Thursday, May 22, 2014

Thanks for providing us with the Shard, Sellar Property and State of Qatar: London needed a lightning conductor.

Yup, we were taught in physics that the surefire way to discharge and dissipate static electricity safely is to instal a large pointed object.

The Sellar Company and State of Qatar have duly obliged by constructing  the tallest (310m) skyscraper in western Europe on the south Bank of the Thames, close to London Bridge.

Here it is, performing as per physics textbooks:

 The photograph is from today's Mail, btw.

Also (late addition) on the BBC's site as well:

Yes, we aim to to be topical on this site.

Might that picture soon be accompanying the routine "hair-standing-on-end"  Van de Graaff machine photos in school physics textbooks?

Sunday, May 18, 2014

The feet of the Man on the TS are not "obscured" in the frontal view. They simply failed to imprint well (except for the tips of the toes).

There are pdf documents, and responses to those pdfs, flying around right now, claiming that the feet of the Man on the Turin Shroud are poorly imaged.  Explanations are on offer to Shroud pro-authenticists as to reasons why  (e.g. they were "obscured" by water stains acquired later, e.g. the 1532 fire).

There remains a deadly silence as to the precise mechanism by which the, er, 'non-obscured' parts of the image came to be imprinted, though it's apparently something to do with radiation (usually unspecified). Sorry, I'm only here for the science, and refuse to discuss the Shroud except with those who are prepared to offer some kind of model that does not defy the basic laws of physics and chemistry. Let them nitpick my model (contact scorching from a hot lifesize metal template) to their heart's content, claiming that it fails to explain every minute  detail of the Shroud image at the macroscopic or microscopic level. Those details in my experience are poorly if at all documented, and are all too often reeled off mantra-like, rarely if ever qualified with the indisputable fact that the TS image is many centuries old, so one can't expect it to look like a model scorch, created in a laboratory (or my kitchen) in the last few days or weeks.

What I have done thios morning is take another look at the feet on the Shroud's frontal image using Shroud Scope, applying my now standard procedure of increasing the image contrast.  Result: I think I can see feet, correction, mainly the toes viewed almost orthogonally from the main body plane - exactly as one might expect from the human body or an effigy thereof. In other words, feet protrude from the heel roughly at right angles with the legs and torso, and that remains true when a subject, living or dead, or cast or sculptured representation thereof, e.g. bronze statue,  is recumbent. My contact-scorch model obviously has to account for the image characteristics of the TS, and I do believe it does, as the following photos, taken just a few minutes ago will reveal.

Where shall we start? Model scorch or Shroud Scope?

Let's do the model first. It's easier to take in the detail when one has template and scorch imprint side-by-side.

Model scorch v brass crucifix side-by-side. Click to enlarge. Note the way the tips of the toes are imaged (not entire feet).
Now let's have a look at the imprint of those toes in close-up

It's the tips of the toes that are best imprinted, with a mere hint of rest of the toes and feet.

Now let's look at the entire frontal TS image at maximum contrast in MS Office Picture Manager. This is the Durante 2002 horizontal image from Shroud Scope.

At first sight, one could be forgiven for thinking that one of the feet is missing, and the other hard to make out, i.e. "obscured" in some fashion.

Here are those lower legs and feet magnified (image now turned vertical|) Note carefully the red brown areas at the very end of the fabric, beneath the bloodstains. What is responsible for that coloration, dare one say 'scorch-like'coloration?

Here's the same at higher magnification. Note the presence of a dark-light-dark-light alternation of red-brown coloration close to and parallel with the lower edge of the TS. (Note too the annoying presence of some longitudinal banding that accentuates image intensity - a well-known effect ).

Would I be correct in my supposition that most see that red-brown coloration as some kind of smearing out of the image of the feet, due to accidental scorches acquired in the Shroud's history, assisted perhaps by water damage?  Would I be correct in thinking that few if any have looked at that red-brown region in the past and said "Ah yes, one can see the imaging of toes, albeit bunched toes, especially the tips of toes?

Region of interest inside blue rectangle (putative imaging of the extreme tips of toes). There are corresponding 'jointed' regions above the rectangle that are probably the less distal parts of toes.

I'll be subject to the usual charges of "patting myself on the back" if I say that I see tips of toes, intensely red-brown in colour, because I have an advantage over most others - namely a model, one that also shows clearly how tips of toes can come to be imaged, in contrast with the rest of the toes and feet where there has been poor contact between cloth and template.
Here's another at maximum magnification in which I have tweaked the settings in MS Picture Manager in an attempt to  optimise the differentiation  with respect to background and/or bloodstains of those interrupted areas of red-brown image density, i.e. "toes". Click to ENLARGE.

Now there are all kinds of caveats, needless to say. Some of the distribution of image (dark-light-dark etc) appears to correspond with longitudinal banding, perhaps due to batch-to-batch variation in yarn for whatever reason (bleaching differences etc). But that banding is unlikely to account for all, or even a substantial fraction of the image intensity.

