Archive for the ‘Science’ Category

Lightening Striking the Other Crucified Person in His Shroud

August 14, 2015 7 comments

imageAcilius, in the Red Panther blog, wonders, Does the Shroud of Turin disprove the Gospels?

In April, I noticed a post on Rod Dreher‘s blog about the Shroud of Turin.  Mr Dreher had been impressed by a book, Finding Jesus: Faith. Fact. Forgery: Six Holy Objects That Tell the Remarkable Story of the Gospels, by David Gibson and Michael McKinley, a companion volume to the CNN series of the same awkwardly punctuated name.  The other day, I saw that the Reverend Mr Dwight Longenecker, a former Anglican priest turned Roman Catholic, had also posted about the shroud, quoting at length from an article at National Geographic in which the shroud’s puzzling nature is explored.

Quoting Longenecker, Acilius writes:

De Lazzaro explained that the ultraviolet light necessary to reproduce the image of the crucified man “exceeds the maximum power released by all ultraviolet light sources available today.” The time for such a burst would be shorter than one forty-billionth of a second, and the intensity of the ultra violet light would have to be around several billion watts.”

The scientists shrug and say the only explanation lies beyond the realm of twenty-first century technoscience. In other words, the extraordinary burst of ultra violet light is not only beyond the ability and technology of a medieval forger. It is beyond the ability and technology of the best twenty-first century scientists.

He goes on:

What could explain all of this?  If no known technological process could have produced the image on the shroud, and the only unknown technological processes that could have produced it would be the result either of the greatest design fluke in history or of contact with visitors from outer space, perhaps we should discard the forgery hypothesis and turn next to a search for a natural process that could have produced the image.  There may in fact be such a process.  Lightning is an extremely energetic and poorly understood phenomenon; it was only in 2009 that it was discovered that lightning often produces significant amounts of antimatter in the upper atmosphere.  No one had expected to find this, and no one can explain it.  Bursts of ultraviolet radiation is a lot less exotic than appearances of antimatter, and so would be significantly less surprising as phenomena associated with lightning.

So, perhaps at some point in the middle decades of the first century CE in or near the city of Jerusalem the body of a man who had been scourged, jabbed in the side with a spear, mounted on a cross, fastened to that cross with nails through his wrists and feet, and subjected to a group of small puncture wounds on the forehead was wrapped in the shroud that has been on display in Turin for the last several centuries.  Before that man’s body was buried or entombed, it was struck by lightning, producing a burst of ultraviolet rays that created the image on the shroud.  This event, occurring in an urban area and centering on the body of a man whose gruesome death a crowd would have witnessed at most a few hours before, would certainly have been very much discussed.  One must suppose that people would try to find religious significance in it, and that in the course of those discussions many people would claim, whether truthfully or not, to have been associated with the man during his lifetime.

Perhaps the whole story of Jesus, as it has come down to us, grew from the reactions to this event.  Or perhaps the story of Jesus as we have it represents the conflation of several stories.  It is difficult to imagine that the man whose image is preserved in the shroud is not the man whose crucifixion is described in the Gospels, but not so difficult to imagine that stories about another man, who was also crucified in Jerusalem around the same time and who was well-known locally before his crucifixion as the leader of a new religious movement, would be combined with the story of the man whose crucifixion was followed by the spectacular event of a lightning bolt and the transformation of his burial cloth into the object we now see in Turin.


Nowhere in the New Testament does it say that Jesus’ body was struck by lightning after it was removed from the cross.  If the image on the shroud turns out to have been created by lightning, the evidence connecting it with first-century Jerusalem, the fact that its appearance in first-century Jerusalem would certainly have caused great excitement there, and the similarity of the wounds the man had to the wounds the Gospels attribute to Jesus makes that silence a tremendous obstacle to accepting the historicity of the Gospels, I would say a far bigger obstacle than any of the gaps or discrepancies of detail that New Testament scholars have yet uncovered.

