Tuesday, January 31, 2012

My new sandpit theory for how the Turin Shroud was produced - as a medieval hoax

 The basic principle - thermal imprinting  from a 3D object

(ed: things have moved on a bit since writing this post. For a more up-to-date account of my theory, see this later post, link  and the one preceding it link)

ed: a lot of the step-by-step photographs have mysteriously disappeared from this post. I will endeavour to restore them ASAP.
The technique is essentially one of 'branding' (yup, as onto the hide of cattle) but the 'branding iron' was more probably a bronze statue - which did not need to be red hot to create a superficial scorch on linen.

This is intended as the briefest of summaries. I propose using my own comments section to flesh out the details, but only in response to queries. In the absence of comments my time is probably better spent in  further experimentation  (continuing the work I have described in previous posts on thermo-imprinting or thermo-stencilling). 

Essence of the new model:

1. It uses a statue or bas relief of a crucified Christ - the kind of icon that would have adorned (if that is the correct term) many a medieval church or cathedral.

2. A shallow sandpit (US: sandbox)  is made with fine dry (ed. or maybe moist?) sand and levelled off with a rake.

3. The sheet of linen is stretched over the top of the sand and smoothed out. The linen may have been impregnated to make it more receptive to acquiring a heat-imprinted image (think "invisible writing" that uses dried-on  lemon juice or similar).

4. The statue is evenly heated in a kiln or oven until a test shows it to be hot enough to make a yellow or brown impression, i.e. 'scorch mark',  on a side-sample of the linen.

(Whether one calls it a scorch or not is a matter of semantics that can be discussed later. Certainly it does not have to be hot enough to degrade or scorch bulk cellulose per se, except perhaps for a highly superficial imprint).

5. The heated statue is then placed face-down horizontally onto the linen, and pressed down lightly.

 Except for awkward bits like the feet (see later) the statue is probably pressed no more than a cm or two into the sand, just sufficient to imprint as a light scorch the most prominent frontal features of the statue onto the linen, with little of the side features that might otherwise later give distortion when the cloth is removed and flattened.

The image would of course be a "negative", but that has nothing to do with photography, primitive of otherwise. The technology here is better described as thermal-imprinting by direct contact, relying mainly on heat conduction rather than radiant energy..

6.  When a satisfactory image has formed of the ventral (frontal) side, the second unused half of the sheet is positioned over the newly raked sandpit, and the process repeated for the dorsal (rear) side of the statue.

7. What about the blood stains - getting them correctly positioned etc? That can be arranged by a slight modification of the procedure.

It requires a "dry run", or more correctly a "cold run". Firstly, the cold, unheated statue is pressed onto the cloth  so as to penetrate the sand a little, leaving an indentation in both the sand and the linen. The statue is then carefully removed, and blood is then applied to the appropriate parts of the anatomy, as judged from the indentation.  It may be left to clot and dry first. The statue is then taken away and heated, and then deposited carefully back into its original indentation to ensure consistent alignment, then pressed down a little more into the sand in order to get a good impression.

8. Created in this way, I believe the image would meet some subtle criteria that so far have not been fully achieved, e.g. in Jackson's work with his bas-relief models (see earlier post).

I believe a balance can be struck that can achieve a good compromise between a shallow bas-relief and a fully 3D statue.The compromise gives enough relief to account for 20th century "3D-encoded information" - which if the truth be told is really just an (over-hyped) analogue- to-digitized impression of 3D, ie differential scorching- to-computer-aided graduated relief.  The dynamics of the pushing process, ie. - the gentle pressure on the statue, impressing it into the fabric and into the receptive cushioning sand to achieve progressively greater contact between cloth and hot metal is what helps to achieve a softer-focus more natural effect.

9. Because the statue is pressed downwards into the sand, i.e. at right angles, that would account for the so-called "directionality" of the image-forming process.

Attempting to explain the latter with radiation and projected images has been problematical, in the absence of lenses, concave mirrors, collimating systems etc., none of which are credibly medieval or indeed achievable today

10. This procedure might also explain some of the curious - or at any rate unexpected - features of the Shroud, e.g. the somewhat elongated fingers.

  Those fingers  (to say nothing of those "too good to be true" blood trails on forearms and that celebrated  "mechanically-correct" nail wound through "wrist").

That could be the result of a "sliding effect" of those hot fingers (one of the the first parts of the statue to hit the fabric) during the first few moments of pressing into the sand. It might also explain why the soles of the feet are so prominent on the dorsal image, despite their being out-of-horizontal plane, since the sand-moulding influence forcing fabric against metal would be largely indifferent to plane.

Why are the soles of the feet (even if blood-stained) so prominent in the left hand image (dorsal view), with subject's back to linen? What had been holding the linen so close and tightly apposed to them at the instant of image-imprinting? A bed of supportive sand, banked up maybe?

 To get a better idea of how soles come to be imprinted, and how they look on the flattened sheet, imagine yourself lying down on a sheet with muddy boots, first with heel-only contact, then imagine you ask someone to raise and then press the end of the sheet against the muddy soles to leave an imprint. Then imagine how the imprint will look when you get up and view the flattened-out sheet from above.

Comments - premoderated - are invited, but ad hom attacks will not be tolerated (or published)   If posting as "anonymous" please append an initial or two.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Turin Shroud - beware computer-corrected and/or otherwise manipulated images

I've previously drawn attention to those images of the Turin Shroud that are described as having "3D-encoded" information.  They make it sound as if there is something mysterious, almost supernatural-like about the man depicted.

In fact the computer merely scans the digitized image for light and dark regions, and then "raises" the light and "lowers" the dark to create a 3D relief.