Then there are the methodological aspects. Even with scorching from a template, there are different ways in which it can be done to get better or worse contact between fabric and all the contours. In the above imprinting from my crucifix I used my 'Mark 1' procedure that involves pressing the heated template down into fabric (cotton on this occasion) with a soft yielding underlay. That method tends to produce tenting of fabric between prominences so one sees gaps in the image (but then there are gaps in the TS image too). I did not use my Mark 2 "LOTTO" method in which the template is laid onto a surface, and fabric placed on top, manually moulding the fabric through a protective overlay to the desired features, maybe some, maybe not all.

Irrespective, the take-away message of this posting should be clear. No, the feet are not completely imaged, but for reasons to do with the 'awkward' nature of the feet being orthogonal to the longitudinal plane of legs and torso.

Orthogonality rules, OK?

 The linen of the TS failed to make contact with the main part of at least one of the feet, whereas good contact was made with the tips of the toes of BOTH feet.

My scorch model is consistent with the empirical evidence that is there for all to see on Shroud Scope. What is more, it's been shown, after a fashion, to have predictive utility - I predicted that the toes would be imaged, when others are saying the feet are "obscured" by water stains etc.The ball is  now in their court to explain how toes come to be imaged in their mechanistic models (assuming they have one).

I was going to add a section on a noteworthy feature - namely that the red-brown coloration is stronger for the toes than virtually any other part of the TS image, frontal or dorsal. That's except for the "beard", or should that be "bearded chin"? However, that would get me into some areas possibly even more contentious than those raised by this posting, so will be kept for another time.

Postscript 1: anyone here who is new to 'Shroudology' may be wondering why there is no mention of the feet on the dorsal image.

Answer: there is no problem where the imaging of dorsal feet is concerned. One sees clearly and unambiguously on Shroud Scope that it is the sole of at least one foot that is imprinted.  Failure to see full imprints of both soles is usually interpreted as due to a crossing of the feet, with the suggestion that a single nail had been used in a crucifixion narrative to secure both feet to the timber work.

Feet, dorsal image, with bloodstains.

It is nevertheless a matter of interest as to how the soles of even one foot came to be imaged, given that it's the heels only of a recumbent 'subject' that make contact with the fabric. One has to envisage some surplus fabric being turned through 90 degrees so as to capture the image of the soles.

In my model scorch experiments with the dorsal side of the crucifix, I have images, either heels only, or heels and soles, depending on whether or not I wanted the soles to be imaged.

Postscript 2: Note that the first two 'toes' on the left are outside the water-stained area, and the 'ribbed' sequence (light-dark-light) continues into the stained area.

Black hashed line indicates boundary of the water stain.

For a fuller exposition of this blogger's ideas re the Shroud of Turin, especially his 'hot template/contact-scorch model' see his specialist Shroud site:

Late addition: Sunday 8th June

I had rather hoped to reinforce the perception that the tips (at least) of toes were imaged on the frontal side of the Shroud. But when entered into ImageJ the results were disappointing, and I decided to dwell on it for a bit.

Note however that the image turns through right angles back to the base plane at the base of the shroud, close to those toes.

Independent work earlier today with split images and ruled lines convinced me that one "lost" valuable image due to this kind of edge effect.

 Split image before 3D enhancement

Split image after 3D enhancement. Note "cut edge" with loss of border strip of image to vertical plane.

Might one also be losing image quality too, close to this turn-down of image? If so, what can one do to get those toes further from the edge of the shroud?

I tried overlapping the end of the shroud with mid-regions to avoid white space, but it wasn't terribly successful. Thus the hiatus while I had a think.

A possible solution occurred to me this morning, which was to create a mirror image of the end of the TS, and align the two as if two identical men were lying end to end, with feet almost in contact.

Here is the new contrived conjunction - the added yellow line being the junction. Note the mirror-image bloodstains above and below the line.

Here's the result of doing that exercise:

Note the two parallel ridges of "nobbles" either side of the central long axis. I do believe one is now looking at 3D imaged toes, or at any rate tips of toes, that are better delineated now that the edge effect has been dealt with.OK, so it's not entirely convincing, but better that there be something visible, or a mere hint thereof, than be left with the worrying thought that what one thought might be toes, if  totally resistant to 3D imaging, might possibly be just smeared-out detritus of one kind or another.

Here's the same graphic, with an outlining of the toe region, with its mirror-image counterpart in blue. Sorry about the faintness of the lines.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Hugely misleading item on the BBC site: "UK's COAL (!) will have gone in 5 years, along with gas and oil".

Yes, what an extraordinary headline, with no qualification whatsoever in the body of the article.

 (Update: Sat 17 May: the story has now had a complete makeover, the title now being The UK "needs more home-grown energy").

 Britain especially its coastal  waters have underlying seams of coal that are reckoned could last for decades, centuries even.  .No, I am not talking about coal that is inaccessible by present technology.. Present physical extraction, i.e. conventional mining,  has long extended out under the continental shelf, as seen from this upbeat assessment in 2012.

