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Preserving the Past with Lasers

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"Using cutting-edge 3D scanning technology, crews from a nonprofit called CyArk have wedged themselves into seldom-seen spaces in four of the state's 21 missions, bouncing 50,000 laser beams a second off centuries-old timbers. The idea is to map the fragile structures more precisely than they've ever been, creating virtual 3D models accurate down to millimeters. Even if earthquakes or fires were to devastate them, detailed plans for rebuilding would be just a mouse click away, said CyArk's founder, a retired civil engineer named Ben Kacyra." Using the portable 3D laser scanner Kacyra invented, CyArk has been surveying sites around the world. Over the next few years he'll survey the rest of California's missions--it's four presidios and three pueblos in a project funded by preservation groups and private donors. [LAT]