Yes, we are told that ordinary photographs and paintings do not respond in this fashion, but the fact that the 1532 burn marks do should be sufficient to show that there is nothing unique about the image of the crucified man. Anything, late-acquired burn marks included,  that gives tonal contrast is interpreted as differences in relief and displayed accordingly. There may well be intensity differences that are related to 3D properties in the original image, but they are not selectively processed, nor does the computer tell you anything about how the image was formed on the cloth (beware explanatory diagrams that show a sheet of linen held above a picture of a crucified man, suggesting projection across space with no lens or other imaging system shown).

In fact there are many aspects of the Shroud image that are hyped in my view, often misleadingly so as to suggest paranormal phenomena, and others that are strangely overlooked, or at any rate, rarely commented upon.

A particular one that bothers me right now is the size disparity between the ventral (front) and dorsal (rear) image.Why should there be a size disparity if the v&d images on the shroud are from the same subject or representation thereof?

Here's one picture that accompanied a Daily Mail article that made the point well, but was strangely not commented upon in the article:

Ventral and dorsal images of the Turin Shroud (photographic positives)

Now I don't know about you, dear reader, but I would have said the dorsal image was considerably taller than the ventral, agreed?

Being a retired science bod an' all, I did not take this one picture on trust, so accessed a Google image file that showed the entire shroud opened and displayed full length, and used the  photoediting function on my MS Office to place d&v side by side:

My DIY job on comparing those two views - ventral and dorsal

You won't believe the hassle this elicited on another site. I was accused of computer trickery, in particular for aligning the two images feet upwards (or sideways). In fact, MS Office chose to do that with no help from me. And it seems a reasonable assumption that both images end in feet, and are not truncated at some other level. But who knows what different people see or do not see in those faint sepia orignals:( I have been chided for not seeing toes, but as hard as I try I am never able to discern anything that are unequivocally toes, and when folk say I am blind I am reminded of the tale of the King who was in his "altogether") .

Here's an exercise anyone can do. Enter Turin Shroud into a Google image file and look for any side-by-side images of the original. In going through the first 15 pages or so, I have counted about 6, and all WITHOUT EXCEPTION show the dorsal image as taller than the ventral.

Then go to the multi-author paper by Fanti et al (2005) ,  and there you will see the difference confimed quantitatively.They say right away in the Introduction that the ventral length is 1.95 metres, and the dorsal is 2.02 metres, making a difference of 0.07metres, which is a very considerable 7cm.

Nobody has made a song-and-dance about that difference before - so why do I get beaten up for pointing out something that is both obvious at a quick glance, and confirmed quantitatively? Might it be something to do with having acquired the label "sceptic" on whom it is open season for the true-believers (or anti-science bods)  to browbeat and belittle?

But it does not end there. I have been told to go and consult a "real science" paper ("15 pages" no less, as if papers were judged by their length), and in case I fail to do as told, there is a diagram from the paper, showing how a computer analysis of the front and rear images reveals that the two are "superimposable" (sic) and entirely "consistent" (the term was in fact "compatible", but let's not quibble over semantics. Either way I have been told by a science teacher  to go back to school. (I used to be a science teacher myself once - to A-Level and beyond, but never mind).

 These image are described as "superimposable" (Well yes, almost anything is superimposable if you bend up an end or two here and there).

Well, what do you know? The two images are "superimposable", provided you line up at the head end, and overlook the small matter of the feet being in different places. So how was that conjuring trick performed, in such a way that a 7cm difference in length vanishes?  Was it  a muscular spasm in a supposed cadaver that kept the toes extended when measuring the dorsal length but conveniently turns them up when measuring up the ventral?

It's achieved my friends with computer "re-imaging" of course, and as always where computers are concerned, one has to look carefully at each and every assumption that is programmed in if one is to avoid the dreaded "GIGO" syndrome that so afflicts the world of megabyte jiggerypokery.

Let's do that, shall we? Let's go through that paper with a toothcomb, and see how the conjuring trick was performed that either adds 7 cm to one length or subtracts it from the other (take your pick).  Or does it add 3.5 cm to one length, and subtract it from the other? Anything to do with the paper in question is in blue.

Computerized anthropometric analysis of the Man of the Turin Shroud

Giulio Fanti, Emanuela Marinelli and  Alessandro Cagnazzo (1999)

Source? (found via Google Documents). Appears to be "Proceedings of the 1999 Shroud of Turin International Research Conference, Richmond, Virginia"


For the development of the anthropometric analysis of the Man of the Shroud through vision
systems an anthropometric research integrated with experimental researches was realised.

OK so far

The images of the Man of the Shroud were acquired and numerically elaborated to point out
the outlines of the two imprints (frontal and dorsal) and to carry out the measurements.

Numerically elaborated?  I don’t care for the sound of that. Sounds somewhat reminiscent of a 'with-profits' life-assurance quotation.

The dimensional results obtained were therefore corrected in consequence of the systematic
effects found, like for instance those due to the cloth-body wrapping effect.

Corrected? For cloth-body wrapping effect?  When did you see an actual body wrapped in the Shroud?  Photographs please.

The height of the Man, 174±2 cm, was therefore measured with different techniques and the
results obtained were compared with the anthropometric indices derived from bibliography.

Hallelujah. That systematic 7cm difference in length has been reduced to a +/-  2cm error bar.  Isn’t it  wonderful what one can do with computers?

That’s just the abstract. Let’s delve further into the “real science”:

 Oh, here's the conclusion to the abstract:

"From the comparison among the anthropometric indices characteristic of different human
races and those of the Man of the Shroud it was shown that the Semitic race is the closest one
to the Man’s features."


"Even if at first sight the task doesn’t seem hard, it is necessary to overcome some
difficulties: it must be observed that it is not enough to define two characteristic points such as
the top of the head and the sole of the feet, and then to measure the distance between them. It
must be considered that the cloth was wrapped around a man not lying completely flat, but
rather with his legs flexed and his head bent forward."

