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His paintings are some of the most valuable in the world – yet many of them are slowly fading away.Now scientists have discovered Vincent Van Goghs masterpieces are falling victim to the artists choice of pigments he used in his paint.They have found that a rare mineral in an intense red-coloured paint used by the Dutch impressionist is turning white as it breaks down into flaky white crystals.Scroll down for video 
The colours in Van Goghs masterpiece Sunflowers, two versions of which are shown above on display at the National Gallery, are feared to have also changed as the yellow and red pigments have degraded over timeSamples from Van Goghs paintings have been found to contain the lead-based mineral plumbonacrite that reacts with carbon dioxide in the air.
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They say this mineral is the missing link that may explain why the red lead paint, known as minimum, is turning white. FADING LEGACY OF VAN GOGH Red lead is not the first pigment to be found in Van Goghs work to be failing to stand the test of time.Researchers recently revealed that a red lake pigment he also used has been fading. This had led them to conclude that the blue irises of his Field with Irises near Arles, painted in 1888, were originally a purple colour.Curators at the Van Gogh Musuem in Amsterdam have also found that the colours in Van Goghs Bedroom are also fading during a project to restore the painting.They found in a series of letters to his brother and sister, Van Gogh described in detail the vivid colours of his room.This allowed scientists to reconstruct how the painting would have originally looked.They found that the pale brown floor should have been a richer purple and peach colour while the blue walls were originally an orange-red and violet.Previous work by Professor Janssens has also shown that a bright yellow paint, known as chrome yellow, in Van Goghs paintings has also been changing colour.When exposed to ultraviolet light, his team found the bright orange-yellow pigment darkened into a chocolate brown colour.He believes that Van Goghs technique of blending white and yellow paint together may actually be to blame for the chemical reactions causing this darkening. The researchers, from the University of Antwerp, Belgium, studied microscopic paint samples taken from Van Goghs Wheat Stack Under a Cloudy Sky, which he painted in 1889.Dr Koen Janssens, a chemist at the University of Antwerp, said their findings may explain why other paintings by Van Gogh, such as the priceless Sunflowers and The Bedroom, have faded over time.Speaking to Chemistry World, he said: Normally, the idea is these paintings are there for a hundred years, or 500 years, and they’re static – nothing really changes.But the opposite is actually true when you look in detail.The researchers examined a minute flake of paint taken from a globule on the surface of the pond in the artists oil on canvas painting Wheat Stack Under a Cloudy Sky.The pond originally featured bold red colours that were intended to convey the impression of autumn leaves on the pond.However, over time the red leaves have been turning grey and then white, taking on the appearance of the clouds in the sky above.The researchers, whose work is published in the journal Angewandte Chemie, used a technique known as x-ray powder diffraction tomography to study the paint fleck.They found that at the centre of the fleck, the paint was still a vivid red colour where the original red lead pigment had been protected from the air while the colour changed closer to the surface.Red lead was thought by much of the art world to be a relatively stable pigment, so the idea that it has been breaking down has surprised many.The researchers found that around the red pigment in their sample was a layer of plumbonacrite and then around that white crystals of lead carbonates, hydrocerussites and cerssites. 
Scientists took a microscopic flake of paint from the pond in Van Goghs Wheat Stack Under a Cloudy Sky (shown on the left) and found that beneath the surface the vivid red lead pigment originally used remained (top right and bottom right) but had degraded to grey and white colour on paintings surface (bottom centre)
Descriptions by Van Gogh of the colour of his lodgings that he painted in The Bedroom show that the floor and walls actually contained more red pigment, giving them more vivid shades than they have today
Experts have used computer reconstructions to boost the red in Van Goghs The Bedroom to see how it would have originally looked before they faded under the bright lights that has caused the red pigment to degradeThey believe that sunlight has caused the original red pigment to be converted into plumbonacrite, which in turn reacts with carbon dioxide in the air to form the white crystals.Professor Janssens and his colleagues propose that impurities in the original red lead pigment, also known as minium, may have triggered the degradation in the first place.They say a compound known as litharge, a natural lead oxide mineral, is often a remnant of the process of producing red lead pigment.This mineral is more reactive than the other minerals in red lead and so may have triggered the production of plumbonacrite.Speaking to Mail Online, Professor Janssens said: It might be that this can be interpreted as an indication of a low quality minium, but this is not certain. There are some indication in the literature that the residual amount of PbO (litharge) is also due to the starting material. Experiments are ongoing to clear this up. To make matters worse, however, during restoration efforts of the painting, experts have added zinc white pigments to Wheat Stake Under a Cloudy Sky in an attempt to boost what they believed to be white pigments in the pond.
