Monday, June 1, 2015

Are the peculiar fingers of the Turin Shroud a pointer to medieval forgery? My new imprinting "Stick 'n' Stain" model says they are.

Left: Turin Shroud hands, as-is 'negative' image. Centre: The same after a Secondo Pia style tone inversion in ImageJ.  Right: The same after 3D-rendering in ImageJ.

Anything that points to manual moulding of linen to a human subject, to produce an image that could not have resulted from gravitational pressure alone (as in a sheet of linen loosely draped over subject) has to be a pointer to forgery. That would be consistent with the radiocarbon dating too (1260-1390) to say nothing of the first recorded appearance of the TS in western Europe (public exposition, commemorative medal!) having been at the tiny village of Lirey, France in 1357 approx. To that can be added some new chemical intelligence from your host: nitric acid, my Stage 2 developer, not only converts a white flour imprint to a sepia coloured image. it imparts an instant 'aged look' to new linen. Nitric acid would also sterilize the linen, killing off all mould spores, bacteria etc, conceivably a factor in explaining its remarkable longevity and resistance to decay, even if a "mere" 700 years old.

 What about those long spindly fingers? What if anything are they telling us about the genesis of the TS image? I'll spare the reader the ideas that have come from pro-authenticity so-called science - like bursts of x-rays emanating from a corpse undergoing resurrection to produce a radiograph on linen. (Yes, it's even been modelled using swallowed technetium-99m). Or that Jesus suffered from Marfan's syndrome.
See the fascinating feature on technetium-99 and other radiotracers in modern medicine entitled: "The element that can make bones glow."

In Luigi Garlaschelli's medieval forgery model, in which most of the body was imaged by manual 'frottage' with a powder or slurry (except for the head where a bas relief was used) the fingers were also seen as problematic. It was suggested they were painted on , and none-too-expertly.

In my now abandoned contact scorch model, the problem was that the need for a heated metal template (200 degrees C or higher) meant that nothing could be usefully done re the peculiar fingers. Their appearance would have been due to an anatomically-incorrect statue or bas relief.

However, this blogger did look briefly in mid-2014 at what happens when one imprints off one's own hands and fingers, using a non-toxic 'paint' as imprinting medium.

Nutella imprints onto cotton.Left: linen moulded onto coated back of hand. Right: coated hand pressed downward into linen.  The latter geometry produced the bonier-looking imprint.

He made no attempt to conceal the choice of 'paint' - using Nutella, and attracting some ribald comment that sadly detracted from the science, namely that while TS finger length possibly remains problematical, finger width, including excessively spindly-looking fingers, does not, not by a long chalk (spindly or not), assuming the imaging occurred as a result of contact-imprinting under applied manual pressure. That's as distinct from those wacky pro-authenticity models that would have us believe that flashes of high energy radiation produced the image, operating across air gaps where there is (or cannot be) actual physical contact. I've expressed my views on that kind of pseudo-science previously, and shall say no more.

The more perceptive among my readers, well, reader (good morning Adrie) can probably guess what comes next. Correct. This blogger has deployed his new model, hopefully one that is less risible to lay folk than Nutella spread. Yes, it's that flour imprinting/nitric acid developing 'chemography' model, the one that Shroudology is for the most part either ignoring, dismissing or desperately seeking one-line put-downs that will efface it forever from the Shroudosphere, leaving sindonological research in the safe hands of the SSG (and assorted PR spokespeople on their various Shroudie websites).

Yes. I've been taking a closer look at how hands and fingers behave in the new 21st, sorry, 14th century technology.

Firstly, there are 4 chief modes in which one can imprint one's fingers onto linen.

Top row, left to right: :1 and 2:  imprint back of hand, fingers together; 3 and 4: back of hand, fingers apart; Bottom row 5 and 6: :imprint palm side of hand, fingers together, 7 and 8: palm side, fingers apart.
Note: in the experiments reported here, linen was pressed down onto hand in all cases, using several layers of towel between linen and other pressure-applying hand to prevent excessive moulding of linen around curvatures of 3D relief. This geometry, together with buffering of applied pressure deliberately avoids introducing a modelling bias towards excessive TS-like 'boniness' in the imprint (chosen as an initial compromise strategy to avoid  excessive lateral distortion of imprinted image).

