Archive for the ‘Carbon 14 Dating’ 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 49 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

Bob Rucker: A Burst of Radiation Did Three Things

October 30, 2015 56 comments

Alas,  I could not find that Bob Rucker or his work was mentioned
anywhere in the Critical Summary.

clip_image001Bob Rucker (pictured) posted what follows as a comment last evening. I have added a link to a previous comment by Bob and some links to more information.

It is my opinion that enough evidence has accumulated that we should now realize that there was no invisible repair/reweave in the C14 sample area, and that the solution to the C14 dating problem is what I presented at the St. Louis conference in 2014. I showed that MCNP nuclear analysis calculations indicate that if 3.0 x 10^18 neutrons are emitted uniformly in the body while it was in the shroud in the tomb, then three mysteries related to C14 dating are solved:

1) Neutron absorption in N14 in the shroud creates new C14 in the shroud that is identical to the original C14 in the shroud so that the C14 date is shifted from 30 AD to 1260 AD. The dating laboratories, not realizing that the shroud had been through a neutron absorption event, would have misinterpreted their result by assuming the wrong C14 decay curve.

2) The results reported by the three dating laboratories were not in good agreement with each other. Statistical analysis indicates only a 5% chance that their results were within their measurement uncertainty, so that the differences were probably (95% probability?) caused by something. Plotting their results as a function of the distance from the end of the shroud indicates that there is a slope or gradient of 42 to 57 years per cm across their data depending on the sampling done in Tucson. This slope in the C14 dates from the three laboratories agrees with the MCNP nuclear analysis calculations, which calculate that a uniform neutron emission in the body causes a neutron distribution in the tomb which produces just this range in the C14 dates across the sample region, so that the disagreement between the laboratory values is the result of the slope of the neutron distribution at the sample location resulting from homogeneous emission of neutrons in the body.

image3) These same MCNP calculations predict that a piece of cloth placed on the side bench about a foot in front of the back bench where the body in the shroud was located would date to about 700 AD. This location in the tomb is a natural location for the person working on the body in the tomb to lay the face/head cloth. According to tradition, the Sudarium of Oviedo is the face/head cloth of Jesus. It was C14 dated to 700 AD, in excellent agreement with the MCNP results.

We should realize the importance of not making the common a priori presupposition of naturalism, so that we not automatically rule out anything that is beyond the laws of science as we currently understand them, so that we can follow the scientific evidence where it leads. When this is done, I believe that the scientific evidence indicates that the solution to the enigma of the shroud is that a burst of radiation occurred within the body that did three things: 1) It caused the image, perhaps either by protons or ultraviolet based on experiments. 2) It thrust the blood off of the body, heated it turning it into a liquid, and thrust it against and into the fibers of the shroud, and 3) It caused the shift in the C14 date from 30 to 1260 AD and the slope in the C14 dates as discussed above. Bob Rucker

I’ve noticed that as you age, you learn that when the morning coffee isn’t yet ready, the mind wanders somewhere between wakefulness and wackiness. Hey, I thought in this state, what does the Critical Summary have to say about this. Alas,  I could not find that Bob Rucker or his work was mentioned anywhere in the Critical Summary. Maybe it was just me. Maybe it was too early in the morning to find such stuff.  But then I did find this interesting paragraph on page 82:

Neutron Flux: In the same issue of Nature that reported the 1988 radiocarbon testing results there was an important letter to the editor. This letter rings out today with possibly more force than when It was first written. It causes one again to ponder and adopt a position of caution. The correspondence was with Thomas J. Phillips of the High Energy Physics Laboratory at Harvard University. Phillips suggested that the Shroud might be a fundamentally altered fabric with respect to its C-14 content due its possible witness to some unexplained event, possibly in the tomb of Jesus. He hypothesized that such an unexplained event, which itself cannot be the subject of scientific inquiry, may have had an effect on the Shroud that can be studied scientifically. The unknown event may have generated a flux of neutrons that could have skewed the C-14 / C-12 ratio of the linen doth…..

I met Bob in St. Louis. Nice guy. Undeniably brilliant. Maybe he is on to something. But I’m just not there yet in being able to accept this or any other hypothesis, at least when it comes to how the image was formed. To restate with a bit of on-the-fly-rewrting of what I’ve said before, I say …

With regard to the image I’m stuck in the “it is inexplicable” camp.

You don’t like that? Well then you can consider Bob Rucker’s radiation, John Jackson’s cloth falling through a mechanically transparent body whatever that means, Tipler’s sphaleron quantum tunneling, Giulio Fanti’s corona discharge, Paolo Di Lazzaro’s ultraviolet (with or without the cloth falling through the body, Rogers’ Maillard reactions (quite natural if it could work but requiring every bit as much of a miraculous manipulation to produce such an image as any of the other byproduct of a miracle hypotheses would), Charles Freeman’s it’s-not-a-fraud painting (if STURP and Colin Berry are wrong) and Colin Berry’s fraud-by-Maillard if everyone else is wrong (which is not unreasonable to suppose).  Or think of something else.