Extract from the above Telegraph article:

Yet the Firth of Forth has deep and abundant coal seams that are only hundreds of yards from the refinery, offshore.
The coal lies around our shores; billions and billions of tonnes of coal from Swansea to Whitehaven and from the Firth of Forth to Lincolnshire.
That coal is not only there but, thanks to the astonishing evolution of horizontal oil drilling technology, it can also be cheaply, quickly and safely converted into gas and piped ashore.
Drilling for oil and gas in the North Sea now is not only exorbitantly expensive, but the odds against any commercial discovery are lengthening to unacceptable levels.
Yet our coal and its characteristics are known, as a result of the former National Coal Board’s exhaustive attempts to mine coal offshore from the old collieries of Durham and Cumbria. Indeed, some of the Durham pits went eight miles out under the North Sea.
The process of Underground Coal Gasification (UCG) requires no new technology and there is practically no exploration risk, thanks to detailed geology reports from the old NCB. [It involves injecting oxygen or steam into unworked coal underground to release gas.]
It is possible to drill horizontally from land into the North Sea and vertically into the coal seam, which will be at depths of between 300 metres and a kilometre and beneath impermeable rock.
The scale of the reserves is remarkable: 2bn tonnes of coal, of which half may be amenable to gasification, is equivalent in oil terms to 4bn barrels of oil – the size of a Middle Eastern oil field.

So, apart from huge unmined coal reservesthe technology also exists for horizontal drilling, and GASIFICATION in situ, the latter achieved by injection of oxygen or steam.

Not up to your usual standards, BBC, as I had to say quite recently in connection with your "flaky Magazine "science", separately on sodium and chlorine.

OK. so the BBC people is quoting others' "research findings". But that's not the point. The BBC, along with the  other major media outlets, has a responsibility to see that it's reporting is both well-informed and BALANCED. It's hardly balanced to suggest that Britain has all but exhausted its last reserves of coal.

Economic arguments? Prohibitive costs of extraction? if that's the problem in the short or even medium term, then say so. But the economics are changing all the time, and any economic case for or against a revitalisation of our moribund coal industry awaits decisions on a host of alternative strategies - whether or not to frack for shale gas, a transforming development Stateside that has greatly reduced dependency on the Middle East, or whether or to continue to invest in 'green' renewable energy - notably wind power, whether on- or off-shore - and whether or not CCS (carbon capture and storage)  is likely to be embraced or not (a topic on which this blogger had a 1:1 a few years back with the then Chief Scientific Officer to the previous Labour government, my concern being what liquified CO2 might do to submarine North Sea chalk deposits in the presence of groundwater).

Note: this is immediate response, indeed protest, to seeing the above item this morning, and finding there was no invitation to post a comment (maybe a "Comments" facility will be opened soon - one hopes so). While we wait to see what happens if anything on the BBC site, I'll do some research on the research organization* that inspired the above headline, and look to see if other media outlets have publicized its projections for a fossil-fuel-free UK, and if so how. Hopefully there will be an opportunity to express some healthy scepticism, if not outright derision.

*Global Sustainability Institute, Anglia Ruskin University, UK. 

On its website, under Tweets,the Institute's Director Aled Jones says "our research is now the most read article on the BBC"

Trivial footnote : note that I have refrained from any mention of THAT still raging controversy over AGW. I made a decision long ago to keep my comments on that score confined to MSM threads, posting under my 'newsjunkie' and 'sciencebod' pseudonyms. Most of those comments, and indeed some IDs, have been wiped by moderators, not because of the scientific views expressed, notably on the physics of heat storage and release by cycles of evaporation and condensation, but because of the ferocious response from the 24/7 lobbyists that frequent those sites. Nuff said.

I also went to the generally authoritative Real Climate site in December 2009 to canvass opinion on my interpretation of the mechanism of back radiation at the kinetic molecular/bond energy level, which attracted some interest, if not wholesale agreement.

Update: Have just discovered by googling this site called "Biased BBC" where its commenters are voicing similar protests re the ludicrous suggestion that Britain is running out of coal..

Here's the priming comment with handy links:

Ian Rushlow says:
A new alarmist report by the Global Sustainability Institute being plugged by the BBC makes the extraordinary claim that the “UK’s oil, coal and gas ‘gone in five years’” (see And, of course, it goes without saying that “there should be a ‘Europe-wide drive’ towards wind, tidal, solar and other sources of renewable power” so solve the problem. But the claims – which go unchallenged – seem to be fantasy of the highest order. For instance, most sources estimate that there there are a good 30 years of oil left in the British part of the North Sea. Here’s an article from the BBC this February making such a claim – Why such a disparity in 3 months? Because the first article is a plug for Scottish independence and the new article is a plug for Europe and a dig at the coalition. For those worried that it is all going to come to an end in 5 years time – don’t worry. There may be enough coal to last us for several centuries (see, ditto for gas (see Britain’s energy problems and interdependence on other countries are, like so many problems, largely manufactured.