Results: these are Kodak-printer (RIP) scanned images (not photographs):

Hand imprints from two-stage flour/nitric acid model, using the 4 modes described earlier, as is without photoediting.

As above, after applying Autocorrect in MS Office Picture Manager

Interpretation? See later.

But what about reverse side imaging (recalling that the TS image shows no reverse side image visible to the unaided eye, excluding that paper with somewhat opaque computer-processing that may (or may not) be artefactual? Be prepared for a surprise, dear reader, if you are not acquainted with two previous postings of mine from way back, when still wedded to the contact-scorch model (decree nisi now issued):

Faint reverse side images? The kiss of death to the new model?

As above,with Autocorrect  (with lipstick?)

But take a hand lens to the above images, and ones sees that the brown coloration is not on the reverse side linen threads and fibres. It's in the interstices of the linen. How can that be? The interstices are holes or gaps created by weaving of threads at right angles (warp and weft).

As shown many moons ago, using a red marker pen initially as a modelling tool, the reverse-side "imaging" one sees above is an artefact of viewing (or scanning) the reverse-side image against a white reflective background. Here's the same, placing a black sheet behind the image to prevent (or largely reduce) back-reflection of coloured light:

Here's the result when one electronically scans against a black background. Note that the "reverse-side" imaging has now almost entirely disappeared.

Maybe MS Autocorrect will detect reverse-side imaging against the black background. Let's try:

Nope. Only just visible. That impression/appearance of reverse-side imaging above was almost entirely artefactual, due to back-reflection of light through the interstices of the weave.

Conclusions so far: figure them out for yourselves dear readers, while I think about wording. You see, this is not just any blog. It's a running report in real time of a real research project, possibly the first of its kind, one that began in December 2011.

This blogger is not going to be hurried into making rash conclusions. Neither does he take short cuts, or indulge in flights of fancy, unlike those demob-happy STURP seniors, post that oh-so-dreary 1981 Summary.

 This is real science, plodding maybe, but it's the way this retired science bod chooses to operate. If folk on those other internet sites don't like it, then believe me I sympathise. They should seek their enlightenment  elsewhere, supplied perhaps by the purveyors of happy-clappy pseudo-science. Maybe look back again in six months? Maybe there will be more blogging eye candy? Maybe not.

What's still to come? Maybe the suggestion that the TS image had to be manually assisted to get the hand and finger imprint we see, ie. a sure sign of forgery,  requiring applied pressure. not just gravity effects on a loosely-draped sheet of linen.

 Late addition :

Linen draped loosely over hand - not sign of fingers, as seen when linen is applied to flour-pasted hand

 What you see above is the most scientifically-revealing image in the current posting, and dare I say, the most important in my 300 postings to date  (I confidently expect more charges of arrogance). Loosely draped linen, hanging under the force of Earth's gravity alone does NOT conform to finer details of body contours, certainly not anything so discrete and detailed as the bunched fingers of the hand. (Yes, the test needs to be repeated with a weightier length of linen fully matching that of the Shroud, but I'm confident that the outline of individual fingers will NOT be seen through the linen). The only way those fingers could have been imaged - especially to get that bony-appearance, assuming a real person, not a statue - is if there had been (a) applied manual pressure from a second person, read medieval forger,  and (b) an imprinting medium that allowed the impressed moulding and indentation of linen to the body's 3D relief to be captured and retained as a permanent image. That needs some kind of  er, adhesive paste.

Like this, for example:

It's almost as if my hand had been shrink-wrapped.

Or there again, maybe not. Might it have also required the adhesive properties of a white flour paste in water, sticking linen to subject, aided by rapid water abstraction ("wicking") via capillary action into linen to give a sharpish flour imprint when the linen is pulled away? Maybe, maybe not.