As for the C14 question, I’m also stuck in the “so far inexplicable” camp.

Here are some resources for understanding and thinking about Bob’s ideas.

Another Comment by Bob Rucker: Reaction to Ray Rogers’ Paper on Radiation

Abstract for the Following Paper

MCNP Analysis of Neutrons Released from Jesus’ Body in the Resurrection (54 Slides)

Notes for the 54 Slides

Video of the Presentation in St. Louis (1 Hour)

More Carbon Dating and Other Studies of Christian Relics

October 13, 2015 3 comments

The unit concluded that shroud was made between 1260 and 1390.

clip_image001Ruth Gledhill reports in Christian Today, in an article titled, Results on investigations into fragments of the True Cross coming soon:

Oxford University has launched a centre to study ancient Christian relics such as bones claimed to be those of St John the Evangelist, John the Baptist and fragments purported to be from the true Cross.

The new centre will be based at Keble College’s Advanced Studies Centre.

Researchers will use radiocarbon dating, genetics and theology to draw together research and findings from around the world to try and establish the authenticity or otherwise of some of the world’s most famous relics.

Some archaeologists already believe they have found pieces of the True Cross on which Jesus was crucified

The centre follows advances in science which now allow higher precision radiocarbon dating and DNA analysis that establishes common ancestries and likely geographic origin of individuals.

Oxford has led the field in this area. Researchers used the Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit to date the Shroud of Turin, believed by some to be the burial cloth of Christ. The unit concluded that shroud was made between 1260 and 1390.

Professor Thomas Higham of Oxford also led a team dating six small bone fragments found on an island in Bulgaria named Sveti Ivan, translated as St John, which turned out to be the bones were of a man who lived in the Middle East at the same time as Jesus.

In 2014, the team also analysed remains of a small finger bone attributed to John the Baptist that was associated with the famous Guelph Treasure. The sample from the finger bone was dated to 660-770 AD, which meant it was too young for St John the Baptist.

More recent work has included analysis of remains thought to be of St Luke, St David, and the True Cross, on which Jesus was crucified. The results of these investigations have yet to be published.

And there is more to the article.

The Chemist Rogers and Plastic Bags

September 14, 2015 58 comments

clip_image001Following the recent publication, There is no mass spectrometry evidence that the C14 sample from the Shroud of Turin comes from a “medieval invisible mending”  in Thermochimica Acta, co-author Marco Bella posted Sindone, il chimico, la fede e la scienza in the blog space of Il Fatto Quotidiano. It is in Italian. Fortunately, Marco has provided an English version as a PDF file.  It’s called, The Shroud of Turin, the chemist, the Faith and the Science.  It wraps up this way:

Therefore, it appears that Rogers was aware about the presence of a contaminant which would give a mass spectra quite similar (identical?) to the one actually observed for his mass spectra of Raes sample. Despite that, he did not mention these foreign peaks due to the contamination in his discussion of the spectra. There is no need to explain that plastic bags were not widely used around the Middle Age, and that if there are peaks coming from that material in a spectra these can only be due to modern contamination.

Mass spectrometry is widely used today in the identification of pharmaceuticals, drugs, food additives, toxins. Ironically, even the C14 analysis is based on mass spectrometry. What would happen if we started to interpret mass spectra in a completely wrong manner, e.g. in the similar way as in the Rogers paper? Here there are some examples: a drug dealer could not be condemned, food contaminated with high level of pesticides could be sold, an athlete putting his health at risk with doping could not be stopped, a lot of medicine with a toxic impurity could be given to patients.

There is no ‘innocuous pseudoscience”. Any pseudoscience is damaging, since it alters the perception of the real world and it is deeply non-educative. It might cause serious consequences, especially when health issue are involved. To believe in the pseudoscience of the Shroud has nothing to do with Faith, and especially believers should get offended versus people exploiting either their Faith or the human weakness of the chemist Rogers.

You will want to read this and think about it.

Categories: Carbon 14 Dating

Editorial in Thermochimica Acta by Bella, Garlaschelli and Samperi on Rogers’ 2005 Article

September 4, 2015 134 comments

with thanks to Andrea Nicolotti and Gian Marco.

imageA new article, There is no mass spectrometry evidence that the C14 sample from the Shroud of Turin comes from a “medieval invisible mending” by Marco Bella, Luigi Garlaschelli and Roberto Samperi has been accepted* for publication in Thermochimica Acta.

imageSome bullet points appear after the article, after the acknowledgments, even after the references. It’s as though having taken their best shot, the authors had to empty their gun before walking away:

  • This editorial regards a paper published on Thermochimica Acta ,425 (2005) 189.
  • The author [=Rogers] hypothesized a “medieval invisible mending” on the Shroud of Turin.
  • There is no evidence of such a “medieval invisible mending”.
  • The two mass spectra presented differ only by the presence of a contaminant.
  • When the peaks due to the contaminant are removed, the two mass spectra looks alike.

