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"Science fiction operates a little bit like science itself, in principle. You've got thousands of people exploring ideas, putting forth their own hypotheses. Most of them are dead wrong; a few stand the test of time; everything looks kind of quaint in hind"
- Peter Watts

Trimagniscope  
  A device that produced a usable cross-sectional image of any part of an object.  

Mysterious artifacts are found, including a book that is too damaged to open. Is it possible to read the pages?

The image on the Trimagniscope tube was an enlarged view of one of the pocket-size books found on the body, which Dancheckker had shown them on their first day in Houston three weeks before. The book itself was enclosed in the scanner module of the machine, on the far side of the room. The scope was adjusted to generate a view that followed the change in density along the boundary layer of the selected page, producing an image of the lower section of the book only; it was as if the upper part had been removed, like a cut deck of cards. Because of the age and condition of the book, however, the characters on the page thus exposed tended to be of poor quality and in some cases were incomplete. The next step would be to scan the image optically with TV cameras and feed the encoded pictures in the Navcomms computer complex. The raw input would then be processed by pattern recognition techniques and statistical techniques to produce a second, enhanced copy with many of the missing character fragments restored.
From Inherit the Stars, by James P. Hogan.
Published by Del Rey in 1977
Additional resources -

The Trimagniscope could be adjusted to allow for pages that were not flat; a set of images could be combined to allow a view of the surface of an uneven page.

Thanks to Andrew Byro for suggesting this item.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Inherit the Stars
  More Ideas and Technology by James P. Hogan
  Tech news articles related to Inherit the Stars
  Tech news articles related to works by James P. Hogan

Trimagniscope-related news articles:
  - Diamond Light Source Illuminates Manuscripts
  - Reading A Scroll Burned To Charcoal

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