Archive for the ‘Science’ Category

Fr. Matthew Pittam on Relics

November 23, 2015 3 comments

imageWhen have you ever read about the carbon dating of the shroud in which no mention was made about the results?

The University of Oxford is to become a world leading centre into the study of religious relics following the launch of a new department. This ground-breaking centre, based in Keble College’s Advanced Studies Centre, is to be composed of computer and medical scientists as well as historians, classicists and theologians. Such an interdisciplinary approach builds upon work that has been undertaken by the university’s archaeological school since the 1980s.

Past achievements within the university have included the dating of the shroud of Turin, which involved study in three laboratories and the radiocarbon accelerator unit. This new unit is the first time that such a wide-ranging field of experts has been brought together in this way.

Not that there is anything wrong with that; this article is not about the shroud but … As a new centre to study relics opens in Oxford, Fr Matthew Pittam takes a look at some more unusual examples in the Catholic Herald:

  • The head of St Catherine of Siena – San Domenico Basilica Siena, Italy
  • The Holy Prepuce (Christ’s foreskin) – stolen in the 1980s
  • St Antonius’s body – Church of San Marco, Florence, Italy
  • Blessed John Henry Newman – The Oratory of St Philip Neri, Birmingham, UK
  • The hand of St Francis Xavier – Gesu, Rome

Well, I hope Oxford is not planning to test the foreskin.  It has gone missing, since 1983. 

Fr. Pittam concludes his article:

I remember a friend telling me how he had retrieved relics from a presbytery bin when the parish priest had disposed of them in the early 1980s. This just shows how relics have been regarded by many more recently.

Hopefully, the new Oxford Centre for the Study of Relics will help further advance and promote the use of relics in the Church and encourage us to think afresh about their importance. Whilst studies will undoubtedly identify some relics as counterfeit or misidentified, others may be confirmed as originating from the time and place where the holy person lived. It will certainly give the veneration of relics more credibility.

Three Questions About The Reweaving Hypothesis

November 22, 2015 52 comments

imageA reader asks:

Is there any confirmation that Raymond Rogers actually analyzed the 1988 Sample when he determined it was interwoven with dyed Cotton? How exactly do we know he received this from Gonella?

Also, did Joe Marino and Sue Benford ever have access to the 1988 sample? How could they have confirmed it was a reweaved sample if they were kept at individual universities?

Has anyone ever responded to this supposed refutation of the reweave theory titled The Invisible Mending of the Shroud, the Theory and the Reality.

HERE are a few postings in this blog dealing with the subject. Just scroll down the page. If you want to see the comments, click on the title or the word comments.

(linking in email edited by me)

Categories: Carbon 14 Dating

Nevertheless, the images are real enough!

November 13, 2015 46 comments

imageOur resident Kiwi, daveb of wellington nz, of late, has been mentioning Giovanna de Liso, repeatedly, as we continue to struggle with an explanation for the images on the shroud  He has been talking about de Liso since at least April of 2013. Most recently — like a couple of hours ago — in a comment to Because I Don’t See It, he wrote:

I have yet to see a satisfactory explanation of how or why Giovanna de Liso obtained her Shroud-like images from her 12 years of seismic experiments. A protegee of Giulio Fanti, I cannot believe that she faked them. However, neither Fanti nor anyone else has come with what to me might be a satisfactory explanation. She claims that she only ever obtained images under very specific conditions, including the detection of radon! Nevertheless, the images are real enough! […]

And, Hugh Farey, our resident 60/40 skeptic, quickly responded:

Daveb is quite right about the possibilities of geological explanations; they just haven’t been explored or quantified sufficiently for anything much to be said about them. Yet. […]

That woke me up this morning. I realized it is time to read or re-read, as the case may be, Shroud-like experimental image formation during seismic activity by Giovanna de Liso. 

The abstract reads:

Seismic oxidative phenomena on vegetal structures and ferromagnetic rocks, occurring only along parallel surfaces to the ground, led me to verify experimentally if, naturally, in conjunction with earthquakes, it is possible to form images with a 3D character similar to Turin Shroud image, of objects placed between the two edges of linen cloths folded in two and soaked with different solutions. Some similarities with the Shroud image were obtained only on ferromagnetic rocks, during seismic radon emission, with electrostatic discharges and geomagnetic variations, in agreement with Lattarulo s theoretical hypothesis.

Why did I not pay more attention when the paper was included in the Proceedings of the International Workshop on the Scientific approach to the Acheiropoietos Images in Frascati in 2010? Did it then seem too much off-the-wall?  And now, not?

Categories: Image Theory, Paper Chase

Psychological Influences in Seeing Inscriptions on the Shroud of Turin

November 11, 2015 15 comments

… the normal psychological processes underlying perception of writing, and the tendency of these processes to produce illusory perceptions, should be an essential consideration when addressing the existence of religious inscriptions on religious artifacts such as the Shroud of Turin.