Further reading (expressing views that are or maybe different from my own):  "Renewable energy won't rid us of the horrors of coal" by Simon Jenkins in the Guardian.

Here's a link to a well informed article by Shaun Richards for Mindful Money in  which the writer puts a finger on how the East Anglia based researchers arrived at those  (alarmist) estimates for remaining reserves.

"If we move to the reserves of coal that we believe we have without new technologies then the UK Coal Authority estimated these at 4,575 million tonnes in February 2013. This sounds an enormous amount and far more than four and a half years worth. As we review that we consumed some 64.9 million tonnes in 2012 acording to the UK government then we appear to have around 70 years worth of proveable reserves left. If we consider the new technology discussed above it seems sensible to believe that we have a lot more than that although of course some of this reflects hope as well as fact."

It's hardly impressive, is it, not for a research institute that cares about the little things of life, like credibility?

What's especially hair-raising is the way the reserves of oil have been calculated. This quote from Richards gives the lie:

"The Global Sustainability Institute kindly provided me with a link to their report and as we review their assumptions we do see what has taken place. (My bolding).

The units used are “years left” i.e. how many years of internal oil consumption (at the current rate) could be provided for by existing reserves. This figure is arrived at by dividing total reserves by consumption per year.
As you can see this is not saying that we will run out of oil in 5.2 years time but that we would do so if we only used our own UK reserves."

Methinks the BBC needs to rewrite its article.

Afterthought: the writer and his wife spent a few days in  Aberdeen late last summer for a reunion. It's clear to see why it's  the oil capital of Britain, perhaps of the EU, when you see the extensive and bustling facilities in and around the harbour and airport for servicing the North Sea gas and oil rigs. We used the opportunity to make a flying visit to the main Shetland island. Chatting with the locals and fellow hotel guests (oil workers for the most part) there seemed general optimism that supplies were not about to run out any time soon. Why? Increasingly sophisticated means of scavenging the reserves that did not shoot straight up the initial bore holes (that and the increasing use being made of horizontal bores, radiating from the initial site, the technical term for which I've forgotten).

Historical footnote re gasification

When I was a teenager, working my way through the public library's stock of chemical textbooks, there were 2 kinds of gasification described. The first was the better-known coal gas plant. There, coal was roasted in retorts in the absence of air in a process called 'destructive distillation', and the chief products were methane and hydrogen, piped to homes. but with a lethal component too (carbon monoxide).  The end-product in the retort was porous coke (impure carbon) which we used to see heaped up in school near the boilers.  Coke could be harmlessly tossed at friends and foes alike. I expect most school boilers these days are gas-fired, or maybe oil-fired.

But there was a means of getting extra gas from coke, but it needed alternating two stage chemistry to get it to work. First it was placed in a retort and heated in a stream of air. The exothermic reaction produced first carbon dioxide and heat, but that was followed by  a second reaction in which the carbon dioxide reacted with more hot carbon to make flammable (but poisonous) carbon monoxide. The end product, mainly carbon monoxide, suitable only for industrial, non-domestic use, was carbon monoxide, of relatively low calorific value, due to dilution with atmospheric nitrogen. It was called "producer gas" and was a poor relation (see next).

Once the bed of coke was red or white hot,due to the blast of air, another type of chemistry became possible, namely an endothermic (heat-absorbing) reaction with steam (H2O) producing a mixture of hydrogen and carbon monoxide, both flammable, called "water gas", without diluting  nitrogen. But the reaction quickly slowed down as the bed of hot coke cooled due to the endothermic reaction. That was the signal to inject more air, to get more producer gas, followed by more steam, more water gas.

What's been achieved, it seems to get gasification of coal, as distinct from coke (coal being essentially a complex solid semi-aromatic hydrocarbon) is to heat the stuff in situ , i.e.underground or in the sea bed in the presence of purified oxygen rather than air, (thus eliminating diluent nitrogen) and steam to get a kind of intermediate mix that is neither  water gas nor producer gas , but something intermediate. I'm hazy about the details, but will try to get some more specific information. Watch this space.

Latest update: 16 May 2014  (Yes, still same day as original BBC posting).

Thought I would go back to the same BBC site to see if Auntie had decided to offer a correction on her abysmal reporting of what clearly was some highly agenda-driven research from that East Anglia institute. Have studied the page closely, and guess what? There is no mention of Aunty's original news item.

Maybe that's the best one can expect when the mighty BBC is rumbled...

Methinks you need to catch up with the digital age BBC...Her days of mantra-mumbling PC political-grandstanding, thought-moulding days are numbered. And not before time. Would it be too much of an exaggeration to say that the BBC has attempted to emasculate the UK man-in-the-street as a legitimate force or influence on  the shaping of world opinion these last 60 years or so? The BBC's reasons for doing so could form the subject of a score of PhD theses...

Monday, May 12, 2014

English countryside is being invaded by rampant cow parsley! Parts of the USA too.

He's only just started

And the man with the high-vis jacket has his work cut out for him...(Note the clump of Photinia too btw, the subject of my last but one posting).