Er, how do you know it was a man, a real one that is, and not a statue?  How do you know he was lying not completely flat, but with legs flexed forward?  Oh yes, we are to “consider” that. Maybe  you meant “hypothesize”. Maybe it’s Google that has mistranslated “hypothesize” as “consider”. The omens are not auspicious, but let’s withhold judgement and read on.

Oh, and y.ou also seem to be assuming that rigor mortis set in while still on the cross, for the head to be tilited down, even when laid supine,  and for the knees to be locked up, and that rigor mortis  was still there several days  later on Resurrection (assuming that an imprint did not occur initially over 3 days, but in a sudden flash on resurrection). Never mind. let's press on.

"The length of the body image must then be corrected, considering these effects and the fact
that the cloth was not in contact with the whole body. For instance, the intensity variations of
the image just next to the knee on the dorsal image and below the calves on the two imprints,
frontal and dorsal, confirm the absence of such a contact."

The length needs to be "corrected". You don't say (well, you do, which is more the pity). How do you know you are not "uncorrecting" the length by introducing tendentious claims that the imprint was left by a real crucified man, and one moreover that was still in rigor mortis, or at any rate wrapped up so tightly that the initial posture was retained even after the muscles had relaxed? This is starting to look like Mickey Mouse science, of which there is a surfeit already in the so-called "scientific" Shroud literature.

"Till now, the studies carried out have been based on more or less subjective hypotheses
admitted also in consequence of the thesis that the various authors tried to show: some
researchers favourable to the authenticity of the Shroud are inclined to provide the lowest
values for the height, while those who are anti-authenticity are inclined to provide the highest

Ah, we are still in the Results section and you are starting to question the objectivity of others. Should you not be keeping that for Discussion.  You would not have been allowed to get away with that when I refereed papers for the Biochemical Journal etc.   And lo and behold there is a red exclamation mark against the yellow security  "padlock" icon that says "Beware. contains unauthenticated content". Surely not. This  paper came recommended from a school science teacher as "real science", 15 pages no less, and we are still only at page 2.

"The authors who believe the Shroud is false claim that the Man of the Shroud, about 1.80 m
height, was a giant compared to his contemporaries and therefore it wouldn’t have been
necessary for Judas to give him the famous kiss to point him out in the group. However from
recent excavations made in Rishòn Letziòn [2] it is evident that many Canaanitic men were
very tall: many of them reach 1.75 m"
Ah, so it's now clear why you are interested in height. You want to show that the Man on the Shroud  was from the right part of the world. This paper is nothing to do with whether there is a size discrepancy, or whether the image was from a man or an inanimate object. And we are still in the Results section...


By carefully observing the legs on the dorsal image, the intensity variations depending on a
touch-doesn’t touch effect of the sheet are evident; such a situation is explainable if we suppose
that the man has his lower limbs bent.
The inflexion [1] would be due to the position taken on the cross and therefore to rigor
mortis; the assumption becomes probable if one thinks what the natural position of rest taken
 by a person lying down is. Moreover, such a position could also be the consequence of postmortal stiffening. The hypothesis is also supported by the non-flattening of some areas of the dorsal imprint, an effect that, because of gravity, should be present."
It's a bit late in the day to be talking about a "hypothesis". And I am beginning to suspect that this paper was not published in a journal, at least not in a recognized one. It looks to me more like a submission to a conference (as later confirmed -see earlier).  Peer review? 

Fig. 3.1:  Verbatim text, except for non-Greek characters:

Hypothetical position of the Man of the Shroud characterized by 4
parameters, the angles a, b, g, d, that respectively show the position of the head, the
femur, the tibia and the foot.

"Figure 3.2 shows that, just because of the inflexion of the lower limbs, the length of the leg
measured on the frontal side is longer than that measured on the dorsal side.
In fact bending a limb, the center of rotation being just next to the knee, one will have a
lengthening of the front leg and a shortening of the back one.
Analogous considerations must be made for the position of the feet.
The Man of the Shroud has his feet bent forward and this is very important for the
measurement; in fact as shown in Figure 3.3, the position of the heel changes considerably if
measured with a “hammer” or outstretched foot.
The heel itself being a fundamental reference point for the length of the tibia, it becomes
necessary to value this effect too."

  That's it. I have read enough.This paper is not about seeing if data fit a hypothesis. It is about using a computer to rejig data so as to make it  fit a preconceived idea (I decline to dignify the latter with the description "hypothesis"). 

This is not science. This is merely religious apologia masquerading as science.

It may be good enough to fool a particular science teacher cum internet-busybody, the one who held it up as "real science". But it does not fool this retired researcher science bod, one who actually reads and  evaluates papers first, instead of using them as weapons with which to browbeat total strangers on the internet...   :-(

The Turin Shroud - a bit of bas-relief

Multiple thermo-imprinted images from a single bas-relief template obtained as the trinket cooled down

Yes. I've given up on thermo-stencilling for a bit (see previous posts) and am now experimenting with bas-relief. So far I've merely repeated what John P Jackson of the STURP team and others have done - which was to produce a scorch mark on untreated linen with a heated bas-relief object (in this case a trinket I picked up while in Ghana). Yup, I know that the Turin Shroud is not a scorch mark according to the admirable Raymond N Rogers (RIP). But Rogers was not infallible - indeed I shall shortly be putting some of his experiments and conclusions under a fellow (bio)chemist's, er, microscope, and in any case Rogers only said it was not a scorch onto bulk fibres in linen. But that did not preclude the possibility that it was a thermal - or maybe chemical imprint onto a superficial layer of something else that was more thermo-sensitive than cellulose, as Rogers himself proposed. eg. starch, or simple hexose or pentose sugars.

However, experimental work will have to be put on the back burner for a while (literally).   I am presently composing a critical overview of another paper that has been pushed under my blogging nose, namely that of Fanti et al on the use of computers to re-image the "true" (ho ho) ventral and dorsal  ("front and rear") anthropomorphic dimensions of the image on the Shroud.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Forget those miraculous flashes of ultraviolet light - was the Turin Shroud produced simply with medieval technology - heat conduction and scorching?