Oops. Have omitted to comment on apparent finger width, depending on whether the fingers are held together or spread apart. Notice anything? The fingers look more spindly and unreal in the imprints where they are touching. Reason? The linen tends to 'bridge' the fingers, being unable to penetrate the narrow groove that separates them . When the fingers are held apart, the linen can loop down between the fingers, making contact with more of their sides. Result: some lateral imaging, aka distortion, that makes the fingers look fatter than in the bunched-together configuration. Having said that, the fat fingers are probably closer to their real width, as measured in a photograph, than the spindly ones. The spindly fingers of the man on the Shroud are prima facie evidence for imaging by contact, and ONLY by contact. It's time that imaging via models that depend on collimated radiation of unspecified wavelength, severely attenuated by air to explain 3D properties and apparent 3.7cm cut-off, are recognized for the pseudo-science they are. It's one thing to try and fit Shroud properties to a supernatural event. One cannot go inventing new science to make the connection, and expect real scientists to demur. Pseudo-science has to be seen for what it is: an abuse of the language of science to distort reality, to drive an agenda that is not supported by the available facts.
More later? Maybe. Maybe not. This is now a conversation with myself, or anyone who chooses to post their comment HERE.

Update: what this site needs is a handy symbol of the critical first step of the new model showing linen STUCK to a hand, defying gravity. The amazing degree of conformity between linen and physical contours, with fingernails clearly visible, at least in the model, would be impossible to ignore. Here's a flipped image from my archive file that will serve as temporary stand-in while I mix up some more paste and try to find a more salubrious background for photography.


Further update: there are two obnoxious individuals on the Porter site who are constantly trying not just to belittle  my new model, but my scientific credentials as well.

I shan't dignify their ad hom with an individual reply - that would only encourage them to make further attacks. To the one whom tries to make invidious comparisons with another Shroud scientist, I suggest he do what I've just done, which is to google (dietary fibre resistant starch) and see who, in one of my chosen areas of research, different I might add from those whom he hero-worships, has accumulated the highest number of citations under Scholarly articles (which has just passed the 400 mark).

How can one set one scientist against another when they work in different areas of research (and in any case, I was not free to devote my entire time to research, having additional advisory and managerial responsibilities in my role as Section Head at an industrial food research association).

And to the 'lady' who trolls me constantly, and who bizarrely saw fit yesterday to ridicule me for the fact that my Shroud ideas receive no mention currently in wikipedia, I suggest she click on the wiki entry, visible above, for dietary fibre/resistant starch. There she will find my contribution recognized. The difference of course is that my resistant starch work was peer-reviewed and published in reputable journals, whereas  my Shroud work is confined so far to the blogosphere (wiki stating not so long ago that it did not regard that arena as sufficiently reliable and/or authoritative - despite continuing to showcase a particular individual's highly partisan pdfs that are hosted by Dan Porter's pro-authenticity Shroud site, despite also not having undergone peer review - except my own - unacknowledged).  Wiki really needs to be more vigilant AND consistent.

Further update: back to the science (I'm only here for the science):

Here are some pictures taken just a few minutes ago with the focus on that all-important gravity-defying ADHESION, the key  methinks to successful imaging by contact, both in the 21st and 14th century:

Pasted hand

Linen adhering to pasted hand, conforming closely to anatomical relief.

Fresh imprint left by flour paste on linen prior to chemical development.

More later (like some thoughts on why googling (Shroud Turin nitric acid) thus far shows listings for only one site (shroudstory) apart from my own. That's despite the present model having been proposed some 6 weeks ago. But then the internet has never been particularly science-friendly. Antipathy towards science - and the practitioners of science - is, one suspects, part of the explanation. In fact I happen to share some of that antipathy if it's based  not only on specialized jargon, secret gardens etc but the general distrust re scientific claims, especially those that are trumpeted prematurely in the media (which is where we came in)...

Am still seeking a name for the model that encapsulates the principles, without being too specific as to the details.  The "two-stage adhesive imprinting /chemically-assisted colour-development"  model? Oh dear. One will have to do better than that.

Update: Tuesday 2nd June 2015, 09:20

How about:

The "Stick 'n' Stain" Model?

Yup, that's it. That'll do nicely. I'll say it again, a bit more loudly:

The "Stick 'n' Stain" Model

Have just slipped  "Stick 'n' Stain" into the title of this posting.

I shall now cease ALL experimentation, resist the temptation to proselytize on sites other than my own,  and (just for fun) google "stick 'n' stain" at 9am each day, reporting the result here. 

Here's time zero, with just 4 results so far:


This after all is the diary of a research project, started in December 2011,that has now, finally, do I hear a huge sigh of relief ?, reached its natural (or should that be unnatural?) conclusion. 