In sum, the aim of this research has not been to question the authenticity of the Shroud or the presence of images of a human body and face. Instead, our focus has been the claims made concerning the existence of religious inscriptions which many believe cast crucial light on the provenance of this important artifact.

imageOn October 28, 2015, PLoS ONE, a peer-reviewed, open access journal, published Seeing Inscriptions on the Shroud of Turin: The Role of Psychological Influences in the Perception of Writing by Timothy R. Jordan, Mercedes Sheen, Lily Abedipour, and Kevin B. Paterson. (You can also access this article from the U.S. National Library of Medicine
at the National Institutes of Health)

Do access the article and read it. It is well done. 


The Shroud of Turin (hereafter the Shroud) is one of the most widely known and widely studied artifacts in existence, with enormous historical and religious significance. For years, the Shroud has inspired worldwide interest in images on its fabric which appear to be of the body and face of a man executed in a manner consistent with crucifixion, and many believe that these images were formed in the Shroud’s fibers during the Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. But, more recently, other reports have suggested that the Shroud also contains evidence of inscriptions, and these reports have been used to add crucial support to the view that the Shroud is the burial cloth of Jesus. Unfortunately, these reports of inscriptions are based on marks that are barely visible on the Shroud, even when images are enhanced, and the actual existence of writing on the Shroud is still a matter of considerable debate. Here we discuss previous evidence concerning the psychological processes involved generally in the perception of writing, and especially when letters and words are indistinct. We then report two experiments in which the influence of religious context on perception of inscriptions was addressed specifically, using an image of woven fabric (modern linen) containing no writing and with no religious provenance. This image was viewed in two different contexts: in the Religious Context, participants were informed that the image was of a linen artifact that was important to the Christian faith whereas, in the non-religious Neutral Context, participants were informed that the image was of a simple piece of linen. Both groups were told that the image may contain faint words and were asked to report any words they could see. All participants detected words on the image, and indicated that these words were visible and were able to trace on the image the words they detected. In each experiment, more religious words were detected in the Religious Context condition than in the Neutral Context condition whereas the two contexts showed no effect on the number of non-religious words detected, indicating that religious context had a specific effect on the perception of illusory writing. Indeed, in the Neutral Context condition, no religious words at all were reported in either experiment. These findings suggest that images of woven material, like linen, inspire illusory perceptions of writing and that the nature of these perceptions is influenced considerably by the religious expectations of observers. As a consequence, the normal psychological processes underlying perception of writing, and the tendency of these processes to produce illusory perceptions, should be an essential consideration when addressing the existence of religious inscriptions on religious artifacts such as the Shroud of Turin.

Categories: Paper Chase, Science

The Pollen Scam?

November 10, 2015 3 comments

"I regret that, from what I’ve learned from our research, we can not currently use the pollen to define any geographical indication.” — Avinoam Danin*

clip_image001Recent discussions about pollen on the Shroud of Turin, reflected in three recent postings in this blog…

… compels me to want to dig deeper.  Joe Marino kindly sent me, in Google translation, The Shroud of Turin: The scam of pollen. The complete file (In Italian, La Sindone di Torino: La truffa dei pollini. Il dossier completo). It is a paper by Gaetano Ciccone published in June of 2011 at La Sindone di Torino (

To the reader who asked why I permit so much negative information about the shroud to appear in this blog, permit me a quote by Thomas Aquinas:

The truth of our faith becomes a matter of ridicule among the infidels if any Catholic, not gifted with the necessary scientific learning, presents as dogma what scientific scrutiny shows to be false.

Of, course, I would substitute Christian for Catholic (even if I was Catholic).

Here is a Google translation of an early snippet from The Scam of pollen:

Therefore below will be made an examination of what has been written and published on the subject ‘pollen Shroud’, bearing in mind always that the opponents of the authenticity is denied access to the source documents: the Shroud of Turin and the same material derived therefrom. So here there is proposed at all to study the Shroud pollen, but to study ‘the study of pollen Shroud’. It is, essentially, a work of ‘history of science’ or, as it would be preferable to express themselves, ‘history of pseudoscience’. Ultimately, it is a historical research.

Have been four scholars who took samples of powder with pollen from the Shroud of Turin: Max Frei in 1973 and in 1978, John Riggi in 1978 and 1988, Raymond Rogers in 1978 and then Pier Luigi alien autopsy in 1978 and 2002. Of these researchers, only the first results announced sensational and decisive. Others have not reported anything on their studies, apart from a few hints disappointing.

In consideration of Sindonisti, Frei has by far the most important scholars of the Shroud palynology. John Riggi in 1982 defines it as "the great Frei" [Riggi 1982, p.105], "the illustrious man" [Riggi 1982, p.119], stating that "I was very honored to know this great little man" [ Riggi 1982, p.140].