Could the Turin Shroud have been made in medieval times as a hoax or fake, simply by scorching an image onto linen, say from a 3D representation of the crucified Christ? 

Could the latter have been a ‘bas relief’, i.e. a raised image on a background, comparable to a medallion say (albeit much larger) or even an intact statue, fully in the round, so to speak?  Was the bas relief or statue heated and then draped with cloth to produce a scorch mark corresponding with the relief (thermal imprinting).  These were questions that John P Jackson of the STURP team addressed back in the 1980s.   

 John P Jackson

Here from Stephen Jones’s splendid site is an account of Jackson’s work, shorn of references to keep it uncluttered, which I have interrupted and annotated to insert my own sceptical views (in blue).

John P. Jackson:
"Heated Bas-Relief/Scorch Theory Another possible image-forming mechanism similar to that proposed by Nickell involves pressing a stretched cloth over a heated bas-relief. Such an idea was first proposed in 1961 and tested, with limited success, by placing a white handkerchief on top of a heated small medallion that bore a carving of a horse. This theory is more intriguing than most because the Shroud image does appear to have many of the physical and chemical properties of a light scorch.  STURP scientists Jackson, Jumper, and Ercoline tried to duplicate the image on the Shroud by testing the scorch hypothesis more fully. To accomplish this, they heated a full-size bas-relief model of a face and stretched over it a linen cloth of a thickness similar to the Shroud.  The ... resulting image lacks the high resolution and sharp focus found on the Shroud.

 Later, John Jackson (kneeling) used real human models, at least those with a passing resemblance to YKW...

High resolution? Sharp focus?  I doubt whether those viewing the Shroud up to the end of the 19th century would have described the image in those terms, indeed modern day viewers too. It was not until  the first photographs were produced that the friendlier “positive” image became available. 

The very first negative-to-positive transformation of the Shroud image (1898)

The subsequent 110 years or so have seen progressive advancements in imaging technology, bringing ever greater resolution, clarity, (claimed) realism etc. But how much is electronic and digital tweaking to produce the best picture, regardless of the information content of the faint sepia image with which scores of generations had to be content.

“While the bas-relief method seemingly yields a respectable three-dimensional image, problems are evident in the accompanying VP-8 relief of this image.

 VP-8 image-analyser

Hollow spots below the eyes, next to the bridge of the nose, below the lips, in the beard, and on the forehead are all noticeable ... . Further, a slight plateau is visible on the high spots of the VP-8 relief, similar to those produced in VP-8 analysis of results from experiments with direct-contact methods.

A respectable three-dimensional image?  I raise my hat to Jackson – those are words you will rarely see in the current Shroud literature that holds the image is genuine 1st century AD, indeed the actual burial shroud of Christ.. Most are dismissive, indeed comtemptuous of any modelling with bas-relief etc, claiming that those techniques fail to produce ALL the characteristics of the Shroud image. And what tops the list time and time again? Yes -  you guessed it – those  claimed “3D-encoded characteristics” 

 3D image of Turin Shroud from VP-8 image analyser
Yet here we see Jackson conceding that an inanimate bas-relief produced a 3D image on cloth by simple heat conduction (”scorching”).
So the image of that bas-relief was deficient in some respects (hollow spots below the eyes etc)  Yet for centuries,  sorry to repeat myself, the eyes on the Shroud were little more than white hollows, but now, with the technology at our disposal,  it is the photographic positive (naturally) is now being held up as the gold standard!  “A slight plateau on the high spots” ? Did Jackson not consider modifying the bas-relief template, which was maybe too flat, or ringing the changes any other the other numerous variables that might have been tweaked to get a better image?  Science is about establishing principles, not replicating every tiny detail of the arts and crafts, especially as the materials used were unknown. Science needs cues if it is to make a contribution. Science cannot be expected to travel back in time to discover precisely what materials and techniques were being employed. Science  is a method, an approach, not a magic wand. Science has its limitations...

"Even though the heated bas-relief produced better three-dimensional information than other methods, Jackson and colleagues concluded that this process could not encode many of the necessary Shroud image characteristics. For example, regardless of the temperature of the bas-relief, thermal discoloration appeared on the back side of the test cloth within several seconds after being placed on the hot bas-relief. Thus, the superficiality characteristic is violated because the image could not be encoded only on the topmost fibrils of the linen."

A thermal discoloration on the back of the cloth? Would that by any chance be the “faint reverse side image” that we are told is one of the unique characteristics of the Shroud that no one has replicated, or can ever hope to replicate?

But the main characteristics we are told is the highly superficial image on the front side, so superficial as to defy modern science. Yet Raymond N Rogers provided a simple explanation for the superficiality, based on his crucial observation that the image could be stripped off with adhesive tape. The image is not on the cellulose fibrils of the actual cloth he said, or,  if it is, only on the most exposed ones. The image is formed on a layer of adhering carbohydrate that is not cellulose, but something chemically more reactive, more prone to dehydration and scorching. The latter is a matter of  speculation  –  it could be starch, simple carbohydrates, saponin  etc, all of which have been proposed, either acquired adventitiously, e.g.in linen weaving and manufacture, or purposely as a known thermo-sensitive substance that would brown on exposure to heat (think invisible ink, think gravy browning etc.). Either way, there is a COMPLETE explanation for a faint image forming on both surfaces, but not the intermediate (bulk) cellulose fibres. Cellulose, as we know, is highly resistant to degradation by heat, oxygen etc on account of its highly ordered crystalline nature -  a function of the multiple hydrogen bonding interactions between beta-linked glucose molecules. 