Never mind the Day of the Triffids. What about the Spring of the Cow Parsley? Where are the cows, for heaven’s sake? There used to be two or three long-horns in the field near my home.

 That same field is now a sea of cow parsley (above), except interestingly for certain parts (about which more later). Somehow I don’t think it’s the absence of a few grazing cattle that had made the difference. Cow parsley is rampant this year, more so than I can ever recall in the past.

First, an aside re botanical nomenclature. The cow parsley, aka wild chervil,  referred to here to here is Anthriscus sylvestris. Beware. It’s also referred to occasionally as “Queen Anne’s lace” (QAL) and thus a potential  source of confusion, since QAL is an alternative name, especially in the US for ‘wild carrot’, which though having a similar appearance to our cow parsley is a different species (Daucus carota).

Wild carrot (Daucus carota), not to be confused with cow parsley, aka wild chervil.

Now I’ve sometimes pondered in the past on the question why it is certain wild plants have gained the upper hand when there are scores of contenders at any particular time, and cow parsley has been one of them. 

What gives it the edge over competitors? This year there’s so much of the stuff, dominating patches of woodland, roadside verges, even that meadow near me (the site of an abandoned medieval village btw -due to the Black Death) that is usually just grass and buttercups, with or without cattle, that I’ve resolved to settle this question once and for all. Yes, now is the time for a long-postponed act of botanical catharsis, and you dear reader, if still with me, are now the guinea pig for my musings, not to be confused with pedestrian ramblings (mercifully ambiguous). 

 Yes, you dear reader will now be privy (an appropriate receptacle some might say) to my innermost thoughts on nature’s attempts to recolonise this corner of suburbia with a common-or-garden species. (Correction: common only, assuming  that word refers to open non-privately-owned land(?)given the gardeners in this part of the world would never permit cow parsley to intrude on their immaculate borders).

Here's a link to a blog I've just discovered that issues a salutary warning to anyone rash enough to think cow parsley can be allowed in a "back-to-nature-corner" cum wildlife refuge in their cultivated garden.

So here. In chronological order, was my train of thought these last few days, or as some might say, train crash.

I first noticed the invasion of cow parsley where expected – at the entrance and sides of public footpaths. 

I then noticed that a protected area of woodland, like so many others in this neck of the, er, woods,  was entirely taken over. 

Quick look on internet: cow parsley tends to be found in areas of light shade. OK, that fits. But not too shaded. It tends to be at interface between trees and open areas i.e. partial shade, or maybe some kind of transition zone.

 Go back a few yards into denser shade and the cow parsley looks sickly and abruptly ceases.

So I then got to musing about whether it was really the shade it likes, or is it proximity to trees? Could that be possible? Maybe. Despite less light, might there be a thermal compensation? You see, there’s a well known effect in winter, when there’s snow on the ground, even under bare trees: the snow melts faster under the tree, directly over the root spread. It's an effect that has been attributed to the heat released into the soil by actively respiring roots. Metabolism produces heat.

But another observation, and another line of enquiry, suggested itself. Cow parsley is mainly stalk and flowers (albeit tiny ones arranged in those flat umbrels). There’s precious little foliage on them, apart from some small fern-like fronds. 

Where is the plant getting its energy to thrust up so early and form flowers, stealing a march on competing species that seem more preoccupied with acquiring light-intercepting, neighbour-smothering foliage?  More reading on the internet turned up the key word: rhizomes. Cow parsley has underground rhizomes.

Now, if you dig up cow parsley, as I did yesterday with some difficulty (bending my good trowel in the process) there is what I would have called tap roots.

They are not my idea of “rhizomes”, which I tend to think off like the horizontal ones on irises etc.But the darker "root" has those encircling ribs, so it's not a typical root.

A rhizome is in fact not a root, but a specialized underground stem, one that is adapted to storing food like sugars and starch. But who am I to argue, especially as a quick scout around found several references to cow parsley rhizomes, including an authoritative-looking paper describing the extraction of putative anti-cancer agents (more on that later). So it’s a rhizome, says he, trying to contain his initial  misgivings.

But how can a plant have a store of sugar and starch in early spring one may ask, when it has scarcely any photosynthetic capacity, given the nominal foliage? A penny clunked at the back of my mind, and sure enough the next crucial keyword, the one that explains cow parsley’s ability to get ahead in life, appeared in my internet perusal: biennial. Yes, cow parsley is a biennial, with a two-year life cycle. In year 1 it’s (apparently) a squat plant that is easy to overlook, making a rosette of leaves close to the ground.

The squat, inconspicuous habit of cow parsley in Year 1 of its biennial life cycle,

  But it’s busy squirrelling away (if plants can be said to squirrel)  the sugars and starches into that, er, rhizome, while making big ambitious plans for the following year.

