Wednesday, June 24, 2015

That Man on the Turin Shroud: the mystery may finally be solved - at least in principle - plus that Taiwan water park fireball horror.

I say we're nearly there

Let's stop beating about the bush shall we ? The image of the man on the Turin Shroud is an imprint (not a painting as Charles Freeman would have us believe), I repeat,  an IMPRINT. It's a contact imprint, to be more precise (no physical contact, no image).  This blogger/retired scientist has previously enumerated at least 15 reasons why the TS image an imprint, and does not need to repeat them here.(But since they are buried in the tail end of a previous posting, I shall be listing them here later as an appendix).

This posting focuses on just one feature of the Shroud image which is consistent with the view that the image is a contact imprint. I then make what some will see as a bald assertion, namely that if it's possible to reproduce the 'look' of that image, with its imprint features, then it almost certainly IS an imprint.

The onus would then be on others who think otherwise, who have their own hypotheses, or as often or not fantasies as to how the image was produced, to do what I (with some assistance from my wife)  have done this morning, namely to model their ideas experimentally. If they cannot, or will not do that, then their ideas are unscientific, and need  detain this scientist no further.

Here's the selected feature of interest - the crossed hands. Here's how they appear on the Shroud.

Shroud Scope image (Durante 2002) no further enhancement
As above, with my standard photo-enhancement settings (-7,100,15 brightness/contrast/midtone values in MS Office Picture Manager.

Why do I say that's a contact imprint? Answer: the spindly fingers (see previous modelling with a tacky paint-like substance) and the pale area immediately below the upper hand where the linen has bridged, leaving a non-contact air gap.

Can it be modelled?

Answer: yes. approximately, what you see here being the second attempt using the more controllable of two alternative modes of presenting linen to flour paste-coated subject.

The mode? What I call LOTTO (Linen On Top, Then Overlay) - a  towel - gently pressed downwards. That's as distinct from yesterday, using the less manageable LUWU (Linen Underneath, With Underlay, which gave excessive lateral distortion).The imprinting medium? Yes, a simple paste or glue of plain white flour and water, mixed to give a runny consistency.  Stage 2 development of tan-colour? Simply pressing with a hot iron.

Photoedited image? Certainly.  used the same settings as the earlier ones for the Shroud Scope image(-7,100, 15). Fix? Judge for yourself. Here's the unedited photograph, prior to rotation to assist comparison with the Shroud.

"As is'  imprint., withoit photo-enhancement.
Note the relative absence of lateral distortion. Was that entirely due to using LOTTO instead of LUWU? No. There's a simple way of avoiding lateral distortion in this model. Apply paste only to those parts of the relief that one wished to be imaged, i.e. the highest relief, to get a bas relief type effect, avoiding the sides.

Is the image reasonably permanent? Impossible to tell, unless one has a handy cathedral in which to store it, and lots of patience (several centuries at least). But the image does withstand (a) repeated rinsing  and wringing out with cold water, drying and ironing:

Water-washed, before (left) and after (right) photo-enhancement (-7,100,15)

and (b)the above,  followed by application of soap and water, followed again by drying and ironing.

Soap -washed, before (left) and after (right) photoenhancement (-7,100,15)

Conclusion:there would appear to be nothing in the least bit mysterious about the 2D image characteristics of the Shroud image, once it is appreciated that the image is a contact imprint (the negative light/dark reversed nature of the image alone should be sufficient to conclude that the image is an imprint - NOT a painting, not even a faded, degraded painting).

What about the "profoundly mysterious"  3D properties of the Shroud image? Do my imprints respond to 3D enhancement in ImageJ?

Judge for yourself, dear reader:

3D rendering: click to enlarge
Finally: light/dark reversal (to change the negative imprint to a pseudo-positive image, mimicking a photograph, as per Secondo Pia (1898)?

Simple light/dark reversal in Image J
As above, with 3D enhancement.

That'll do for now. Publish and be damned.
I say the Turin shroud is a medieval fake, produced by a simple two stage procedure: imprinting with an organic substance (which may well have been white flour, which has convenient adhesive properties)followed  by second stage colour development (thermal in this posting, though chemical development is also feasible - see previous postings which used nitric acid or limewater).

