Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Might this be how the Turin Shroud was faked, using medieval alchemy?

Here it is folks: the best I can offer after more than 3 years  of almost non-stop experimentation : Model 9  ("the nitric acid model").

Alternative name (afterthought, added 25th April): this new technique produces what might be called a "tactile chemograph".  Maybe there was only one ever produced (the image that we now call the Turin Shroud).  The tactile chemograph may be thought of as a forerunner of the photograph. (In both instances, one produces a latent image from a real person without harming them in any way, one that can then be developed in a bath (or vapour chamber) with the appropriate developing chemicals.

That's my own (right) hand.  Behind it is a negative image on linen of my (left) hand produced using the new (?) technology. I've had to mix left and right to make a comparison (imprinting not only produces a negative image but  left-right reversal too)

Here's the same negative image in close-up. I've cut out the unsightly part where there was excessive manual  moulding of linen to side relief (but was able to utilize the removed portion for fruitful experimentation).  As mentioned in the preceding posting,  the cut out was used to test the effect of neutralizing the excess nitric acid, with the unexpected effect of enhancing both image colour  (yellow to yellow-brown) and the contrast CHEMICALLY - not digitally.

Details will follow. That's if anyone is interested (comments invited- see sidebar for quick link).  If not I'll leave it at this - short and (arguably) sweet and take a holiday from scientific model-building for a while (weeks rather than days).  It can be an exhausting business, and somewhat hazardous too when fumes off concentrated nitric acid are my suggested means for  producing the elusive result - that 'enigmatic'  and highly superficial Shroud of Turin image - at least at the macro level.

Reminder (from posting preceding this one):

Step 1:Imprint off 3D template (possibly a real person, living or dead OR an effigy thereof in wood, stone, clay etc) painted with heat-gelatinized white flour.

Step 2. Develop the proto-image by exposing to nitric acid (HNO3) fumes

Step3. Neutralise the unreacted acid in the fibres (e.g. by dusting with chalk, or rinsing with lime water).

Here's an earlier picture showing the crucial testing of the third step (neutralization of acid) performed on the unsightly excised portion of the hand imprint.

The portion on the right is the untreated control, i.e. hand imprint after partial dissipation of nitric acid fumes in air (outdoors!).

The left hand portion was cut off between the two crosses. That.s when I noticed the stiff nature of the image area with a coarse texture (hardly surprising, given that flour is mainly starch). Would the stiffness disappear if the cloth were washed, while leaving the image? But first, there was another test that could be done before wetting the fabric. I crumpled and kneaded the fabric. Immediately the fabric in the image area began to disintegrate, assisted no doubt by the presence of the stiffening agent that assisted thread fracture. All the more reason, then, to minimise the weakening of the linen by getting the fabric from the fumigation chamber into a weak alkali solution ASAP. The left hand portion in the photo above was the appearance AFTER doing just that - immersing the offcut in sodium bicarbonate solution, testing before and after with pH indicator to check that acid had been neutralised, then rinsing thoroughly and drying.  Not only had the image not washed out, but it had intensified and changed from yellow to yellow-brown, becoming arguably more Shroud-like.

Expect some more experimental details to be added in the next day or two, plus the results of imprinting off a miniature effigy made from moulded clay (after air-drying and sealing).

That's the home-made template on the right, alongside the brass crucifix used in so many of my previous "heat scorch" experiments. Quick-drying emulsion paint was used as a sealant (what would medieval folk have used to seal the pores of unfired earthenware on wonders?). Imprints are developing in acid fumes (locked garage) as we speak.

Some details re the imprinting technology thus far (as promised)

I used my right hand to paint the left one with a thick paste made the previous day using white flour and hot water (it set to a gel overnight in the fridge, which reverted to a paste on stirring). Linen was placed on top, as shown, and then pressed down firmly to produce an imprint on the underside of the linen. Note the considerable detail in the imprint, even at this early stage.

Here's an early stage in setting up the fumigation (garage! eye protection?  face mask! ).

The linen with its flour imprint has been stuffed into the 'goldfish bowl', secured with the blue tape to leave a clearance between fabric and base to leave room for acid. The concentrated nitric acid (hazardous! not for the faint-hearted) is then introduced via the funnel so as to form a 1cm deep layer under the fabric without touching it directly. The idea is to funigate the image. After carefully removing the funnel a sheet of glass was used as a lid, weighed down to get a reasonable seal. The garage was then vacated ASAP and locked with a no-entry sign on door. Chemical development took place overnight.

