Just the other day we had Duncan, a Roman society, environment and technology expert, give us a tour around Pompeii that exceeded any tours provided on site – English-speaking tourists would seem to linger around our group just to listen to him describe the extensive water system in Pompeii. Rovi Porter '22, Simon Chuang '22, Professor Masic, and myself (left to right), as we leave the castle one day. Clearly, this photo wasn't planned             Everyone we have interacted with certainty deserves an appreciation post. An underrated aspect of this trip is the other students. I’m sure this has been said by hundreds of students about MIT in general. It’s true that this school is a home for some of the most incredible, curious, and driven young people from across the globe. When you are in Italy, attempting to absorb all of the lectures and experiences that the country has to offer, it can be easy to overlook the simple importance of your peers. Lunch in Terracina. From left to right: Maritza Gallegos '22, Stephanie Baez '22, Carene Umubyeyi '22, Simon Chuang '22, and myself              Everyone on this trip is more than a classmate, and more than a friend; they’re also teachers, as these are people that I’ve had the pleasure of learning from because everyone has something to offer. The other day [...]

By Anna Landler ’22

ONE-MA3 has provided each of us with an unrivaled experience. We have had experts lecture in every aspect of conservation from history to preservation methods. Just the other day we had Duncan, a Roman society, environment and technology expert, give us a tour around Pompeii that exceeded any tours provided on site – English-speaking tourists would seem to linger around our group just to listen to him describe the extensive water system in Pompeii.

Rovi Porter ’22, Simon Chuang ’22, Professor Masic, and myself (left to right), as we leave the castle one day. Clearly, this photo wasn’t planned

            Everyone we have interacted with certainty deserves an appreciation post. An underrated aspect of this trip is the other students. I’m sure this has been said by hundreds of students about MIT in general. It’s true that this school is a home for some of the most incredible, curious, and driven young people from across the globe. When you are in Italy, attempting to absorb all of the lectures and experiences that the country has to offer, it can be easy to overlook the simple importance of your peers.

Lunch in Terracina. From left to right: Maritza Gallegos ’22, Stephanie Baez ’22, Carene Umubyeyi ’22, Simon Chuang ’22, and myself 

            Everyone on this trip is more than a classmate, and more than a friend; they’re also teachers, as these are people that I’ve had the pleasure of learning from because everyone has something to offer.

The other day in Terracina, after long hours of photogrammetry of an ancient temple and analysis of the Via Apia (a major Roman road), the group decided to relax on the beach. I sat on the beach with Ben (shout out to Ben Bartschi ‘22, he’s the best). And we just discussed what we wanted about of college, why we chose Course 1, what our jobs might look like… and I think that it is conversations like this that are most valuable. Seeing your peers Duolingo daily to learn a bit of Italian to get by when ordering gelato, running their photogrammetry models into the wee hours of morning (and adding effects for fun, if you’re Ben) is the kind of passion and drive that I can only hope to gain through osmosis.

Jade Ishii ’22, Lucy McMillan ’22, myself, Meriah Gannon ’22. At least we tried to get a jumping photo at the aqueduct

            Every single person here has been vital to the success of this trip. I can’t wait to see what the probing questions and seeds of interest will turn into come the fall, as we complete our projects for 1.057!

Visiting the colosseum together on our free day in Rome!

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ONE-MA3 – Day XX: Photogrammetry among Pharaohs!

July 17th, 2019ONE-MA3 2019

By Sophia Mittman '22 Today, we got to be professionals. At least, the red bars of tape that blocked off certain areas of the Museo Egizio for us to work in made us feel like we were! Basically, each of the four teams was given a separate scavenger hunt—a scavenger hunt that took us to four or five different artifacts throughout the museum with the mission of taking photographs of each object during the museum’s open hours, making sure to reach every possible nook and cranny on the surface of each artifact that we could reasonably reach. Sometimes we had to photograph small statuettes that were missing their top half. Other times we had to photograph large objects, like giant rectangular stone sarcophagus containers, or even larger objects that required us to climb a ladder in order to get pictures of a tall, stone sarcophagus from the top down. My favorite object that we were assigned was a stone tiger, sitting regally in a position similar to that of the iconic Egyptian Sphinx. Even though the signs on the other side of the red boundary tape said “ongoing research activities”, I’m sure it looked like we were avid tourists, ensuring that we got as many clear photos from every angle of each artifact as possible. Our exclusive research area at the museum             Once complete with the physical task of photogrammetry, we took all of those photos and turned them into 3D models for a slide presentation on our computer [...]

By Sophia Mittman ’22

Today, we got to be professionals. At least, the red bars of tape that blocked off certain areas of the Museo Egizio for us to work in made us feel like we were! Basically, each of the four teams was given a separate scavenger hunt—a scavenger hunt that took us to four or five different artifacts throughout the museum with the mission of taking photographs of each object during the museum’s open hours, making sure to reach every possible nook and cranny on the surface of each artifact that we could reasonably reach. Sometimes we had to photograph small statuettes that were missing their top half. Other times we had to photograph large objects, like giant rectangular stone sarcophagus containers, or even larger objects that required us to climb a ladder in order to get pictures of a tall, stone sarcophagus from the top down. My favorite object that we were assigned was a stone tiger, sitting regally in a position similar to that of the iconic Egyptian Sphinx. Even though the signs on the other side of the red boundary tape said “ongoing research activities”, I’m sure it looked like we were avid tourists, ensuring that we got as many clear photos from every angle of each artifact as possible.

Our exclusive research area at the museum

            Once complete with the physical task of photogrammetry, we took all of those photos and turned them into 3D models for a slide presentation on our computer software, Metashape. The first section of our presentation slides summarized our findings of the relic box that we had analyzed the day before. Then, along with the photogrammetry models, we carefully thought out all of the challenges that go along with completing photogrammetry, which I hadn’t ever thought about before but now understand why they need to be considered whenever performing photogrammetry. For example, one of the biggest challenges is lighting. If an object is not well lit in some places or is half-covered by shadow, some of the three-dimensional details and/or textures may be lost in the final digital model, and the lines between the lit areas and shadow will be distractingly noticeable. Another challenge we faced (especially in the museum setting) concerned shifting backgrounds/environment for photography. Tourists and fellow researchers are constantly moving, either in the background behind the object or in the way of it. With shifting backgrounds, it takes the computer software much longer to align photos for the final model, if it is able to align the photos at all. Finally, one of the most simple issues that comes with being physically able to take pictures of an artifact from all angles, especially if it is in a museum up against a wall, inside of a display case, or surrounded by other artifacts that may block particular views of the object.

 Faced with the challenging of doing photogrammetry on a tall sarcophagus near a wall in the museum

            At the end of the day, once all of the groups had presented their presentations, we found that most of us ran into these same dilemmas while taking pictures of the objects. Sometimes the 3D models would have holes missing from parts of them, or they would be morphed to take on an abnormal shape. For the most part, though, each group was successfully able to model a majority of their assigned artifacts. From the other presentations, we also learned lots about each of the other artifacts: where the sarcophagi came from, how much Egyptian blue pigment was used to paint on them, and a little bit about what the hieroglyphics said on one of the artifacts! In the end, each group produced an augmented-reality postcard of an artifact that we had 3D modeled with both visible light and VIL imaging, which was the cherry on top when it came to synthesizing nearly everything that we have learned up until this point into one single project.

Photogrammetry in the Museo Egizio!

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