Update,  Thursday 25 June: I shall repeat the above experiment today using my wife's crossed hands instead of my own. To show the versatility of the technique  there will be subtraction of an unwanted feature (rings), simply by taping over, thus protecting from the imprinting medium and, conversely,  maybe the addition of something else, e.g. paste in an area that would normally escape imprinting.

 The result was broadly similar to the one above, except for the additional tests. The location of the protected ring can be see as a blank rectangle.There  blank region  where one hand abuts on the other was marked with three small dabs of flour paste from a paint brush. What these tests show is the ease with which wanted or unwanted features can be added or removed by masking or 'doctoring' the imprint prior to colour development.

The 3D-rendered version of the above image was somewhat disappointing:

The reasons are probably technical, to do with using too viscous a paste which did not apply evenly (see banding on right wrist). You win some, you lose some.

I shall also make a start on that Appendix (why the TS is an imprint, not a painting), but build it up in instalments (no need for a rush job: what's another few hours or days extra on a 3.5 year project now drawing to a close?). Expect the first 3 or 4 points later in the day. (They were added, and have since disappeared - the Blogger Editing Bug is back!)

Simple answers to simple questions

1. But what about the blood? You have to explain the blood.

The priority on this site has been the  "enigmatic" body image (negative, superficial, 3D properties, impossible to reproduce by any known technology etc). So why divert attention to the blood when confronted with answers to the supposed image conundrum?  Blood can wait till later (while noting that the new procedure allows the forger to 'paint' the subject with imprinting medium first, then 'paint' with blood on top of imprinting medium, then imprint, thus ensuring there's a strong, direct contact between blood and linen with imprinting medium on top instead of underneath (in agreement with the Adler/Heller results with protease enzyme).

2. To stand any chance of being taken seriously, you will have to match every single detail of the Shroud.

No I don't. The Shroud we see today is unlikely to be the same in all respects as the one that existed 700 years ago or longer. What has to be matched in a scientific approach are those features that make the Shroud uniquely different from all other images from the pre-photographic era, notably the negative image, the absence of known pigments, dyes etc, the extreme superficiality etc.

3. There was no white flour in medieval times, and even if there had been, it would have differed from the modern flour used in your experiments  (genetics, added chemicals, nutrients etc.)

Flour in my experiments is a forger's 'proxy' for bodily sweat, because it makes a good imprinting medium, being sticky, and because it's easily convertible from white to yellow with heat or chemicals. However, the forger may have used something different that served the same purpose - imprinting medium/source of yellow colour. So it hardly matters whether white flour was available or not. In fact, it's a common misconception that white flour only became available after the arrival of 19th century roller milling. The well-off with deep pockets could purchase white flour, which was easily if laboriously made by sieving stone-ground wholemeal flour through fabric screens to remove the large particles of bran and wheatgerm embryo).

4. If the technology for forging the Shroud existed in the 14th century, then why is there only one Shroud?

Answer: because someone who had the resources to fabricate a convincing holy relic, one that can be claimed to be the actual linen used to envelop the crucified Jesus, would have needed to ensure that the technology remained a secret known only to the perpetrators. It would have compromised the mission objectives entirely if there had been so much as a single prototype version abandoned in the corner of a workshop.

5. What gives you the right to insult the intelligence of scores of academics and professionals, many with distinguished records of research, with your tacky simplistic model which you yourself have described as a Blue Peter 'make'?

If the model were that simplistic, this retired researcher, who also has a record of research and modest achievement, would not have needed 3.5 years to conceive of it. The trouble with arriving late to an active area of research is the deadweight of 'received wisdom' that in many instances has hardened into rock-solid dogma. It's hard not to be influenced by the big cheeses of Shroudology who descend onto websites to say one is barking up the wrong tree, that such and such was discounted decades ago, that one should "go acquaint oneself with the literature". In fact the current model incorporates many existing ideas - from Ray Rogers, Luigi Garlaschelli, Hugh Farey and Joe Accetta. But the key aspect was the realization that the body imprint was intended to represent ancient yellowed sweat, that it was not intended to represent a product of post-mortem putrefaction, nor a miraculous image imprinted by a flash of highly energetic radiation, of a type unknown to science, a signature of  resurrection, or as some would have us belive, a love-letter to modern man (that being the case, why the 'wrong' answer for radiocarbon dating?).