Here is a scorch image I produced on cotton using simply powdered charcoal as a thermo-sensitizer and heat from a 60W lamp ( photographed after washing out the charcoal). Think how much easier it would be to scorch a surface layer of more reactive carbohydrates (fruit sugars such as glucose, sucrose etc)

Other carbohydrates, e.g. starch with its alpha-linked chains in amylose and amylopectin are less stable, and simple mono and disaccharides more so, especially the reducing sugars like glucose. Simple sucrose, which easily splits to glucose and fructose, can be the agents for easy caramelisation (browning) when exposed to heat.

“The researchers tried to circumvent this problem by wetting the cloth, thereby extending the scorch time. When this technique was tried, new problems appeared. The image's contrast was reduced, causing more severe distortions in the three-dimensional analysis and resembling images obtained from direct-contact techniques ... In addition, because the cloth was essentially flat when the image was encoded, tests of this image-forming method failed to generate an image that contains the subtle lateral distortions that are consistent with the cloth-drape effects found on the Shroud."

Again,  these difficulties are less to do with science, and more to do with technology, indeed arts and crafts, difficulties that can or could have been be overcome by trial and error. Mimicking “subtle lateral distortions” may require nothing more than a stretching and/or ironing technique, instead of simply draping cloth over a hot template.  

These are the Italian scientists who think you need high energy ultraviolet light to scorch an image onto linen (at a distance, focusing system  unspecified). 

  and this is their equipment for modelling a 1st century miracle (leaving a superficial scorch mark on cellulose)

Returning to Planet Earth: what about Jackson's Hot Statue method?  Critique to follow...

Effect of twiddling the gain control

This I believe to be the way to go (but replace the person with a bas relief template or statue): and spend time on ringing the changes with those critical experimental variables, too numerous to mention:


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Shroud of Turin - think of it, if you will, as a medieval EuroDisney, designed to attract thrill-seeking tourists, oops, sorry, devout religious pilgrims...

Here are (sorry) 38 points to consider regarding the Shroud of Turin. I may add some more later. I will discuss details and/or objections on this blog (comments premoderated) and nowhere else.

Comments that accuse me of being an internet  troll or similar will not be published. Kindly read my credo, in place since I began "Science Buzz". This blog is primarily about my scepticism re media-hyped gee-whizz science, especially 'pseudo-science', as previous postings will demonstrate, NOT religion...

1.The Shroud was produced by heat-imprinting onto linen, the latter having been coated or impregnated accidentally or intentionally, probably the latter, to make it weakly thermo-sensitive. 

2. The imprinting was done from a template that could withstand heating. It was neither realistic fully-rounded 3D, eg not a statue, nor even a mummified cadaver, except possibly the hands  – as I suggested previously - nor was it 2D (obviously).

3. As many before me has suggested, it  was probably a shallow bas-relief that was created on soft stone or perhaps a soft metal by chiselling, sanding, engraving, gouging etc.

 A  shallow-cut modernistic bas-relief of the crucified Christ 

 Here is a more deeply recessed bas relief

Such objections as I have seen that attempt to dismiss bas-relief do not stand up to close scrutiny. 

4. The relief depth may have been at most a few cm, possibly as little as a cm or less.

5. Dorsal and ventral imprints may have been obtained from two different templates.  Some claim dorsal and ventral images are not consistent. A quick play around with my laptop would suggest as much.

Size disparity - dorsal and ventral images on two halves of Shroud

6. Separate templates may also have been used for the head and rest of the body. Some say the head is too small.

7.The hands and fingers especially were poorly executed, being far too long, and too bony. If really indicating an “X-ray” like quality to the shroud, then why is there not more of a skull-like quality to the head, say, or to the ribs, pelvis, feet etc?

8. Given the skeletal appearance of the hands, with the metacarpals easily mistaken for finger bones, it would be unwise to attach too much significance to a single blood stain indicating the site of a nail puncture being allegedly through or out of the wrist. 

9.  Flogging. marks were carved/gouged onto the template. The pattern looks too regular and systematic . Given the comprehensive nature of the flog markings, flaying might be a better description. It seems improbable that an individual would have survived long with that degree of trauma and rupture of skin capillaries. Fluid loss, dehydration, shock and probably death would have rapidly ensued.

10.The impregnation of the linen was inspired by the phenomenon of “invisible writing”.

Lemon juice and heat from a 100W light bulb

In its simplest form the latter requires writing on paper with lemon juice, allowing to dry and then heating. A sepia brown image is formed.

11.Probably more involved technology was used for the Shroud, e.g. by impregnating linen with one of more components like starch, simple reducing sugars  such as fruit sugars, proteins etc, that are more heat-sensitive than cellulose, but which also have the properties of turning brown when exposed to heat. 

12.There are indeed references to starch on Shroud fibres, and of the colour being confined to a superficial layer:    

13.The template would have been heated, and when at a suitable temperature, probably equivalent to a modern-day electric iron on its highest setting, the linen would have been draped on top, maybe pressed lightly, e.g. with a roller, and removed at the first sign of an image appearing on the top side (i.e. the one that is the reverse on the Shroud).

14.Some say that pressing a cloth over a real person to produce an imprint would leave a distorted image when the cloth has been removed. That opinion was  comprehensively  dismissed in the case of a cloth lightly draped over a person to give partial conformity with natural body contours. See Mario Latendresse (pdf)

15.If the model was a bas-relief then the cloth could have been pressed against the hot template more tightly without fear of noticeable distortion.

16. There is some evidence that it may have been pressed with a board or batten placed lengthwise.

Darker band in central rectangular area, allegedly due to weave

See sharp demarcation between light and dark. Some attempt to explain this away by claiming that it is batch variation in the yarn used for weaving. But the demarcation line is not perfectly straight on the right side (see cheek bone) which is inconsistent with the latter theory. However, there could have been pressure applied briefly at the margins too, to produce a softer image, less like printing, more like a painting with a gradation of tonal contrast.