The red leaves on the pond in Van Goghs Wheat Stacks Under a Cloudy Sky have faded to whiteProfessor Janssens said: The presence of plumbonacrite in paintings or painters materials is very scarce.In our case, the presence of this carbonate-poor lead compound in between the red lead and the carbonate-rich lead white layer strongly suggests that plumbonacrite is present as an intermediate degradation product formed during the whitening of minium.The findings could help future attempts to restore Van Goghs paintings to their original colours by allowing scientists to work out what the pigments used were.Museums could also help to slow the fading by changing the environment in which the paintings are being kept.However, the findings suggest that many of Van Goghs most valuable paintings may be under threat.Professor Janssens said: We know of several in which minium is present at the surface.He added that other pigments used by Van Gogh may also be unstable.He said: We are currently looking together with colleagues from the U.S., Italy and the Netherlands at the instability of the red dye eosine that Van Gogh used to give some of his paintings a red/purple tone and also sometimes to make white areas somewhat pinkish. It fades fast.Van Goghs paintings are widely considered among the most valuable in the world.  One,  known simply as Irises, is listed among the most expensive paintings ever sold and is thought to be now worth more than £70.6 million.Van Gogh struggled to sell his paintings during his life and wrestled with mental illness that led to him cutting off his own ear and later shot himself at the age of 37.It was only after his death that the importance of his work began to be truly recognised and his works are now among the most expensive paintings ever sold.In 1993 his painting A Wheatfield with Cypresses sold for £36 million.Philippe Walter, director of the Laboratory of Moleuclar and Structural Archaeology in France, told Chemistry World: For the conservation of works of art, it is important to look at this phenomenon to be sure to take care about the quantity of light [in museums]. 
Van Gogh, shown in the self portrait on the left, used vivid red colours in many of his paintings, like the $50 million Poppy Flowers (right) which was stolen from Cairos Mohammed Mahmoud Khalil Museum in 2010Shedding light on fading reds in Van Gogh’s paintings | Chemistry World
Plumbonacrite Identified by X‐ray Powder Diffraction Tomography as a Missing Link during Degradation of Red Lead in a Van Gogh Painting – Vanmeert – 2015 – Angewandte Chemie – Wiley Online Library

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Novak Djokovic gives the thumbs up at Indian WellsNovak Djokovic progressed to the fourth round of the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells with a comfortable 7-5 6-3 victory over Albert Ramos-Vinolas.The world No 1 rarely looked troubled as he put together a straight sets triumph over Spaniard Ramos-Vinolas, who is yet to win an ATP Tour title.Djokovic, who would collect a 50th career gong should he defend his championship in the Coachella Valley, must now challenge home favourite John Isner for a place in the quarter-finals.The big-serving American fired down 18 aces as he found his way past Kevin Anderson 7-6 (8/6) 6-2 in a touch under one hour and 20 minutes.Fourth and fifth seeds Andy Murray and Kei Nishikori are safely through after overcoming Philipp Kohlschreiber and Fernando Verdasco respectively.Murray took a first set in 25 minutes but in the end needed the best part of two hours to overcome Kohlschreiber 6-1 3-6 6-1 while Japans Nishikori recovered from an early wobble to edge out Verdasco 6-7 (6/8) 6-1 6-4.Awaiting Murray is Adrian Mannarino following the Frenchmans 6-4 6-4 triumph over Ernests Gulbis and Nishikoris next opponent is Feliciano Lopez.
Djokovic rarely looked troubled as he beat Albert Ramos-Vinolas in straight sets
Ramos-Vinolas of Spain hits a backhand return against Djokovic but was unable to break the world No 1
Jelena Djokovic, wife of the Serbia star, watches on during his match in CaliforniaThe 12th seed from Spain was kept busy until the small hours but eventually completed a 6-2 4-6 6-3 victory over Pablo Cuevas of Uruguay.Also progressing in California were Bernard Tomic – the 7-5 6-4 conqueror of eighth seed David Ferrer – and surprise package Thanasi Kokkinakis.Australias world No 124 went the distance in a meeting with the experienced Juan Monaco that the 18-year-old won 6-2 5-7 7-6 (7/5) in nearly two hours and 47 minutes.In the womens draw, second seed Maria Sharapova battled her way past fierce rival Victoria Azarenka to reach the last 16.The Russian was inferior on her percentages throughout a bruising encounter between two multiple grand slam champions but nevertheless it was Azarenka who found herself saving five match points before succumbing to a 6-4 6-3 defeat.