Here's the imprint after development with nitric acid, but before neutralizing the excess acid. There's not a lot to see at this stage, and it's still a chemical hazard, needless to say.

Here's the developed imprint in the wash hand basin, ready for rinsing and neutralization of unreacted acid with sodium bicarbonate.

Ready to neutralize the excess acid.

The acid has been neutralized (the pH now being greater than 7). Already the image on the linen looks darker (now more brown than yellow).

Final step: after thorough rinsing and drying, the imprint can be safely ironed, ready for displaying on one's blog... 

Note: there are no reasons for thinking this image is not a permanent one, but time will tell.

All the photos on this posting are 'as is' from the camera. Apart from cropping, there have been no changes to brightness, contrast or other photoediting.

Afterthought: who'll be first to say that I've failed to produce a perfect facsimile copy of the fingers on the Shroud - that mine are ordinary everyday sort of fingers, not the spindly unnaturally elongated fingers one sees on the Shroud?  As for the hint of fingernails on my image - well, that rules it out of contention straightaway! You read it here first.

Afterthought to afterthought: there's a simple answer to those overlong fingers on the Shroud. The subject was alive, say a non-deceased medieval monk, and his hands shifted during the imprinting process. Maybe the imprinter briefly applied to much pressure, causing the hands to slide on the slippery abdomen, creating a skid-mark effect, captured for posterity.

Update:  Wednesday 22 April, 15:10

I have a new imprinting medium, a very different one from the flour gel used so far. It's of animal origin, not plant, it requires much shorter development times, and if I'm not mistaken, appears to protect the background non-image areas of linen (maybe 'trapping ' nitric acid more efficiently?). What's more it was well known in medieval times, indeed for millennia.

Here's what an imprint off my trusty brass crucifix looks like with the new wonder material after neutralizing excess acid, and applying the autocorrect menu option to the snapshot:

 Here's a light/dark reversal, using the Edit Invert function of ImageJ (autocorrected for additional contrast).

Update: Wednesday April 22, 22:00

Here's a further responses or rather query, regarding  the new model, appearing just now on shroudstory.com, and my immediate reply.

April 22, 2015 at 3:04 pm
Can you explain in detail the advantages of your new hypothesis with regard to your ‘old’ scorch hypothesis

April 22, 2015 at 3:47 pm 
Off the top of my head (maybe with afterthoughts later):
1. One can imprint off a real person (or statue, bas relief etc). The imprinting medium (flour paste etc) is non-injurious to skin.
2. One can mould the linen to contours manually if desired, capturing as much or as little of the 3D relief as one wishes (with more or less risk of lateral distortion).
3. Development of the image in the fumigation chamber can be monitored visually at intervals over minutes or hours until one has obtained optimum image intensity, and the least damage to linen fibres.
4. Retained acid fumes after development can be neutralized, either with lime water, or by dry dusting with powdered chalk. However, some weakening of fibres must be expected.
5.The end-product can be claimed to be an ancient sweat imprint, left on Joseph of Arimathea’s linen when the body was transferred from cross to a makeshift stretcher/body bag.
6. The technique allows for blood (or blood substitute) to be applied at the same time as body-imprinting medium, provided the blood or substitute stays red in nitric acid fumes (real blood does not – it quickly turns a brown colour). Blood would have been applied after. i.e. directly on top of the gooey imprinting medium to account for there being no body image under Shroud “blood”.
7.The use of an extraneous organic material (flour etc) allows for the possibility of the newly-imprinted and developed image being conspicuous, but slowly fading over the centuries as the pigmented material flaked off or became otherwise degraded, provided there was a fairly stable “ghost image” left behind, the one we see today.
8. When applied to new linen, the technique has a side-effect that would be seen as a bonus – artificial ageing of the linen. Centuries later, pro-authenticity chemists and others would be delighted to find there was less potential vanillin and more mechanical weakness than would be expected of medieval linen a mere 700 years old.
9. An imprint developed by oxidation and/or other chemical reactions may (or may not) lack the fluorescence of a thermal scorch image.
10. Chemical action of limited duration may result in more superficial change to linen fibres than is possible by thermal scorching, such that one sees no colouring at the interface of the SCW and central lumen. Reverse-side coloration can be minimized by suitable adaption of technique (thick linen, use of sizes to block up pores, use of viscous imprinting media etc).
As properly noted, all this is simply an hypothesis at this stage, one that will need a lot of experimental work to evaluate, with the possibility of premature paradigm death at any stage. However, I shall be taking a break from experimental work for at least a fortnight probably longer, these last few weeks having been fairly hectic, spent in and out of the garage, trying to avoid or escape acid spillage and acid fumes, first with the H2SO4, and now with HNO3 (Phase 1 complete).