Given that biennial lifestyle, there might be two obvious  reasons why cow parsley should be so rampant this spring, bringing out council workers with their strimmers.  The obvious one that springs to mind is the alleged “warm, wet “ winter we have just had. (I personally had only noticed the wetness, and there’s nothing on my latest fuel bill to suggest its was warm). Yes, it’s been amazingly wet, so much so that part of that field in the first picture acquired standing water for several weeks on end,with squelch turf making one’s usual walk something of a test of the water-proofness or otherwise  of footwear.

But there’s another possibility – maybe it was LAST year’s weather, specifically the growing season,  that was exceptional, allowing biennials like cow parsley to build up super stores in those rhizomes. Actually, those rhizomes look a bit skinny to me, dare one say anorexic, hardly likely to take First Prize in the Bumper Rhizome award at the annual flower show. Caveat: I may have done the uprooting too late, after the plant had raided its savings account.
Random thought. You don't suppose, do you, that cow parsley plants arelike those possibly apocryphal  girls in boarding schools who allegedly synchronize their, er, biorhythms?  Or would that be turning an urban myth into a rural, or suburban one?  Surely not. If cow parsley plants were all in Year 1 in 2013, and all in year 2 currently, we’d surely have noticed by now. And insect species that rely on cow parsley flowers for nectar and or pollen would surely have a rough time, having to seek out alternative foods in alternate years. Do I really need to go hunting for early stage Year 1 rosettes among the stalky flowered specimens, to be certain there’s a new generation on the way to ensure next year’s parsley show?  Nope. A hefty dollop of commonsense says I don’t.

Now, about that preferred habitat. It’s clear from my picture gallery that while cow parsley tends to be found close to trees (and hedgerows) and is presumably its preferred location, there’s probably no need to go seeking highly involved reasons for that (like that thermal effect, or even more abstrusely, some kind of love triangle involving the pre-existing relationship that tree roots have with fungi etc (mycorrhizae). That’s because they are well out in the middle of my local meadow, well separated from trees, at least this year (though I don’t recall seeing them there before in the 4 years we have been where we are).

However, they don’t like the trampled bit where we pedestrians tend to cross the meadow. Maybe that’s ground compaction they or their seeds don’t like, or maybe the year 1 rosettes would get trampled were the seeds to germinate.

Cow parsley would seem to prefer shady locations, bordering woodland, but maybe because they are relatively undisturbed, rather than an intolerance for direct light.

So what are the pros and cons of cow parsley? Visually, they add variety and are a harbinger of Spring, although we have plenty of those already in the gardens hereabouts. Personally I consider them over-dominant, and am not too keen on their dubious scent either, politely described on the BBC's gardening site as "malty".  Maybe. An hour or two after imbibing the amber nectar.  NISM?

Grazing animals? 

 Do cows eat cow parsley?

Come on. Make up your mind. Are you going to eat it or not?
 Do they seek it out? How did cow parsley gets its name? Is calling it cow parsley simply a way of saying it's not to br considerd as a gourmet item in the human diet?

There seems to be uncertainty on the internet as to whether or not it’s safe to allow one’s horses etc to nibble the stuff, though several say their pet seems to seek it out with no ill effects. 

That’s assuming those horses are smart enough to distinguish between cow parsley and some almost identical looking leaves and umbelliferous flowers of plants that ARE toxic to people and animals. That’s especially the case with hemlock  (wot did for Socrates).

One needs a keen eye to tell the difference between deadly hemlock (top) and cow parsley (bottom)
Then there’s the giant hogweed

It can create painful chemical burns to exposed skinof both people and livestock  through a devious and highly antisocial defence strategy, one that involves producing chemicals that provoke an allergic photosensitivity. I guess if you are a plant with no flight mechanism, you are left with just the fight option, and a chemical armoury makes up for the lack of tooth and claw.

I see the pharmaceutical industry continues to eye up the plant kingdom in its ceaseless search for novel cytotoxic agents- one that can find uses in cancer chemotherapy. Here’s a link to a paper in which a particularly promising agent  we are told has been extracted from none other than the rhizomes of Anthriscus sylvestris aka cow parsley. It rejoices under the name of deoxypodophyllotoxin, and remarkably (given it's a secondary metabolite) accounts for no less than 0.39% of the plant matter (dry weigh basis) which seems quite a lot.

Obviously, one need to distinguish between the underground rhizomes and the above-ground foliage if discussing toxicity, needless to say. One may be toxic, the other relatively harmless.
If the extracted rhizome chemical and its derivatives prove successful, can we in Britain  look forward to an exploitation of our vast reserves of cow parsley, assuming more warm wet winters?

The get-up-and-go South Koreans are  also busy extracting those promising chemicals from cow parsley.

Might some of  Korea's less successful neighbours beat a path to our door and that of other nations blessed with a surfeit of cow parsley? Might a variant on what you see next become a common sight on British highways and byways (imagine cow  parsley, roots especially,  where you see hay or straw)?  Will we be seeing  eco-friendly draught animals transporting the harvest to processing plants (each animal hopefully being rewarded at its destination with a nose-bag full).