All the other problems fade pretty quickly once you start thinking of the Gospels as what they originally were, a collection of liturgical resources more akin to a hymnal than to a biographical study.  The Gospels are series of pericopes, distinct passages designed to be read aloud or recited at particular moments in worship services.  So, for Christians, there seems to be a great deal at stake in the question of what precisely the Shroud of Turin is.  If the recent studies of it are all wrong, if the researchers have been led astray by their religious biases and it is after all a forgery from the Middle Ages, then the crisis is averted.  If the studies hold up, and if the image does prove to be the result of a lightning strike, do Christians have a way out?

A bit of speculation too far, I think. But it is thinking, and thinking is a good thing.

Categories: Image Theory

A Guest Posting by Yannick Clément

August 11, 2015 8 comments

imageReflecting about the body image on the Shroud, I came up with what I consider to be a quite interesting reflection and I would like to share it with everyone. It takes the form of philosophical question: What if the image formation on the Shroud would be in the very same category as the apparition of life on Earth more than 3 Billion years ago, i.e. a wonderful event that came out of God’s will through the natural laws that he created and which science is still unable to fully explain today?

I think it can well be the case and, if it is so, I think we could still consider both events (the apparition of life and the Shroud image formation) as being “miraculous” in a way. Effectively, it’s not because an event happened through the natural laws created by God that it cannot be considered by us as “miraculous” in a way (or at least “wonderful” or “amazing”)…

— Yannick Clément, Louiseville, Québec, Canada

Categories: Image Theory

Tantalizingly Close Enough?

August 11, 2015 20 comments

In The Imaginative Conservative, Fr. Dwight Longenecker summarizes the scientific work of Paolo Di Lazzaro (pictured) and his colleagues. The article is entitled The Shroud of Turin: Evidence for Everything? :

So what formed the image? The best description is that it is an extremely delicate singe marking. Italian physicist Paolo Di Lazzaro concedes in an article for National Geographic that every scientific attempt to replicate it in a lab has failed. “Its precise hue is highly unusual, and the color’s penetration into the fabric is extremely thin, less than 0.7 micrometers (0.000028 inches), one-thirtieth the diameter of an individual fiber in a single 200-fiber linen thread.”


They came tantalizingly close to replicating the image’s distinctive color on a few square centimeters of fabric. However, they were unable to match all the physical and chemical characteristics of the shroud image, and reproducing a whole human figure was far beyond them. De Lazzaro explained that the ultraviolet light necessary to reproduce the image of the crucified man “exceeds the maximum power released by all ultraviolet light sources available today.” The time for such a burst would be shorter than one forty-billionth of a second, and the intensity of the ultra violet light would have to be around several billion watts.”

As good a summary of De Lazzaro’s work as I have seen. But is tantalizingly close close enough?

imageWe’ve featured Fr. Dwight Longenecker many times in this blog. He is a graduate of Oxford University. He was an Evangelical Christian, later an Anglican priest and is now a Catholic priest.  He is the author of sixteen books and contributes to many magazines, papers and journals including Crisis, Integrated Catholic Life, National Catholic Register and Intercollegiate Review.

It is really, really time to rethink what we think about 3D

August 10, 2015 27 comments

imageA reader writes:

I noticed with interest your article [Scientist Barrie Schwortz] with the excerpt from the CAN [=Catholic News Agency] story that quotes Dr. Barrie Schwortz saying that lights and darks on the image correlate to cloth to body distance. I agree with you, however, permit me this.

What Dr. Schwortz says is an unfortunate example of an assumption masquerading as a fact. He is repeating something that seems to have originated with Dr. John Jackson et alia around 1976. It has become one of the most often repeated statements about the Shroud’s image. Unfortunately it is not true. 

Dr. Colin Berry has clearly demonstrated that the lights and darks (lighter and darker shades) in a photograph of a death mask can represent three-dimensional information. [See ImageJ plot below].  When Dr. Schwortz says that photographs don’t have that kind of information, he is wrong. They might have it. And if photographs might have it, so can artworks such as paintings, relief rubbings and imprints. In the case of the death mask photograph, it was a matter of how diffused light played out on the shape of the face.