Update Thursday

...and the last of those comments had this appended as a postscript, though how many get to see it when a single individual then posts 6 comments in short order (more on the way?) remains to be seen. This blogger NEVER forgets those who abuse blog sites that have a fixed number of entries under Recent Comments, in this instance 10 only.

April 23, 2015 at 4:10 am
PS. After sleeping on that list of 10 points, all I would add for now is a gift wrapper in dubious good taste (thinking of the sensibilities that prevail generally on this site, with one or two notable exceptions).
There’s a bit of code in scientific research, summed up as “looking where the light is”. Charles Freeman is the historian with his “just a painting” thesis (dogma?) who is simply “looking where the light is”. PDL and his under-occupied ENEA pals with their employers’ laser beams are also looking where the light is, or what they imagine may have existed for a one-off instant in time, (and thus beyond the remit of science, JoeM).
My latest hypothesis explains why the TS is also a one-off, but of medieval provenance,and while difficult to fathom, is still definitely within the remit of science, provided one is prepared to think like a medieval, and not confine one’s search to where the light is.
My new starting point, a year or so ago, was to regard the TS as an attempt to replicate Joseph of Arimathea’s linen as it might have looked on arrival at the tomb, BEFORE being replaced by the real burial attire, i.e. Nicodemus’s “winding” sheets after washing and spices, oils etc. It was intended to be a bigger and better whole-body, front and back negative imprint (NOT painting) that would trump the Veil of Veronica, then the major draw for medieval pilgrims according to Neil McGregor, recently retired Director of the British Museum.
The task was to simulate a conjoint sweat and blood imprint, but to do it in a way that could/would stand up to the closest critical and sceptical scrutiny (barring the canny bishops of Troyes, watching the upstart ‘relic’ drawing funds away from their own cathedral upkeep ).
No, they did not scorch the body image with a heated template, not if the aim was to simulate an ancient sweat imprint. They consulted an alchemist, possibly one with a sympathetic religious disposition (Paul of Taranto, the Franciscan monk?). He in turn delivered state-of-the-art proto-chemical technology, in the form of nitric acid fumes, guaranteed to turn virtually any organic material into a yellow or brown stain on linen. Sure, it weakens the linen itself, but then the fibres on the TS ARE weaker than expected for something that is only 700 years old according to the radiocarbon dating (objections noted).
If as I suspect Paul of Taranto, or someone similar, was the brains behind the TS, then we have an explanation for why the TS image is exotic and such a well-kept secret (our alchemist/cleric may have thought that in harnessing his (al)chemical know how for the greater glory of God, he was saving souls that would otherwise have endured everlasting torment. In short, the ends justified the means. A similar hard-headed philosophy appears to prevail to this day (viz. current exposition in Turin).

Update: Friday 24th April:

David Goulet has asked how that hand imprint above responds in ImageJ.

Here's the result - a 5 minute job with no attempt to find the 'perfect' combination of settings.

Here's a Secondo Pia type light/dark reversal, one that restores the 'negative' image to a positive. (Used Edit Invert in ImageJ).

And here's the effect of some minor changes to the default settings in ImageJ's 3D rendering option. I've seen better. I've seen worse .

The Turin Shroud. was this the world's first and only tactile chemograph (think of it as a primitive 'photographic' negative, except for one tiny detail. Neither light not any other kind of electromagnetic radiation played any part in its production. It relied on the human touch (well, gentle massage actually).

What finally persuaded this blogger to abandon thermal scorching, and move to liquid (or semi-liquid) imprinting? It was that paper that Joe Accetta PhD presented at the St.Louis gathering, 2014, in which he propsoed that the TS image had been produced by woodblock imprinting. Up till that time I'd always been sceptical re the use of any kind of liquid imprinting medium, considering that would risk a reverse-side image. But I concocted my own equivalent of Joe's "oak gall" imprinting ink, in which the iron salts probably have a mordant action, as well as creating the ink by reaction with plant tannins. Here's an image produced, substituting tannin-rich pomegranate rind extract for oak galls, supplemented with iron (II)sulphate.

That 'wet' image was as good, if not better than anything produced by scorching. Yes. there was some reverse-side penetration, but might that not be minimized by suitable modification of technique, or simply by using thicker linen (and the TS linen IS thick, as Hugh Farey has observed).