6. It's just a rehash of the scorch hypothesis, and we all know that was ruled out a long time ago (only the most superficial layers of Shroud fibres are affected, no change to the central medulla, lack of uv fluorescence etc).

Sure, the current variant uses heat to develop the Shroud-like coloration in the imprint, but the temperature needed to do that was insufficient to affect that of the non-imprinted linen, except maybe for an exceedingly faint tinge which could be mistaken for aged linen (a beneficial effect?). But other alternatives exist - like nitric acid and other chemicals. Scorching is just one way of producing yellowing, one that requires pyrolysis (thermal degradation) of the linen fibres themselves. Use of an extraneous coating layer (flour etc) opens up additional possibilities where chemistry is concerned (caramelization of sugars, Maillard reactions between sugars and protein, nitration of proteins etc).

Update 30 June: comment posted to a  Telegraph article (Science section) by Lily Willis:

The real reason your eyes go red after swimming isn't chlorine, but urine


ColinB an hour ago 

It's not news. In fact, it's been known for decades that chlorine reacts with the nitrogenous waste compounds of sweat, urine etc to make nitrogen trichloride (NCl3). The pure compound is an oily liquid that is highly explosive. Yes, it has a very strong and distinctive smell of stale over-subscribed "swimming pool" (unhygienic ones that is). As the article indicates, a "shock" treatment with surplus chlorine helps break down the NCl3, but is a last resort, prevention (pre-showering and/or bladder control) being better than cure.

On a different matter I'd like to tell science writer Lily and anyone else who's interested about my latest experiments for modelling the Shroud of Turin image. I think I know how it was done. Anyone interested? Do you read the comments under your own article Lily? I call it the Blue Peter method (needing only linen,flour paste and a hot iron) but it took 3 years of hard slog with scores of progress/lack of progress reports to figure it out!

The breakthrough came when I realized that the Shroud body image was intended by its medieval fabricators (forgers?) to represent a SWEAT imprint, so in a sense there's an affinity with this topic of bodily secretions and their aftermath.

(Link to this site)

Update: Sunday 28 June  11:20 French time (unrelated to Shroud)

So what caused the terrible fireball at the Taiwan water park gathering, leaving hundreds with serious burns?

So far we've been told next to nothing about the chemistry, except that a "coloured powder ignited".

If one looks at the video clip that accompanies the BBC report (see link) one sees a cloud of white vapour coming from the stage immediately before the conflagration. At a normal gig that would be the fog produced when dry ice (solid CO2) is dropped into water.

Dry ice and water - NOT the effect used at the Taiwan water park.
But CO2 extinguishes fire. Might it have been liquified propane or butane instead, as used in spray cans etc? In other words, it wasn't the coloured solid, whatever that was, that was the culprit, but a flammable gaseous propellant. Propane gas (C3H8) has about 1.5 times the density of air, butane (C4H10) more than double, so would tend briefly to hug the ground before dispersal via diffusion. We shall see. Burns are terrible things. My sympathies to all the victims and their loved ones.

Update on that BBC report:  14:25 French time

"The fire department said the powder ,used to create a party atmosphere, may have ignited due to the heat of the lights on the stage, or from sparks from machinery.
The substance is also used in other countries. It is made of dried corn and can be highly flammable, says the BBC's Cindy Sui in Taipei.
The 519 victims were sent to 41 hospitals, and 413 are still in hospital, say municipal authorities."

Flammable solid maybe, but it still needed a propellant gas to shower it over the crowd. I still suspect itr was the propellant gas that ignited first.

Update 16:40

Here's a freeze-frame from the video clip that accompanied the Telegraph's report:

Video still: Taiwan water park, immediately prior to fireball

A instant later, the white cloud of vapour (butane?) was replaced by an orange fireball.