Further reading: Wild chervil - a relatively new weed problem in central Vermont

(Reminder: wild chervil is an alternative name for cow parsley)

Update: have just tweaked the title and search labels, adding a mention of the USA. The transatlantic dimension is interesting, and increasingly a matter of some concern it would seem. Here's an interesting twist to the story, gleaned from another site, quoted verbatim:

Wild chervil (Anthriscus sylvestris)
                             probably arrived in North America as a
               component of British wildflower seed
                             mixes which were used to recreate the
                   floral meadows of Britain. Wild chervil
                       may still be found in some wildflower
                       seed packets and buyers should make
                  sure they have a complete list of the
                       plants they are purchasing. 

Personal observation: it's probably hard to get the general public concerned about a "weed" that gives a not unpleasing frothy look to the countryside each Spring (hard-nosed farmers are a different matter). But think about those entrenched rhizomes, and the steady take-over of any land that is not annually ploughed, crowding out other species, reducing biodiversity, animal as well as plant, altering food chains with their predator-prey relationships, upsetting the 'balance of nature'?

Might cow parsely/wild chervil spread beyond Vermont in years to come. Might it find soil conditions more to its liking further inland, where's there's less competition from competitor species and/or abundant fertilized prairie. Might a satellite map of the USA in 2020 maybe look a bit like this, in the month of May or June?

Update:Monday 19th May

See Michael McCarthy in the Independent: "Cow parsley: the countryside killer".

Update: Tuesday 2nd June 2015

It's now a year later, and there's been quite a few visitors these last few weeks to this posting, prompted presumably by yet another annual invasion of cow parsley. The field with the church tower in the background (see above) is again full of the stuff, so there must be plenty of odd  as well as even year flowerers in the biennial mix, if you see what I mean. I was watching the cows (and bull) in that same field this afternoon. Despite its name, one gets the impression that cows studiously avoid cow parsley, preferring new grass instead.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Suddenly, it's discovered that one of "Jesus's" arms on the Turin Shroud is dislocated. Now there's a surprise.

Man on the Turin Shroud (photographic negative): spot the dislocated right arm (your left)

Yes. The right arm of the Man on the TS is now declared to be too long (or maybe too short -   please, let's not quibble over details).  So it  must have been dislocated  from its joint with the shoulder. Any objections?  You have only a few seconds in which to voice your objections. No?  OK. So let's continue.

Links? Nope, can't be bothered. Most folk should know by now the internet site(s) that propagate this kind of stuff.  Why give them free publicity? Googling ' shroud of turin' will take you  there, if so inclined. But be warned. Repetitious tedium awaits you dear reader, to say nothing of obsessive tendencies. (And be warned - there be trolls as well, those that fake IDs so as to get in few ad hom insults before departing).

Biblical narrative? No sweat. The dislocation  must have happened while the founder of Christianity was carrying his cross to the site of execution.

Hold on a minute. I thought the shoulders of the Man on the TS had been  obliterated by those burn holes acquired in that 1532 fire, patched up some two or so years later by those industrious nuns. I thought there was no point looking for details of the region where arm meets shoulder.

Ah, well that's where you are wrong dear reader. There are those who can still discern original imagery under burn holes where we ordinary mortals give up in despair. It helps of course if one is a sindonologist, preferably employed by an Italian centre of excellence, so as to be able to spot these fine details. If you are just a retired science bod, as I am, lacking the magic eye, then simply don't bother. You are out of your league, my friend, amico mio.

Can this anatomical "I spy a dislocated shoulder"  be made to to fit the biblical account?  Why yes, no problem, none whatsoever,  It explains why that decent fella Simon of Cyrenia felt the need to step in so as as to relieve the condemned of his burden, having spotted the sudden loss of motor function in that over-burdened, indeed crippled shoulder joint.

Yes, it all adds up now, doesn't it?

Where would be be without the Turin Shroud to fill the gaps in the biblical account?

Alternative narrative? This blogger suggested many moons ago that the TS image was imprinted as a scorch onto linen by a medieval-era artisan from a heated life-sized bronze of the crucified Christ. But there was a problem. The arms of  the latter were still in crucifixion mode. They  needed to to be sawn off and re-positioned, hands over groin, to make the image look respectably post-mortem, modesty-protecting, those hands acting fig-leaf fashion  'down there' so as not to offend the ladies.

Crucified Christ? Maybe. Or there again, maybe a latter-day Templar knight, like, hint, hint, a falsely-condemned martyr  (Jacques de Molay? Geoffroi de Charney?), liquidated in Philip IV of France's purge of the order, involving initially the  lengthy imprisonment (7 years), spasmodic  torture and - finally - execution on a  Seine island in the centre of gay Paree by slow-roasting over coals in 1314.

If one's to be considered a scientist (as distinct from an agenda-driven apologist for the Christian faith - or at any rate one variant thereof) one cannot ignore alternative scenarios, least of all those that fit the radiocarbon dating (1260-1390).

My title ("Now there's a surprise"). What made our sindonologist friends suddenly discover a "dislocated arm at the shoulder"? Not by any chance the suggestion that one or both arms of an existing bronze template had been detached and re-positioned so as to make a more convincing template?