Once liquid imprinting was permitted as an option, then a host of new experimental options were opened up. Thanks Joe Accetta. You weaned me of those thermal scorches (but they were useful in other ways, showing that ANY negative imprint can model certain key features of the TS, notably negative image and 3D-enhancibility). Models in science do not need to tick all boxes simultaneously. One can run different models in parallel, each earning its keep in one or other respect, while patiently waiting for the day when the super-model suggests itself, one  that combines the best features of its precursors, not only mine, but those of Garlaschelli and Accetta in particular. Hugh Farey and Adrie van der Hoeven added some useful and thought-provoking grist to the mill too, though whether they and the previous two would approve of the end-result is another matter.

Might tactile chemography prove to be the super-model? We shall see. These are early days, but I'm (how shall we say?) quietly confident.

Update Tuesday 28 April

Where next? Here are some thoughts posted earlier today to shroudstory.com:

  1. April 28, 2015 at 12:49 am
    As indicated earlier, I’m taking a break from experimentation, while taking stock of results so far (and the trickle of comments here and elsewhere).
    There are some new variants I shall be testing re the initial imprinting and subsequent development.
    Imprinting: is it better to do it as already described, with the imprinting medium placed first on the subject, before draping the linen over, OR is it better to do it Garlaschelli style (“frottage” as he calls it) where the linen is placed over first, and the medium then added last for moulding around contours?
    If I stick with my procedure, is it better to imprint LOTTO or LUWU configuration, those acronyms having been tested in my contact scorch model. (LOTTO = Linen On Top, Then Overlay; LUWU = Linen Underneath With Underlay) Each has its pros and cons where an inanimate template (statue, bas relief etc) is concerned, while for a real human being LOTTO is better obviously then LUWU.
    Then there’s the imprinting medium. The pilot study used a hot water dispersion of white wheat flour. I’m thinking of trying a cold water dispersion, so as to have intact endosperm cells.The latter have their starch granules and storage protein nicely enveloped in a primary cell wall sac whose composition will probably not be dissimilar from that of the superficial PCW of the linen fibre.

    Cross section of wheat grain. Note the internal cellular architecture of the endosperm, and the 'graininess' of the latter due to starch granules and storage protein.

    SEM photomicrograph of internal structure of the wheat grain, Note the large endosperm cell, note its thin (primary) cell wall, note the much smaller starch granules within the endosperm cells.

    On the general principle that like is attracted to like in organic chemistry (polar/polar; apolar/apolar) , there might be something to be said for bonding a compatible microparticulate substance to the linen first as a possibly more receptive carpet for image capture.
    Finally, I shall try substituting a purely thermal treatment for nitric acid vapour.(essentially Garlaschelli technology). That too might produce a TS like coloration and image, either by oxidation of carbohydrates OR via Maillard reactions between sugars and proteins (yup, we’ve been there before in the scorch model, but here the chemistry is being tested in the new two step imprinting/developing model for which I have high hopes.

    Update Sunday May 3

    This comment has just appeared on the shroudstory site.(I've omitted allexcept the last paragraph):

    daveb of wellington nz
    May 2, 2015 at 7:34 pm

    Colin has now been attempting to reproduce the properties of the image for some three years, with indifferent success only, although I applaud his perseverance. Might we suppose that a less chemistry-informed artisan would have struck it lucky any sooner? As one early commentator observed, Colin is more likely to end up proving the resurrection from all his efforts.

    Don't you just love the man's pomposity?

    Here's my reply (Yes, I'm sitting on something just 12 hours old that could give the new model a real boost):

    May 3, 2015 at 12:22 am
    Colin is continuing to do open-ended experimentation. He has just stumbled on an entirely unpredicted effect with his new cheiropoietic hand/flour/water model (Stage 1 imprinting), one that is arguably replete with possible implications re image fuzziness. It’s to do with instant adhesion, dare one suggest ‘medieval superglue’. It’s to do with instant fleecing-up of linen. Details later.


    Ooops. I'm doing myself down in that comment, since I did in fact predict the effect just a week ago in these words from above:

    "On the general principle that like is attracted to like in organic chemistry (polar/polar; apolar/apolar) , there might be something to be said for bonding a compatible microparticulate substance to the linen first as a possibly more receptive carpet for image capture."

    Have been on holiday this last week. Mind's gone a blank.

    The key word? The new lead?  Answer: adhesion. That's instant adhesion.

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