There's an email message from Dr. Dirk Obbink making the rounds of assorted lists and he has given me permission to post it to rc (thanks Dr. Obbink!). Dr. Obbink would like to make clear that the post was a response to a Papy-l listmember's misunderstanding (from the Independent article) that the discoveries had just been made last week. It was also intended to be a "less-hyped" description of the process involved ... it isn't intended as a "denial of the Independent article". Here's the message:

Like other collections we do not normally announce our findings in advance
of publication. In this case a team from ISPART (formerly CPART) at Brigham
Young University in Utah spent last week creating MSI images (that is, at
all ranges of the light band) of papyri in Oxford as part of a project begun
in 2002. We scanned portions of the unrolled Herculaneum papyrus in the
Bodleian Library and experimented on problematic carbonised and
non-carbonised samples in the Oxyrhynchus collection in the Sackler Library
(including documents), some of them for final checks in texts scheduled for
publication in the next two volumes of The Oxyrhynchus Papyri. The results,
which are still under analysis, and on some of which I am reporting this
week at the Center for the Study of the Tebtunis Papyri in Berkeley and on
16 May in Oxford, were of mixed success, revealing many new readings and
confirmation of uncertain readings in some problem areas, none at all in
others, depending on settings and surface type. In some ranges and surfaces
even less writing could be read than with the eye or none at all. As usual
with the Oxy. papyri a number of new identifications emerged of literary and
documentary texts not previously made by the usual means, together with the
isolation of four or five different types of surface and obscurity that
respond well or not well to the BYU process. This process, perfected on the
Herculaneum papyri since 1999 (similar to that described by Steven Booras in
Cronache Ercolanesi and Nigel Wilson in his shortly to appear articles on
the Vatican Menander palimpsest in the Journal of the Walters Art Museum and
the proceedings of Rinacimento Virtuale), captures rapidly a series of
high-definition digital images at different ranges of the light spectrum by
means of an automated, rotating wheel containing c.15 filtres and passing
these in successing before the camera's lens. The process seemed to work
best on darkened, charred, or stained surfaces, and can image through some
surface materials, but sees nothing through mud, clay, or silt. It produced
excellent results on palimpsests, cancellations and damnationes memoriae,
and on disintegrating surfaces where the ink has settled deep into the
fibres. It was least successful on surfaces that were partially or entirely
washed out. On abraded and uneven surfaces the camera's long depth of field
elides differences in levels and aids reading by eliminating all shadows and
levelling so that all writing appears well-defined as though on a single
layer. Darkened surfaces tended to respond best deep in the infra-red end of
the wave-band (c.800-1000 nanometers), but not exclusively so: each papyrus
and surface (and sometimes parts of each) responds best (i.e. with maximum
reflectivity, contrast, and definition, so that background noise is
eliminated) at a completely different point (which must be located) in the
spectrum, including some in the ultra-violet range. Surprisingly, in one
trial the process successfully imaged through painted gesso, revealing a
previously unknown document (report to a strategos) on the papyrus cartonage
surface underneath.

The London press got wind of this (the unrolled Herculaneum papyrus of
Epicurus' Peri physeos in the British Library is being done this week) and
reported enthusiastically, if selectively. No mention, for example, was made
of the success on the Bodleian Herculaneum papyrus (P.Herc. 118), now
thereby revealed to be a Peri Epikourou or at any rate a pre-Philodemean
history of the school. The article certainly should not have said (if it
did) that all the papyri had been discovered yesterday, only that we made
significant (and sufficiently exciting) advances in reading and confirmation
of identifications with some, the same with some other pieces, while still
others were identified for the first time, some standard classical authors,
as usual, while others remain complete mysteries. Readings from some
identified from earlier multi-spectral trials since 2002 were refined. The
Oxyrhynchus texts will be published in The Oxyrhynchus Papyri, beginning
with the next volume (LXIX), still scheduled for publication next month. An
article on the technical aspects is planned for Scientific American.