17. Produced in this way, by thermal imprinting, the image would have been a negative, with most prominent features, i.e. proud of the surface in the bas relief template making greatest contact with the linen. 

18. Thus there is no need to invoke early “photography”, for which the technology did not exist, at least not one that was capable of producing a final “positive“ image which did not happen until 1898.
 Negative v positive

That “negative” image seems to have been the starting point for much of the supernatural hype, especially when the alleged “encoded 3D” claim (see later) was added later.

19.The image is formed only in the superficial thermo-sensitive coating, not on the underlying cellulose itself – except perhaps for the most superficial fibrils. That explains why the Shroud of Turin image can be stripped away with adhesive tape, as demonstrated in the generally impressive studies of Raymond N. Rogers.

20. Further evidence of the superficiality – and easy detachability  - comes from looking at midline of Shroud, which shows a white stripe with no image. The Shroud has clearly been folded along that axis, as evident from symmetry of the 1532 burn marks.

See my earlier post, showing how this  reconstruction was produced by folding and cutting

Folding has probably caused the overlying film with image to strip off.   http://www.theblaze.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/jesus-christ-shroud.png     see white vertical lines. 

21.The method of contact printing explains why the Shroud image has no features that resemble those of a painted image, i.e. no adhering artist’s pigments of the era, no brush marks, no directionality as regards alternation of light and shade.

22. The observation that brown fibres and white fibres are seen side by side under microscope is suggestive of highly localised heating by contact and conduction, as distinct from high energy radiation.

The highly localised "scorching" is highly suggestive of  imprinting by close contact (heat conduction rather than radiation)

(There is another lower-magnification image that makes the same point better, which I have mislaid).

23 .A second factor may operate to produce selective fibre scorching. As soon as a fibre turns brown due to contact heating, it will then tend to absorb appreciably more energy in the form of infrared radiation from a hot template as well. There is then a positive feedback effect.

24.The half-tone effect, i.e. intensity of colour due to number of coloured fibres rather than density of colour, might suggest that the limiting factor in the pigmenting was the availability of thermo-sensitizer. If the latter were limiting, there would tend to produce an all-or-nothing half-tone effect.

25.Whether considered as a fake or the genuine article, advocates from both sides are agreed that the image is in the superficial coating and that the latter is a carbohydrate that is more reactive chemically than cellulose. There is the saponin theory, the latter being used in early linen production and which contains pentose sugars. Alternatively, reactive sugars could have been added immediately prior to scorching, even something as common as sucrose which splits easily into the monosaccharide sugars glucose and fructose - both of which are easily dehydrated by heat and then prone to caramelisation (browning reactions).

26. Is there any evidence of detail in the parts of bas relief that are furthest from a cloth laid over? If yes, it speaks of photographic imaging, e.g.  with a lens or concave mirror.  If not, it suggests thermal contact printing with no sharp image focusing, indeed no depth of field at all, sharp or otherwise. Indeed there does not. Look at the sharply demarcated boundary between dark and light on both sides of the face. There is no suggestion of ears for example, lurking in that deep recess.

 No obvious ears 

An absence of any detail in the lighter portions suggests contact printing rather than image-forming at a distance. 

27.Others have commented on how the hair looks straight and lank as one would expect from a vertical subject. The template for the head may have been modelled on conventional images of the crucified Christ while still vertically on the cross. 

28.Blood may have been applied to the template when cold, then apposed to cloth before heating. Less probably, blood may have been applied to hot template immediately before draping the linen but that would have risked having some of the blood drying and chemically decomposing immediately. There would be no image under the blood marks, the latter having protected the thermo-sensitive coating from heat. Indeed that observation alone would tend to rule out high energy radiation (uv, soft x-ray etc) since the latter tends to be highly penetrating and would have reached the linen through the blood.

29 .It is not clear why blood would transfer so readily to a burial shroud hours, possibly days after being shed, especially from a crown of thorns (which the Gospel writers say was placed in position before crucifixion). It is a characteristic of blood that it coagulates to a solid, horny clot on standing, and ceases to be a liquid, except for the exuded straw coloured serum fraction. The red blood cells that contain the red pigment haemoglobin become entrapped within a network of fibrin fibrils, forming an essentially solid clot.

30. So-called 3D-encoded information is an artefact of the computerised imaging – which explains why the 1532 burn marks appear as a hologram-like 3D as well as the image itself.

Note 3D appearance of 1532 burn marks (at shoulder level) as well as the figure

It is redundant to ascribe “encoded” information to the image if the same 3D-transformation can be achieved on burns acquired in 1532.

31. With a permanent heat-resistant template it would have been possible to experiment with the same template and more than one sheet of linen to achieve an optimal end-result.

32. There can be little or no bilirubin on the cloth, even after days and weeks, never mind centuries.  Bilirubin is sensitive to light and oxygen, being easily bleached and chemically-degraded, even in vivo (as in the phototherapy of neonatal jaundice).

Bilirubin undergoes photoisomerism and then photooxidation on exposure to light resulting in more polar, readily excretable end products. (This was sciencebod's first research interest while employed as Research Specialist at the University of Pennsylvania Hospital Medical School, 1970-72)

A colorimetric test and other incidental “quickie” spot and tests does not suffice to identify bilirubin, nor is the pigment bright red, as claimed (it is orange). Nor do people become highly jaundiced as a result of trauma: distance runner's foot-strike haemolysis of blood cells (with consequent degradation of haemoglobin-derived porphyrins to biliverdin and bilirubin) produces mild not gross hyperbilirubinaemia, insufficient to alter the colour of blood.