Afterthought. How many times have we read that this or other peculiarity of the TS image (missing parts, neck too small etc etc) is down to rigor mortis*, which may even have set in while the supposed victim was still nailed to a cross with outstretched arms. When asked how the same subject can still show rigor mortis  in the image on the shroud, yet have hands compactly placed over groin, we are airily told that the arms must have been forcibly wrenched into their new position. So why the talk now about dislocation, and a convenient 'Passion' narrative involving a slip on the road to Calvary with no mention of the older attempt to accommodate rigor mortis into story? Nothing betrays pseudo-science faster than an incoherent narrative that fails the test of internal consistency.

*  Example: see this (my bolding) from STURP's Robert Bucklin MD, JD, the preamble to his astonishing 'autopsy' on the man on the TS (I say "astonishing" given that  it is based on an "imprint" with no sure knowledge as to how the imprint was generated, or even whether the imprint was that from a real human being, dead or alive, as distinct from inanimate effigy):

"In the case of the image on the Shroud, it can be stated that the deceased person is and adult male measuring 71 inches from crown to heel and weighing an estimated 175 pounds. The body structure is anatomically normal, representing a well-developed and well-nourished individual with clearly identifiable head, trunk, and extremities. The body appears to be in a state of rigor mortis which is evidenced by an overall stiffness as well as specific alterations in the appearance of the lower extremities from the posterior aspect. The imprint of the right calf is much more distinct than that of the left indicating that at the time of death the left leg was rotated in such a way that the sole of the left foot rested on the ventral surface of the right foot with resultant slight flexion of the left knee. That position was maintained after rigor mortis had developed."

Update: 10 May, 14:25

I see that Robert Bucklin has been quoted elsewhere, apparently to suggest that the pathologist was quick to have spotted some lesions in the shoulder region:

“An interesting finding is noted over the shoulder blade area on the right and left sides. This consists of an abrasion or denuding of the skin surfaces, consistent with a heavy object, like a beam. Resting over the shoulder blades and producing a rubbing effect on the skin surfaces.”

 How can Bucklin have seen something suggestive of skin lesions when:

(a) the evidence for major wounds (lance in side, nails in wrist) and minor ones (scourge marks) rests entirely on blood stains (which could have been added, notwithstanding the less-than-conclusive 'blood first/image second' claims,  indeed mantra, with nothing that can be discerned as the site of a wound(s) in the basal body image per se, reinforced by the fact that: 

(b) there is in my view nothing in the fine structure of the TS image to permit a  distinction between hair and skin (surely one of the most neglected aspects of the image analysis). The identification of hair has been  done purely on the basis of "that's where one expects to see hair; thus any image density in that location must represent hair".

 If there is no distinguishing  between textures as different as hair and skin, then what price the likelihood of distinguishing between damaged and undamaged skin?

The fact that hair and skin are indistinguishable must surely rank as a priori evidence that the TS image was imprinted from a bronze template or similar.

I personally think Luigi Garlaschelli was correct when he suggested that the image of the head was not obtained by his 'rubbing' technique, as per torso, from a fully 3D subject, ie. student volunteer, (or, as I would prefer, scorch imprinting off an effigy), but from a bas relief, for reasons that can be discussed another time.

Yet another afterthought:  

Do you see clear, unequivocal evidence of shoulder-dislocation, dear reader? I've added some extra contrast to the Durante 2002/ShroudScope image in an attempt to make your task easier.

I don't, unless I make what I consider a somewhat arbitrary decision as to where to draw a line that delineates image from non-image area (not easy when the background is also a sepia colour, same as image but of lower intensity AND the encroaching scorch marks from the 1532 fire).

Were it a photograph, one would say it was the subject's right shoulder that was the lower of the two. But it's an imprint (think of it as left by a face-down-into-linen operation) so it's the subject's left shoulder that is lower.. BUT IT'S SAID TO BE THE RIGHT SHOULDER THAT IS LOWER THAN THE LEFT!

Are the "dislocationists" assuming image cut-off where I have added some yellow dashes )? If so, methinks that's an arbitrary decision too far.... Might some folk being seeing what they want to see?

Here's the corresponding dorsal views:

And here next is where the 'dislocationists' are presumably making the separation between image and non-image:

This time, think of an imprint being taken from a back-down-into-linen subject, with face poiting outwards. It's the subject's right shouder that is lower. (!)

Er, Houston, we have a problem. It's the subject's left shoulder that is lower in the frontal view, if one takes account of the 'sense' of imprinting.  But it's the right shoulder that is lower in the dorsal view.

And where's the evidence for some kind of lesion affecting one shoulder and not the other?

My position, leaving aside that tiny anomaly and/or lack of indisputable detail: if you don't know for certain precisely how the image was imprinted, and from whom or what, then you have no secure basis on which to go drawing anatomical or injury-related conclusions. One cannot base major anatomical conclusions purely on some apparent asymmetry in the Shroud image around its midline. Other corroborating evidence is needed.