Update 18:30 Sunday 28 June

This science bod finds accused of "extreme blogging" and been book-ended with Stephen E. Jones of Perth, Australia

Reminder: this blogger has been reporting his attempts to model the Shroud in over 300 postings, here and on his specialist Shroud site, since December 2011. What you read here describes in moderate language the conviction that the goal is in sight - that the image is a contact imprint, obtained by a two step procedure.  Stephen Jones has done no modelling whatsoever. He is not a research investigator, certainly not in any experimental hands-on sense. He is perhaps better described as someone with a particular brand of hardline theology, one who is polemical - talking up those studies that are pro-authenticity, and attempting to dismiss, sometimes in the most contemptuous terms  those that aren't. The idea that the two of us are both extreme, opposite sides of the same coin, so to speak,  is a classic Porter windup, as was his concluding with: "Is there some way to put these two in a room together and tell them they can’t come out until they agree on everything?"  

This blogger sorely regrets the time and effort spent on communicating his evolving ideas on that site. Porter is a purveyor of glib. He has nothing useful to say - nothing whatsoever. He and his site merely act as a sponge for other people's content.

Update 29th June

Have decided to make a new posting of that frightful Taiwan fireball.

Returning to the Shroud, where are these mysterious locations on a man's recumbent body that could only have been imaged by "action at a distance"? Please list them.

Reminder: in the latest model, using white flour paste as imprinting medium, there is a truly amazing moulding of linen  to contours, as my photographs show. There is no need to invoke "action at a distance". That simply opens the door to pseudo-science (self-collimated radiation, unknown to science, wavelength unspecified, able to project an imprint across air gaps onto linen as if the latter were a photographic emulsion).

But then I've asked that before, several times, and received no response. Why bother trying to communicate with those who simply parrot their mantras and who refuse to respond in detail to one's questions and objections? 

I repeat: please specify the parts of the naked human anatomy that are visible on the Shroud image but which would be inaccessible in a contact-only model, with manual fingertip moulding.  A numbered list would be nice.

Further update:we're also told that there's an unacceptable degree of lateral distortion in my contact imprints of crossed hands. Really?

But the individual making that judgement of Solomon (same as the one above) cannot have read this posting in detail. One can have as much or as little lateral distortion as one wishes, depending on how much of the "sides" one decides to paint with imprinting medium, or indeed, tries to avoid altogether.  I in fact over-painted when doing my wife's hands, having strayed onto the base of the thumb, which explains that otherwise peculiar and unsightly bulge one sees in the imprint.

In fact, I  recently came across a paper recently (must try and locate)  in which someone was saying there was a small degree of lateral distortion in the Shroud image, and that it would be difficult if not impossible for a forger to reproduce it. Talk about wanting to have one's cake and eat it...

The usual response one sees to the crossed hands on the Shroud is that the fingers are too long, too bony, too x-ray like. Some have even gone so far as to suggest Marfan's syndrome!  Given the response to my own (or wife's crossed hands) as too distorted, we maybe have an explanation for those TS hands: the fabricators were so concerned at the prospect of "normal" hand imprints being seen as too pudgy or distorted they decided to err in the opposite direction, deploying a minimalist application of imprinting medium, and happy to hear the hands as somewhat skeletal, with fingers  too long and spindly. That's better than hearing them described as an obvious imprint. "Skeletal" at least implies death, preceded maybe with acute trauma.

Then there's the legion of folk queuing up to say "your image looks nothing like the one on the Shroud".

What they mean is, nothing like the original one that was on the Shroud, that may have well been subject to some 'toning down', if only as a result of the testing of its permanence in the years following its first appearance, compounded by the effects of centuries of wear and tear. (Link) Which brings us to the present: it's said that the image disappears if one tries to view it at close quarters. One has to step back 3 metres or more to see it's an image of a man. So how can anyone be so certain as to the 'look' of the Shroud image when their view is based on a limited number of photographs, more or less enhanced to improve contrast against background?