33. Invoking bilirubin appears to be a means of evading the observation that the so-called blood stains would have long ceased to be intact haemoglobin, and are now “haematite”, which is iron(III) oxide, Fe2O3, probably hydrated with one or molecules of water. One would indeed have expected blood to degrade over centuries to inorganic constituents, aided by microbial action in moist air. 
      34. Reports that the blood is type AB, or have markers for male chromosomes, or genes for globins etc etc appear to be at best anecdotal, possibly apocryphal. DNA cloning by the DNA polymerase assay is notoriously sensitive to contamination with recent DNA, e.g. from sweat, fingerprints even,  with a few shed skin cells.

 35. Re hair: any high energy radiation capable of scorching either cellulose or a carbohydrate coating would have degraded hair as well – the latter being keratin, which is a protein. Hair is easily singed. The hair on the Shroud shows little by way of fine detail. Indeed, but for its location, it might not have been easily recognizable as hair.

36. Hungarian Pray manuscript. Said to show same L-shaped pattern of burn holes in the burial shroud. The cartoon-like line drawings show shroud immediately after the Resurrection. There is no emphasis given to holes – they are largely lost among the other markings gs.

The holes could just as well have been a nominal attempt to portray blood spots. The biblical account makes no mention of burn holes. If the creator of the Pray manuscript had meant those few holes to represent burn marks, would he not have added flames or wisps of smoke? 

37. There is much else said about the images on the Pray manuscript that has “the eye of faith”, e.g that Christ shows the same epsilon-mark  on forehead, as distinct maybe from an indistinct squiggle  or that the artist has attempted with his fat “plus signs” to portray a herring-bone weave. One can read far too much into a sketch that gives little if any indication that it was intended to be heavy on symbolism, especially when those alleged symbols like burn marks form no part of the biblical account, and which modern day observers and interpreters  intend merely to buttress speculation about the Shroud of Turin.

38. Conclusions so far:
The Shroud is too elaborate, contrived and stylised to be anything but a medieval fake.  Why have a magically-produced imprint of a crucified man energetic enough to chemically degrade cellulose and/or other cloth constituents, yet also replicating a checklist repertoire of scourge marks (overdone)  blood flows, crown of thorns,  nail exit wounds, etc etc.

It is incredible that modern man should be be speculating and/or fantasizing about miraculous flashes of intense high-energy electromagnetic radiation, indeed coherent laser-beam ultraviolet light . What started this nonsense? Answer: 20th century computer games (converting  faint 2D markings to 3D hologram-like images in what might be called upmarket computer games) together with "revealing" details (nails through wrist etc)  regardless of whether they agreed with the Biblical account or centuries of received wisdom.

It simply beggars belief that folk should fall for this combination of digital jiggerpokery and special pleading. The Shroud can be viewed as a medieval forerunner of Euro Disney – inspired by the same motive to create a spectacle and through it to flog a dream - and about as genuine as the latter’s ersatz fairytale castle.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Why the cavalier and disrespectful treatment of the Turin Shroud - folding it down its midline?

Why the cavalier treatment of the Turin Shroud  at Chambery in 16th century France - folding the presumed holy relic down its midline, from head to foot?

Familiar image of the Shroud with those burn holes (trimmed of burnt edges)

Here is the familiar image of the Shroud, shown with the roughly triangular burn holes that we are told resulted from the Chambery fire in 1532, AFTER the Shroud had been intermittently on display in the sacristy chapel as a revered “holy icon”.   
The holes we are told were patched over two years later by nuns;  this photograph was taken after the  2002 "restoration", after the patches had been removed, and a backing sheet stitched in place. Nevertheless burn holes are all too apparent, and were the result we are told of molten silver penetrating the Shroud.

Note the holes form an approximately symmetrical pattern, so clearly the Shroud had been folded for storage –- presumably with great care and reverence one would have assumed – but all it took was a single blob of molten silver penetrating several layers of folded cloth to cause the extensive damage that intruded on the image, especially at the shoulders.

So how precisely had the Shroud been folded? It is easy to reproduce the pattern with a single sheet of A4 paper and a pair of scissors. My starting point was a cropped image of the shroud, removing as much as possible of the burn holes (since I wanted to add my own!).

Laterally-cropped image of the Shroud printed onto A4

Here is a sequence of 6 steps that ends up with cut (rather than burn) holes in approximately the right position and arrangement. Notice it took only one initial cut triangular hole to end up with 8.


Lower half folded to long-dimension midline 

Upper half now folded to midline also

Fold in half again along long dimension midline - ie. FOLDING THE MAN'S IMAGE IN TWO

Fold again, this time along the short-dimension midline

Cut out a single triangle through all 8 folded layers to simulate a single burn hole

As above, oblique view

Final pattern of "burn holes" matching that of the Shroud below:

Reminder: the Shroud (again)

Notice anything? It is simply not possible to achieve the pattern and symmetry without at some stage folding the Shroud lengthwise down its midline, i.e. folding the image of the face and body in two equal halves (!)

Is that not extraordinary – that a supposedly revered image of the crucified Christ was treated in this manner? What’s more, it is not just a picture we are told, but the actual burial shroud of Christ, preserved from the first century AD, but curiously only coming to public attention in the 14th century (but see literature concerning Edessa and the "Mandylion").

I don’t know about you, dear reader, but I frankly find it inconceivable that something believed to be Christ’s own burial shroud would have been treated in so cavalier a fashion, folding, indeed creasing Christ’s face in two. Surely care would have been taken to avoid any folding in the region of the face especially? It would have been folded scrupulously to avoid anything that could be viewed as disrespectful.  Would it not have been rolled up rather than folded to avoid introducing any creases – ones that would have needed to be pressed out afterwards to maintain the Shroud in tip-top display condition?

So why was the Shroud folded in this disrespectful manner?  I have reached a (tentative) opinion on that, but invite others to state theirs before revealing mine (which regrettably risks antagonising those who might see this line of enquiry as constituting an attack on their religious beliefs, which it most certainly is not).