Even today the figure of Frei and his work is hailed uncritically accepted by some Sindonisti such Emanuela Marinelli, Marco Tosatti, Barbara Frale, Bruno Barberis:

And a later snippet from somewhere about mid-point:

Aside from the quick examination of the tapes made ​​by McCrone in 1988 and the review carried out by Baruch in 1998, in 2001, Professor Thomas Litt, Institute of Paleontology, University of Bonn, has been able to observe the remains of Frei in his laboratory in Bonn, but we do not know the details. The minutes of that examination was dispatched from Litt to Danin and spouses Whanger. Whanger I have never announced anything on the subject, while Danin, following this report, changed his mind than his previous convictions, denying practically all the work done together with his assistant Baruch, and drew the conclusion that the study of Shroud pollen could not get any geographical indication: "I regret that, from what I’ve learned from our research, we can not currently use the pollen to define any geographical indication ‘[Danin 2008, p.54]. It seems that ever since Baruch no longer interested in pollen or Shroud [Wilson 2010, p.65]. Danin, as is known, continues to support the authenticity of the shroud on the basis of hundreds of fingerprints of plants or parts of plants, which he views on the cloth and on the photos of the towel. It appears that the material is more designed by Frei palynologists specialists. And we’re now at 28 years after the death of Frei.

* From a translation of a translation.

Categories: Science

The Process of Resurrection

November 8, 2015 15 comments

imageDuring the past several days, I have noticed several comments with the phrases “resurrection process” or the “process of resurrection.” Why do we think the resurrection was a process?

We are all familiar, at least in principle, with the way a caterpillar transforms into a butterfly. It is a process. We can make a time-lapsed movie of it and see each and every step. Some will say they see a miracle unfolding. Others will say it is nothing of the kind; it is a perfectly explainable biological process.

If you were to take the first frame and the last frame from the movie of the process, splice them together and pretend that nothing happened in between then you could pronounce and demonstrate with a very short, two-frame movie that a miracle transformation had taken place without a process.

The resurrection, if we are to believe in it, was a miracle. And if we are to take our knowledge from scripture alone, there was a before and after, a first frame so to speak and a last frame. There was nothing in between that we know about. So, why do we think there was a process? Why do we think, for instance, the body dematerialized such that a cloth might fall through it or that that the body might releases some form of energetic byproduct during the resurrection? Why do we think, as Mark Antonacci suggests that Jesus might have passed through a traversable Lorentzian wormhole in space-time or as Frank Tipler suggests that the process of resurrection might have been a form of electroweak quantum tunneling and the images on the Shroud the consequence of a Sphaleron field?

imageThomas Aquinas in Summa Theologica tried to explain that angels in going from one place to another did not pass through the place in between. Nor did they consume time doing so.

By this sort of local movement an angel may, at will, be present successively in several places and thus may be said to pass through the space between the first and the last place of the series. Or an angel may cease to apply its powers in the first place and begin to apply them in the last, not passing through the space between.

Since there is succession, that is, before-and-after, in the application of an angel’s powers, now here and now there, it must be said that an angel’s local movement occurs in time, and is not instantaneous. This time, however, is not measurable in our minutes or seconds; these units of time are applicable only to bodily movement.

For angels, at least in how they traveled, there is only a first frame and a last frame, so to speak.

Thomas was much into angels and was brilliant at logical speculation. We can leave it at that. We don’t need to agree with the saint. Nonetheless, this notion of his provides a useful metaphor for pondering supernatural action. There is in his imaginings a change of state and no measure of time.

Might the resurrection have been that way? What about other miracles? When Jesus healed the blind man was there a moment in time when the man’s eyesight was partially restored? When Jesus turned water into wine were there moments in time, no matter how brief, when the wine was still mostly water and when – perhaps fractions of nanoseconds later – the water was mostly wine?

Might the resurrection have been just a miracle with a before and after and no in between process?

The problem, for us in the shroud world, is we need something to get that image on the cloth.  Or do we?

Paper Chase: New Paper on SEM Analysis of Pollen

November 5, 2015 24 comments

imageI missed this recent paper. I only discovered it while reading through Barrie Schwortz’ Late Breaking News for the most recent update to Here is what Barrie reports:

Exploration of the Face of the Turin Shroud. Pollens Studied by SEM Analysis by Gérard LucotteArcheological Discovery, Vol.3 No.4, October 2015. Here is an excerpt from the abstract:

"We studied by SEM-EDX analysis the pollens on the Face of the Turin Shroud. A total of ten pollen grains were found; they were photographed, characterised and analysed. Three of them (pollens p6, p7 and p10) belong to Ceratonia siliqua, the carob tree; one of them (pollen p1) belongs to Balanites aegyptiaca (the palm tree of the desert), and another one (pollen p9) belongs to Cercis siliquastrum (the Judean tree). These three plants have their geographical distributions in the Near-East; that is indicative of a Palestinian origin of the Turin Shroud…"

FREE PDF:  The full paper (DOI: 10.4236/ad.2015.34014), richly illustrated with 23 photographs, is published in Scientific Research, an open access journal. The PDF file can be downloaded from the summary and abstract page.

Categories: Paper Chase, Science

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