Let's now see whether the internet and wider blogosphere take note of my very own novel "Stick 'n' Stain" model.  Or is it still necessary to tip off the MSM to get the oxygen (or CO2!) of  publicity. I personally, let it be said,  have no desire or ambition to see my name in print - except maybe as the monicker adopted here and elsewhere, i.e. "sciencebod".

Expect to see a brief posting appear here (or maybe my specialist Shroud site) summarising the stages in the evolution of the "stick 'n' stain" model. It will start with the hunch taking shape back in early 2014 that the TS was not intended a burial shroud at all, but merely a means for transporting a bloody, sweat-laden  body from the cross to the nearby tomb in as discreet and respectful a fashion as possible, using Joseph of Arimathea's expensive purchase of linen. The TS has come to us as a highly inventive and imaginative way of recreating that transport scenario in the form of a relic that while fake may well have been well-intentioned, at least where the originator of the idea and enabling technology was concerned. What happened subsequently, once the commercial potential was spotted, may have had little or nothing to do with that originator and his intentions, which can only be guessed at.

Update Wed June 3 2015

Google first picked up the late insertion of "Stick 'n' Stain" into the labels/tags on this site, regurgitating one of my first Shroud postings (3 Jan 2012). What was gratifying to see it then spotting the expression in the revised title of this very posting:

Sorry about the poor definition, despite making adjustments to contrast etc. One never had this problem before in  getting Google screenshots to appear sharp and legible.

Update Thursday June 4

There are now 3 sciencebuzz postings in the returns, including the very first one on this site (Dec 30, 2011 on Model 1 of 9 - 'thermostencilling'). But there are none as yet from any other site. , not even shroudstory despite one or two brief mentions from Dan Porter. (Oops, am forgetting the search term has so far been used here only).  Maybe Hugh Farey will see fit to insert a mention in his BSTS Newsletter, assuming that he continues to produce twice-yearly postings.  The next (No.81)  is expected this month .

The most recent posting on my specialist TS site (May 19) did not describe the current model as flour/nitric acid, that being too specific and indeed provisonal (just one of a large number of possible combinations that result in a TS-like sepia-coloured negative imprint). It referred to a "generic two stage model". It's a little tedious therefore to see folk who should know better taking a quick look at the imprints above and declaring them not sufficiently TS-like to command serious attention. As stated previously on many occasions, it is not and never has been my aim to produce a facsimile copy of the TS, matching every subtle detail of tone, fuzziness etc. Even if one did, there would be those stating the aesthetics were still not right. More to the point, one can reasonably ask how much the present TS image owes to its original input of medieval alchemy and technology and how much to 700 years or more of ageing. 

To reiterate: the aim of this project, provoked by claims that the TS image characteristics have and never will be reproduced in the laboratory, and ipso facto must be supernatural in origin, is to delineate the means by which an image sufficiently close to that of the TS could be generated from application of known scientific principles, coupled with the kind of technology available in medieval times.

The scientific part has been completed in my view, namely to produce the image on linen in two separate stages: painting a human subject with a harmless substance of organic (carbon-based) origin  that transfers well to linen as an imprint, followed by separate colour development, probably chemical, though thermal and/or thermochemical development is not excluded.

Nitric acid fulfils the role of 2nd stage chemical development quickly and reproducibly. However, that does not mean that the TS image WAS produced with nitric acid - only that it serves as a model for the strategy proposed. Might there be/have been alternatives to nitric acid?  Yes, of course. One that springs to mind is at the opposite end of the pH scale- namely calcium hydroxide, better known in medieval times as slaked lime. The latter dissolves slightly in water to make limewater, a fairly strong alkali (sufficiently caustic to attack the skin, as anyone who has handled cement mortar without gloves quickly learns to their cost). How might limewater substitute for nitric acid as a Stage 2 developer? Answer: by catalysing Maillard browning reactions in the Stage 1 coating (which could even be white flour), aided perhaps by gentle heat. See this excellent review by Martin Lersch, June 2012, of Maillard browning reactions, with the focus on alkali-catalysis.

Further update 12:10 June 4

Couldn't resist the temptation to check out that limewater idea for stage 2 development which, if it worked, would be a welcome release from nitric acid (in the garage), allowing a return to kitchen-based chemistry.