Dr. Berry also demonstrated the encoding of three-dimensional information in an image with thermal imprinting. In that case it seems to be the result of different amounts of pressure between a piece of linen and a hot statue. 

Clearly, no one should be telling a reporter, “photographs don’t have that kind of information, artworks don’t.” It simply is not true.

No one should tell a reporter, “The only way that can happen is by some interaction between cloth and body.” It simply is not true. 

And no one should tell a reporter there is a “correlation between image density – lights and darks on the image – and cloth to body distance.” It simply is not true.

In fairness to Barrie, I used to say those very same things about the 3D.  It is one of those many things about the shroud images that warrant reexamination and new thinking. The problem is bigger than what gets said in the press. It is believing possibly incorrect information and blinding ourselves to new avenues of thinking about the images. I still think the data is real 3D data.  I’m just NOT persuaded that cloth to body distance is a valid assumption.

Note 1:  Barrie is not a “Dr.” But by all rights, he is Dr. Schwortz in my book.

Note 2:  It was Joseph Accetta who proposed that the death mask photograph might contian 3D information. Colin confirmed it. This is discussed in an earlier posting, PowerPoint presentation put together by Joseph Accetta. It is too bad that Colin wasn’t in St. Louis when Joe Accetta was.



Comparing Colin Berry’s Methods to Those of Sam Pellicori

August 6, 2015 123 comments

imageI spent considerable time in the car yesterday on Interstate 10 between Pensacola and Tallahassee. Just sightseeing; I had never seen the Florida Pan Handle. Lots of trees. Lots of rivers. Lots of time to think about…

Colin Berry’s 1) comparing his methods to those of Sam Pellicori (pictured):

My experiments match those of Pellicori’s almost down to the last detail, but with one crucial difference. My imprinting medium is macromolecular, indeed whole cell in size, namely the crushed endosperm of wheat grains (“white flour”) so greatly reducing the theoretical risk of “capillarity”, though I still have to do detailed microscopy.

2) Colin’s supposition that the shroud is meant to be thought of not as a burial cloth in the tomb but as a stretcher of sorts to transport the body to the tomb.

3) Colin’s strident distain for our all too frequent way of begging the question (he is right on this point, of course).

<!>  reminded me of a paper by Serge N. Mouraviev, published in Applied Optics in 1997 and now available as a reprint of The Image Formation Mechanism on the Shroud of Turin: A Solar Reflex Radiation Model (the Optical Aspect) at

Previous studies have shown that both images appear like rectilinear orthogonal projections of an unknown nature coming from the body and oriented in two opposite directions onto both halves of the Shroud such as would have been possible if the source of the image had had only two dimensions and been suspended between the flattened planes of both halves of the Shroud. Such a situation, which is scientifically untenable but helps us better understand the geometrical proportionality of the images, has been labeled the vertical alignment of the image and strongly speaks in favor of a radiational acting-at-distance transfer mechanism.xxi

On the other hand, the high resolution of the images [at least as good as 0.5 cm (Refs. 11, 16) or even approaching 0.1 to 0.2 cm (Ref. 22)] suggests rather a contact mechanism of transfer. But in that case the way the Shroud must have been laid on the body seems to require the formation of lateral images on both sides and of an uninterrupted transition between the image of the face and that of the back of the head with all the distorsions they involve.

The so-called tridimensionality implies a reverse correlation between the intensity of the shading and the estimated distance from the body, which indicates that only the darkest parts of the image could have been in direct contact with the body whereas other parts were acted upon at a distance.

Finally, note that the image itself was produced by some agent that left on the Shroud a superficial brownish degradation of the cellulose by oxidation, dehydration, and conjugation of the polysaccharide structure of the topmost microfibrils of the linen, changes that can be obtained by sulfuric acid or heat but usually at the expense of superficiality.12

Such are the main elements of the problem that led STURP to the conclusion that the image is “an ongoing mystery”.

3. Misleading Presuppositions

The contradictions just described — between vertical alignment and wrapping, full contact, partial contact and action-at-distance, the uniformity of both images, the gravitational asymmetry of the frontal and dorsal sides of the body, etc. — are the logical result of a number of tacit presuppositions none of which has been questionned so far.