As I've said many times before, this researcher is not attempting to produce a facsimile copy of the TS, and would be unwise to do so, given the uncertainties of ageing etc. He's MODELLING the TS image, attempting to put ticks in all those boxes for the various key descriptors like faint, superficial, negative, 3D properties, no unequivocal reverse side image,  no uv fluorescence, no known pigments or dyes, strippability when fibres are pulled from Mylar adhesive tape etc etc.

There are those who seem to skip that list, and focus on characteristics like "image resolution" "fuzziness" etc, with little or no attempt to quantify. They may indeed be the ones that dictate first impressions when comparing the TS with model systems. if that is the case, then it's worth making clear immediately that these are early days regarding the present model. We know that washing the primary image in water, and then soap, leads to fainter, arguably fuzzier image. But there are other ways of achieving the same result, notably by using a progressively thinner, runnier flour paste (yet to be tested). What matters right now is the principle: the simple 'Blue Peter' yes-you-kiddies-can-do-this-in-your-own- home methodology ticks  a sizeable number of boxes, which is more than can be said for those high energy laser beams that so far leave nothing more than a tiny brown patch on linen (no image!). My medieval technology may seem primitive by comparison (deliberately so) but it does produce an image ( as a contact imprint)  as anyone can confirm for themselves, in their own home, in the space of 30 minutes or so.

Update July 6th

When the linen in my 'Blue Peter' model is thoroughly washed, first in water, then with soap, all that remains finally is a faint 'ghost' image. There can be so little there in material terms that it becomes a major headache in analytical terms determining the chemical nature of the chromophore. But that is equally true of the Shroud image layer too, where next to nothing is known re chemical makeup.Who can say whether it's a product of caramelization (requiring sugars and maybe oxygen only) or whether it's a Maillard reaction product (requiring sugars and proteins, or some other source of  amino groups?).  As I think I said recently, my model system could be handy for developing non-destructive spectral techniques for distinguishing between the two possibilities listed, and maybe more besides.

Is there anything that can be done in the meantime to get a rough idea as to what we're dealing with, specifically the type of sugar involved (given that both caramelization and Maillard reactions require free sugars)? Maybe. In Maillard reactions, it's known that pentose (5-carbon) sugars are more reactive than hexose (6 carbon sugars), while still needing elevated temperature (belatedly recognized by Ray Rogers, even if his fan club has yet to catch up). In other words, one should be focusing attention less on the major constituent of flax/linen  bast fibres (cellulose), or, if entertaining the possibility of coatings from flour etc, less on the major starch component. Attention should be on those parts of the linen and/or coating that provide pentose sugars. In the case of linen that is the primary cell wall that has a high percentage of hemicelluloses, and to a lesser extent the much more substantial secondary cell wall in which those pentose-rich hemicelluloses are also present, albeit at much lower concentration relative to the cellulose.

Expressed in these terms, there is a means of  testing whether pentose sugars play a crucial role or not in the Blue Peter image, and by hopeful analogy, the Shroud image too.  Cotton is mainly cellulose, with very little hemicellulose. So what I need to do is paste cotton and linen in the one experiment, then apply the same hot iron to both, and then check the intensity of the resulting mark or image before and after washing. Prediction: both will give a prominent pre-wash image, due to reactions involving the pentose sugars in the white flour. But there will be little or no ghost image finally on the cotton after washing, because cotton lacks the pentose sugars needed, whether in the primary cell wall (if present) or the secondary cell wall. I'll try to do that experiment shortly, but it won't be today, or even tomorrow. Shroud research is no longer my top priority, having resumed an interest in other topics that were shelved when Paolo di Lazzaro came along with his ultraviolet laser beams in December 2011, claiming  that the TS image could not be accounted for with conventional science. To which I say: OH YES IT CAN!!!

Update: Am toying with the idea of subjecting linen and cotton to a range of chemical pre-treatments, to see which if any modify the subsequent behaviour towards 2 stage imprinting. One would look at strong acid, alkali, bleach, SO2, boiling in water or salt or detergent, enzyme treatment (pectinase etc), organic solvents, etc etc. The aim is to get some idea of the nature of the physical or chemical interaction that allows the final ghost image, i.e. the one that remains after vigorous washing and rubbing with soap, to bond so firmly to the fabric.

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