You may not be able to judge a book by its cover, but MIT can. They’ve created a new computational imaging camera that can literally read books without opening them.

The technology uses radiation and spectral analysis to measure the distances between pages, and detect ink on pages, which means they can literally see the letters on page 47 of a book without opening it.

That’s good news for things like rare book research, where opening a book may be impossible due to damage, or not worth the risk of damage, according to researchers.

That means that one-of-a-kind texts with water damage or brittle pages may now actually be able to be scanned and digitized, opening up centuries-old knowledge to a new generation of students.

Check out how it works here:

Side note: You’re probably not going to win any points by mentioning this technology the next time someone chastises you for “judging a book by its cover,” of course—unless you happen to work at MIT in which case you’ve got the same sarcasm usage rights as a rocket scientist when someone says, “it’s not rocket science.”

[H/T Gizmodo]