Three are particularly important.

Presupposition 1. The images were produced by some chemical or radiant agent originating inside the body.

Presupposition 2. The images were formed while the body lay in the tomb.

Presupposition 3. Both images, the frontal and the dorsal, were produced simultaneously.

None of these presuppositions is substantiated by anything except the involuntary association of these images with the subsequent resurrection of Jesus, as described in the Gospels. In our opinion, resurrection is not a matter for scientific investigation, and the only assumption we are entitled to as scientists is that the images could be either a natural accidental byproduct of the burial procedure itself, not of the mysterious disappearance of the body, or a forgery (but, as stated, the hypotheses based on the latter assumption must cope with new problems and reject an important part of the available evidence).

Once we eliminate Presupposition 1, we no longer need to look for sources of energy, radiation, evaporation or whatnot inside the corpse of a dead man or try to understand how their pluridirectional diffusion or emission could have produced on a complex surface an image the optic quality of which requires either a focalizing lens or at least a beam of strictly parallel rays and a flat surface.

Once we eliminate Presupposition 2, we immediately identify the nature of those parallel rays. On a spring afternoon in the Middle East the whole atmosphere vibrates under the burning rays of the Sun. They could not have sprung out of the body, but they could very well have been reflected by it.

Eliminating Presupposition 3, we have solved once and for all the problem of alleged gravitational asymmetry between the frontal and the dorsal images. The rays of the Sun could not have reached the body on both sides at once, but nothing prevented the body from being turned over alternatively from front to back. And if so, there would have been no asymmetry.

Certainly this does not solve the main problem, and it even creates new ones, e.g., why both sides of the body were exposed to the Sun, but it clears up many sources of confusion.

Hence we have the following hypothesis. Both images were created by solar rays when and because the Shroud containing the body was exposed to the Sun, first face up, then face down (or the other way around). The rays were transmitted through the linen, reflected by the body and projected onto the inner side of the Shroud.

Could this lead to the formation and transfer of an image of the body onto the cloth such as what we have? This is the optical aspect of the problem. And if yes, how was this image imprinted on the linen? This is the photochemical aspect of the problem. Finally, what combination of circumstances could have created the unusual photochemical and optic conditions required to produce and record the image? This is the historical or, rather, philological (exegetical) aspect of the problem.

We answer the first question exhaustively in Section 4 (although without discussing in detail the concrete local effects on the accuracy of the image), suggest with others the most likely answer to the second question in Section 5, and try to reconstruct in Section 6, on the basis of the Gospels, the most probable sequence of events, acts, and motives that accidently created the necessary and adequate conditions for the images to be produced and recorded on the linen.

And there was this from Colin:

Coming next: my comment placed on shroudstory (though increasingly I ask myelf why I bother with that wet-blanket of a site, one that  persistently evades the detail, trotting out the cut-and-paste words of this or that ‘expert’ to say in effect “You’re wasting your time and ours chum”).

Wasting time? Not at all. Your ideas may in the long run be right. Or they may get us – together even maybe – going down new unintended paths of exploration and thought.

Categories: Image Theory Tags:

Not a Work of Art by Leonardo da Vinci

August 1, 2015 29 comments
Categories: Art, Image Theory Tags:

A New Astonishing Phenomenon?

July 29, 2015 4 comments

imageOne click away from the home page of the INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTE FOR ADVANCED STUDIES OF SPACE REPRESENTATION SCIENCES: Projective geometry, Descriptive geometry, Survey, Photogrammetry we find:


Photogrammetric restitution on the Shroud of Turin has revealed a previously unknown phenomenon that opens up new horizons for science.
The strength of this discovery is stressed by the fact that the geometrical data used for restitution can be verified with tools that are accessible to everyone.

Photogrammetric restitution on the Shroud of Turin has revealed a previously unknown phenomenon that opens up new horizons for science.
The strength of this discovery is stressed by the fact that the geometrical data used for restitution can be verified with tools that are accessible to everyone.

and a 53 minute YouTube:

Categories: Image Theory

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