Thanks to amazing 3D scans, Notre Dame can be rebuilt almost exactly as it was

The world watched in horror Monday night while flames tore through the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. As the fire consumed the roof and toppled its iconic central spire, it seemed as though the historic church could be lost forever — but it’s possible, thanks to cutting-edge imagining technology, that all hope may not be lost. Thanks to the meticulous work of Vassar art historian Andrew Tallon, every exquisite detail and mysterious clue to the building’s 13th-century construction was recorded in a digital archive in 2015 using laser imaging. For his scans of Notre Dame, Tallon recorded data from more than 50 locations in and around the cathedral, resulting in a staggering one billion points of data. Each scan begins by mounting the laser onto a tripod and placing in the center of the structure. The laser sweeps around the area in every direction, and as it hits a surface, the beam bounces back, recording the exact placement and surface of whatever buttress or column it landed on by measuring the time it took the beam to return. Every measurement is recorded as a colored dot, combining together into a detailed picture, like the color pixels of a digital photograph. Eventually, those millions of dots form a three-dimensional snapshot of the cathedral. These records have revolutionized our understanding of how the spectacular building was built — and could provide a template for how Paris could rebuild.

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Thanks to amazing 3D scans, Notre Dame can be rebuilt almost exactly as it was

The world watched in horror Monday night while flames tore through the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. As the fire consumed the roof and toppled its iconic central spire, it seemed as though the historic church could be lost forever — but it’s possible, thanks to cutting-edge imagining technology, that all hope may not be lost. Thanks to the meticulous work of Vassar art historian Andrew Tallon, every exquisite detail and mysterious clue to the building’s 13th-century construction was recorded in a digital archive in 2015 using laser imaging. For his scans of Notre Dame, Tallon recorded data from more than 50 locations in and around the cathedral, resulting in a staggering one billion points of data. Each scan begins by mounting the laser onto a tripod and placing in the center of the structure. The laser sweeps around the area in every direction, and as it hits a surface, the beam bounces back, recording the exact placement and surface of whatever buttress or column it landed on by measuring the time it took the beam to return. Every measurement is recorded as a colored dot, combining together into a detailed picture, like the color pixels of a digital photograph. Eventually, those millions of dots form a three-dimensional snapshot of the cathedral. These records have revolutionized our understanding of how the spectacular building was built — and could provide a template for how Paris could rebuild.

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