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Sure, the Turin Shroud has a 3D-encoded image of a crucified man. So how come the 1532 scorch marks come up in glorious 3D as well?

  "A 3D terrain map projection of the image color intensity. This is one of the most puzzling physical properties of the picture. Produced using a VP-8 Image Analyzer."

The graphic above, plus caption, is taken from the following site:



Has state-of-the art NASA image-analysing technology revealed TOO MUCH?

Reminder: here is the non-analysed image for reference (photographic positive on left, original negative on right). Note the 4 elongated diamond shaped intrusions- not there before the 1532 fire. So why do they map as 3D as well? Miraculous process that defies modern understanding?  Or simply an artefact of too-clever-by-half 20th century computer-aided image processing?

And here's here's another computer-generated reconstruction from a different site.

 Click on image to enlarge (or use Con+)

Notice anything unusual (body proportions, say head v torso?). I am by no means the first to comment on this discrepancy*, nor the suspicion/conclusion that may perhaps form in the mind of the sceptic, namely that the image was faked in two separate parts - the head and then the rest of the body. Shame they were not correctly matched...

* "The body to head ratio on the shroud is nearly 8 to 1. The normal ratio is 6 to 1. This anomaly, omitted from most shroud websites, could indicate that the forger may have sculpted the face, but used a second source, possibly a corpse, for the body. The forger inadvertently made the head too small in relation to the body and introduced this error. A primitive projection system, as the one described above, could have been employed."

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Shroud of Turin- was a lightly baked mummified skeleton and thermosensitized fabric used to produce the image by thermo-stencilling?

 Yup, I think I know how it was done - faking, that is, the crucified body of Christ as a faint sepia image on cloth in the holy-relic obsessed 14th century. The initial inspiration may have been
mummified human bodies, near skeletons in some cases, with which at least some medieval monks (say) may have been well acquainted.

Yes, mummified skeletons were probably a plentiful commodity in your medieval monastery, if one in Brno (the Czech Republic's second city) is anything to go by.  I was one of numerous tourists who visited there some three years ago to see the ghoulish spectacle of more recently mummified monks, still on display.

Capuchin Monastery, Brno

Here, very briefly, is what I think those monks did,. (I'll, er, flesh out the details later). They put one of their long deceased brothers in an oven (bread-baking?) and baked him until he was hot enough to quickly scorch cloth pressed against it. They probably did not have a thermometer, but if they did they would have opted perhaps for somewhere in the region of, say,  250 to 350 degrees Celsius, well below even the dullest red heat at approx. 500C  (the max temperature on an electric iron is said to be about 200 -220C, capable of scorching if one's not careful, needless to say).

The crucial next step, omitting details for the moment like hair, blood etc, was as follows. The hot skeleton was laid on the lower half or a 14ft x 3ft length of  impregnated linen, which was then doubled back at the head end and rolled back to the feet  so that both dorsal and ventral surface were "enshrouded".

The treated cloth would then be monitored closely. In a short while it would have begun to acquire a scorch-like image  (I hesitate to say "scorch" for reasons that will shortly become apparent). What's more the image would be comparable to a photographic negative - with a reversal of the light and dark one would see in a portrait or modern photograph. Why? Imagine a prominent (protuberating p) part of the body, say the hands folded over the groin region. They would be closest to the clothand produce a dark brown image, unlike the lighter image in a photo. But the eye sockets, furthest from the cloth, would leave little impression, which is the opposite a photo where they appear dark through being in shade, so to speak.

Starting with a skeleton and the technique described not only accounts for the negative image, and the 3D properties revealed by image analysis (inasmuch as the "subject" is 3D, absorbing radiant heat in inverse proportion to its distance from the shroud) but also explain the claimed X-ray like properties of the image:

See following link for an account of those X-ray like properties

I add a section later on the blood and hair. For the moment, let's address just two extra details. How was the cloth sensitised to scorch superficially in those parts closest to the hot skeleton? Check my 5 or 6 previous posts and you will find one possible method, using linen that had been lightly coated with charcoal slurry ( maybe starch and/or simple sugars too) and then dried. The charcoal acts as a thermosensitiser, absorbing heat rays (infrared), producing a light tanning effect on the part of the cloth in immediate contact with the charcoal. The chemistry might involve caramelisation, or a carbohydrate/protein reaction to form Maillard reaction products). The latter can be washed out later, leaving just the sepia "stencil" and  the bemused (overawed) medieval religious pilgrim with no clue as how it was produced. It's a process that I have dubbed thermo-stencilling.

 A thermo-stencilled image (see earlier post)

Alternatively, the cloth may simply have been impregnated with lemon juice or similar, relying on the old "invisible writing" trick we used to so as children with paper, lemon juice, a pen nib and a hot clothes iron.

What about the blood on the wrist instead of palms, which some see as lending authenticity to the Shroud (on the grounds that medieval fakers would have assumed like most that it was the palms that had been pierced by nails, rather than the wrists that would seem better able to support weight)?

Well, here's an argument that kills two birds with one stone. Firstly, the metacarpal bones of the hand are highly prominent in the Shroud image, despite being flesh-covered in life, which reinforces my skeleton theory.

But the medieval monks, looking at those metacarpals may have made an all to common mistake in assuming them to be finger bones, so placed their blood below the metacarpals, imagining they were centre- palm, when in fact they were nearer the wrist.

This explanation can account for the image being located on both sides of the cloth, as an exceedingly thin layer, with no intermediate layer. It depends on the cloth having been coated with carbohydrates that are more susceptible to scorching than cellulose, especially reducing free reducing sugars like glucose. Indeed, fruit juice (white grape juice?) may have been used. Again, that "invisible ink" effect.

Yup, this has been hastily written, I freely admit. This retired scientist knows that a new idea should be published quickly, before it becomes someone else's idea...  ;-) That's enough for now. More tomorrow.