John Isner awaits Djokovic in the next round after the big-serving American beat Kevin Anderson
Maria Sharapova celebrates beating her fierce rival Victoria Azarenka to reach the last 16Next up for the world No 2 is a meeting with the defending champion, Flavia Pennetta of Italy, who dispatched Sam Stosur 6-4 6-2.Making an early exit was fourth seed Caroline Wozniacki, the victim of a 6-4 6-4 win for Belinda Bencic, while Serbian hopeful Ana Ivanovic was eliminated 6-2 5-7 6-2 by Caroline Garcia.Eugenie Bouchard saw off Coco Vandeweghe 6-3 6-2 with qualifier Lesia Tsurenko ousting Alize Cornet 7-5 1-6 6-2 as Jelena Jankovic defeated Madison Keys 5-7 6-4 6-3.Elsewhere, Sabine Lisicki of Germany called time on 11th seed Sara Erranis campaign with a 6-4 6-2 triumph completed late on Monday night.
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Three men who lost the use of their hands have been given bionic replacements activated by brain signals, it emerged yesterday.A world first, the surgical technique restored function to limbs left almost useless by climbing and car accidents.And it brings hope to other patients who have suffered traumatic injuries or are born with defects.The bionic transplants involved men who sustained severe damage to nerves in the neck that control movement and sensation in the arms. Scroll down for video 
Look ma, no hand: One of the men who has benefitted from Prof Aszmanns treatment, Milorad Marinkovic, shows his bionic arm as he poses for a photograph at his home in Vienna, Austria
Transhumanism: The breakthrough that makes Mr Marinkovics hand work was to obtain neural brain signals through nerve and muscle transplants that could be decoded by the bionic hand and translated into actionsDespite conventional surgery, they ended up with no useful hand function and became candidates for the new technique.First, feeling is restored to the forearm by transplanting some muscle and nerve tissue into the arm – usually from the leg. This boosts the electrical signals from the brain to the arm.Next, the affected hand is amputated to make way for a robotic prosthesis. Sensors in the new hand respond to the electrical impulses from the brain, allowing the patient to carry out normal activities.Following comprehensive rehabilitation, the technique restored a high level of hand function, reveals a report in The Lancet medical journal.  
The bionic hand that can be controlled by the mind
Pioneer: Oskar Aszmann, a world expert in reconstructive surgery, performed the operations on three Austrian men over the past three yearsOskar Aszmann, a world expert in reconstructive surgery, performed the operations on three Austrian men over the past three years.In November, the professor gave a bionic arm to a 21-year-old who had a birth defect. ‘In the future, hand and foot reconstruction will see many new approaches to replace lost limbs and recover function,’ he said.‘Both biological and technical advances can provide treatments unthinkable only a few years ago.’Professor Aszmann said the brachial plexus injuries the patients suffered were in effect an inner amputation, separating the hand from the brain.The injuries often occur as a result of trauma from high-speed collisions, especially in motorcycle accidents, and in contact sports such as rugby and American football. ‘Existing surgical techniques for such injuries are crude and ineffective and result in poor hand function,’ the professor added.He said the breakthrough was to obtain neural brain signals through nerve and muscle transplants that could be decoded by the bionic hand and translated into actions.Three months after surgery the men had substantially better functional movement and were able to accomplish everyday tasks such as picking up a ball, pouring water from a jug or using a key.Professor Simon Kay, who carried out the UK’s first hand transplant, and Daniel Wilks from Leeds Teaching Hospitals, said in a comment in The Lancet that nerve and muscle transfers held promise. But they warned: ‘The final verdict will depend on long-term outcomes, which should include assessment of in what circumstances and for what proportion of their day patients wear and use their prostheses.’Professor Aszmann, who is based at the Medical University of Vienna, worked with engineers from the University Medical Centre in Göttingen, Germany.