Glory be. It worked, exactly as predicted, at least in principle. I had some linen  that had been Stage 1 imprinted with white flour but which had not been taken through to Stage 2 with nitric acid. So, one end (approx half) was dipped in limewater  (acquiring a fishy amine odour!) and then placed over a radiator to give a gentle source of heat (optimal for those highly temperature-dependent Maillard reactions). Hey presto, a canary-yellow coloration appeared in the half of the strip that had been exposed to limewater, with no coloration in the non-exposed portion.

The dip reached as far as the triangular notch on the left. As-is, no enhancement. Note yellowing of flour imprint below notch, none above (latter serving as control).

As above, after Autocorrect in MS Office Picture Manager (but neither picture does justice to the yellow coloration seen with the naked eye, neither indoors nor outdoors in bright sun).

To reiterate: this blogger is not claiming that this particular imprinting medium (flour?) was used, or that particular chemical development (nitric acid? limewater?), only that a negative sepia image is fully consistent and indeed feasible using  a two-stage imprinting/development, starting with a cooperative human volunteer, followed by harsh chemical treatment applied to the linen imprint, not the subject.


A portion was cut out from a flour imprint of my hand with separated fingers, soaked in limewater then dried in a stream of warm air. The treated portion was then put back in approximately  its original position:

Note the pronounced yellowing in the limewater-treated sample - background as well as flour imprint.
Here's the same, with Autocorrect

These were quickie experiments, and will probably not be pursued, given the vast number of combinations that would need to be tested in order to match up against TS characteristics. As I say, it's the scientific principles that have been this blogger's chief concern these last 3.5 years, not producing a perfect replica of the TS. Hopefully enough has been shown to demonstrate the versatility of the new (and I believe original) 'stick 'n' stain' technique.

Update: Friday June 5

This comment appeared last night on the shroudstory site (my italics):

June 4, 2015 at 1:58 pm

If I understand well your “Nutella’s experiments” (!) show that : “coated hand pressed downward into linen” (rather than “linen molded onto coated back of hand”) could explain the “peculiar fingers” of the TS image.’

For the time being, i don’t see anything resembling the TS image.
You wrote (in red): “What you see above is the most scientifically-revealing image in the current posting, and dare I say, the most important in my 300 postings to date (I confidently expect more charges of arrogance). Loosely draped linen, hanging under the force of Earth’s gravity alone does NOT conform to finer details of body contours, certainly not anything so discrete and detailed as the bunched fingers of the hand. (Yes, the test needs to be repeated with a weightier length of linen fully matching that of the Shroud, but I’m confident that the outline of individual fingers will NOT be seen through the linen). ”

It's not clear why it focuses on the Nutella test, since that was thrown in merely to show that liquids/semi-solids were being thought about here long before the present two-stage process was adopted. Nutella  was a crude one-stage preliminary. It's the results with the flour paste that are crucial to accurate imprinting of maximum detail, like those separate fingers in the TS image, and even finger joints, especially clear in 3D-imaging. I stand by my point that loose draping of linen over a recumbent subject with folded hands would or could never give the degree of contact between skin and linen that we see in the photos with fabric adhering to flour-pasted skin, defying gravity, and moulded to contours.

There's no need for me to invest in expensive full-size linen to prove something that is commonsense. Actually it's more than commonsense. It's science-based too, based on the differences between solids and liquids. Skin and linen are both solids and while flexible still have properties of shape, such that one does not instantly adopt the shape of the other when loosely draped over. To get the shape of one conforming to the shape of the other one interposes a liquid (a phase that has no fixed shape) between the two, and if it's a sticky liquid, as the case with flour-paste, one ADHERES instantly to the other such that the new acquired shape can be captured and retained as an image.

Reminder: SOLIDS: Fixed volume, fixed shape; LIQUIDS: Fixed volume, no fixed shape; GASES: no fixed volume, no fixed shape. 

Update: am working on a final summary of my TS ideas that, hopefully. will be completed, ready for posting tomorrow. Will then draw a  line under this project, having reached what for this blogger/retired science bod is for him a satisfactory conclusion (satisfactory, note, not conclusive). 

New project, new blog site planned. T'will involve lots of research, lots of travel in a sunnier clime, bags of history, scenery,  a dash of iconoclasm - and nothing whatsoever to do with the Shroud of Turin...

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