The article is behind a pay wall. If you do not have access to this journal, you can purchase a copy of the article through Science Direct for $39.95 US.

It begins:

This editorial regards a paper by the late Dr. Raymond Rogers published on Thermochimica Acta. The Shroud of Turin is a linen which has impressed a faint image of a man and some color spots (supposedly blood). A popular tradition born in the second half of the XIV century recognizes it as being the burial cloth of Jesus Christ. In 1988, three independent laboratories dated this object between 1260 and 1390 (95% confidence interval, 2 σ) by means of the C14 analysis. After the publication of these data, several theories have been proposed to explain a discrepancy with the “sought” date of the linen, which according to tradition should be around 33 AD. Among those, a popular one is the so called “invisible mending”, disclosed by S. Benford and J. Marino and based on the analysis of low resolution (JPEG format) pictures of the Shroud….

… and wraps up:

In conclusion, the unspecific qualitative chemical tests presented by Rogers are in no way confirmed by instrumental analysis (mass spectrometry). No diagnostic peak in the pyrolysis mass spectra indicates a significant difference in the two samples, besides hydrocarbon-derived contamination. Therefore, none of the presented data supports the conclusion by Rogers.

The work of the late Dr. Rogers has been exploited to support a pseudoscientific hypothesis which is in no way confirmed by the reported data. Regardless of the debate on the hypothetical authenticity of the Shroud, the scientific community and the general public can only be misled by this paper.

So it is a peer reviewed editorial, that is if I understand the “note to users” that appears on the Science Direct access page for this article:

* Note to users: Accepted manuscripts are Articles in Press that have been peer reviewed and accepted for publication by the Editorial Board of this publication. They have not yet been copy edited and/or formatted in the publication house style, and may not yet have the full ScienceDirect functionality, e.g., supplementary files may still need to be added, links to references may not resolve yet etc. The text could still change before final publication.

Although accepted manuscripts do not have all bibliographic details available yet, they can already be cited using the year of online publication and the DOI, as follows: author(s), article title, Publication (year), DOI. Please consult the journal’s reference style for the exact appearance of these elements, abbreviation of journal names and use of punctuation.

When the final article is assigned to an volumes/issues of the Publication, the Article in Press version will be removed and the final version will appear in the associated published volumes/issues of the Publication. The date the article was first made available online will be carried over.

Is it really peer reviewed? Does that matter?  Those bullet points: maybe they will go away in the final editing of this editorial. 

Carbon Dating with the Potential to Become Controversial

September 2, 2015 1 comment

AND:  The Get Religion blog gets down in the trenches with how journalist cover stories
like this. Be sure to read Jim Davis.


imagePaul Vale, in the UK edition of the Huffington Post, tells us that the Birmingham Koran Carbon Dating Reveals Book Is Likely Older Than Prophet Muhammad:

In what could prove something of a pot hole for current readings of Islamic history, a carbon test carried out on a Koranic manuscript recently discovered in England reveals the book is likely older than Muhammad, the founder of the Islamic faith.

The test used a piece of the ancient parchment, discovered in Birmingham University Library in July, with scientists dating the tome from between 568 and 645AD.

imageIslamic scholars believe Muhammad lived between 570 and 632AD and that he founded Islam after 610AD. The first Muslim community was founded in Medina in 622AD. This means the text was likely compiled either before the Prophet’s birth or during his childhood.

“It destabilises, to put it mildly, the idea that we can know anything with certainty about how the Koran emerged — and that in turn has implications for the history of Muhammad and the Companions,” historian Tom Holland told The Times.


However, Keith Small, a researcher at the Bodleian in Oxford, urged caution as the carbon testing only used parchment rather than the ink from the book. He said: “If the dates apply to the parchment and the ink, and the dates across the entire range apply, then the Koran — or at least portions of it — predates Mohammed, and moves back the years that an Arabic literary culture is in place well into the 500s.”

Small added: “This would radically alter the edifice of Islamic tradition and the history of the rise of Islam in late Near Eastern antiquity would have to be completely revised, somehow accounting for another book of scripture coming into existence 50 to 100 years before, and then also explaining how this was co-opted into what became the entity of Islam by around AD700.”

For additional perspective, see Oldest pages of the Koran found in England may date to Mohammed’s lifetime by Mark Miller at Ancient Origins.

There are other manuscripts that may be as old as this one, the BBC says. Radiocarbon dating provides a range of years for an object being dated, and the years of this and other manuscripts overlap. But these two pages are among the oldest known surviving Koran manuscripts in existence.

Muhammad Isa Waley, a British Library expert on old manuscripts called the discovery exciting and Muslims would rejoice over it.

AND:  The GetReligion blog gets down in the trenches with how journalists cover stories like this. Be sure to read Jim Davis at

How soon will it be before journalists are somehow linking this to the carbon dating of the shroud?


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