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

Because I Don’t See It

November 9, 2015 25 comments

imageA couple of days ago on the Shroud Encounter Facebook page, Russ Breault posted a YouTube video from the Smithsonian Channel, Why the Vatican Believes in the Shroud of Turin. Russ wrote, “This is seriously cool. I hope we can fully validate these findings.”

The video was published about two and half years ago and in that time has only received about 3,350 viewings. That is surprising for the Smithsonian Channel which has over a quarter millions subscribers.

I was reminded of what was probably the shortest posting to ever appear on this blog . Back in April of 2011, a reader asked:

I’ve been reading your blog religiously for months. Why do you keep saying that you don’t see writing even though Vatican expert Barbara Frale does?

I replied. “Because I don’t see it.”

Nothing has changed in my mind. Anyway, enjoy the video. It is less than three minutes long. 

A couple of posting you might want to check out:


Paper Chase: Why There Are Probably No Images of Coins, Lettering, Flowers and Whatnots on the Shroud of Turin

An interview with Dr. Barbara Frale

The Writing on the Shroud: A Stephen Jones Update

Categories: Video

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?

What am I missing?

November 8, 2015 15 comments

clip_image001Maybe it is because I haven’t had coffee yet today. Or maybe I’m just growing old. Stephen Jones wrote this baffling piece during  the past week:

… there is a 13th century wooden chest which according to de la Roche family tradition, was used to transport the Shroud from Athens to France, and indeed a label on it in modern writing states the family tradition that it was used by Otho de Ray to bring the "the Shroud of Christ … from Constantinople [in] 1206":

However, the style of the carving is late 14th century, although the bottom of the chest may be original[53]. The inner dimensions of the chest in centimetres are ~37.5 long x 16.5 wide x 25 deep[54]. This would neatly fit the 437 x 111 cms Shroud[55], if it were folded twelve times long and eight times wide, i.e. 437/12 = 36.4 cms x 111/8 cms = 13.9 cms[56]. This twelve by eight folds is a simple and economical folding arrangement of the Shroud, and since Othon’s family would be unlikely to know the true dimensions of the Shroud if they had never owned it, this ~37.5 cms long x 16.5 cms wide `floor plan’ of the bottom of the Ray-sur-Saône chateau chest, which is claimed to have once held the Shroud, is strong evidence that Othon de la Roche really did bring the Shroud with him from Athens (and before that from Constantinople) to his Ray-sur-Saône chateau in Burgundian, France in 1225!

Family tradition as evidence?

The bottom is maybe original?  What does that mean?  That the bottom is older than the rest of the chest? Did someone build this chest around an older bottom piece of wood?  Why?

Folded twelve times one way and eight times the other way? This is economical?  Can you really do so and have any semblance to the dimensions Stephen suggests? Try it with a bed sheet; just make the first fold widthwise and pretend you made it lengthwise. It will be close enough. Actually, I think Stephen meant fold it into twelfths and then eighths. Still, try it.

Thinking that the Othon de la Roche family would not have known the size of the shroud if they didn’t own it and hence would not perhaps have (or there wouldn’t be) a chest with a bottom that was 37.5 cm by 16.5 cm, which is only approximate to a speculated folding pattern does not seem to me strong evidence that Othon de la Roche really did bring the shroud from Athens.

What am I missing?

Categories: History

A Guest Posting by O.K.

November 7, 2015 10 comments

The star with a strange light curve, the aliens, the Shroud
of Turin and Resurrection theories about it’s image



Some reflections about natural and extraordinary (miraculous) explanations about
the Shroud’s image formation, with comparison to extraordinary claims regarding other sciences (here: astronomy).

For some time there is a great hype in the media (see for example Ian O’Neill: Has Kepler Discovered an Alien Megastructure? on or Sarah Kaplan: The strange star that has serious scientists talking about an alien megastructure, Washington Post, October 15) about the star designated as KIC 8462852. The star has been observed by Kepler space telescope, designed to detect extrasolar planets via transit method. Data gathered suggest that this star has a very atypical light curve, which characterize by irregularly shaped, aperiodic dips in flux down to below the 20% level. This is a quote from the paper (submitted, but not yet accepted, to Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, one of the most respected peer-reviewed astronomical journals in the world -the preprint is available in arXiv repository) Planet Hunters X. KIC 8462852 – Where’s the Flux? by T. S. Boyajian et al. which describes the strange behavior of that star. The authors in section 4 give a list of several possible explanations for that phenomena:

     • Instrumental effects or data reduction artifacts?

     • Intrinsic variability?

     • Occultation by circumstellar dust clumps

     • Aftermath of catastrophic collisions in asteroid belt

     • Aftermath of giant impact in planetary system

     • Dust-enshrouded planetesimals

     • A comet family? (this is considered the most likely scenario)

So why the media hype? Because, according to some speculations, the observed light curve is also consistent wit a sci-fi kind scenario, namely the alien-built megastructure Dyson swarm orbiting around the swarm. This is also a kind of “explanation”, which can be tested, but -not surprisingly -the term “aliens” does not even appear in Boyajian et al. paper. Natural hypotheses are preferred first, which is -quite natural, actually. Scientists are rather expected to examine ordinary explanations (instrumental or natural phenomena) for unexpected observations, before going to extraordinary (extraterrestail life and advanced intelligent civilizations) – because as catch phrase says “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”. Or should we go straightforward to the aliens, and claim that we “discovered” 1 them, citing as proof the atypical light curve of some star, which can be fitted to alien megastructure scenario (and disregard other explanations)?

What all of this has with regards to the Shroud? Simply in sindonology there is a notable camp that claims the image on the Shroud can only be explained via some effect directly associated with Resurrection (John Jackson’s “Fall-Through” hypothesis, Mark Antonacci “Historically Consistent Method”, various other scenarios involving radiation, neutron burst and so on). These claims have been raised again recently -just see entries from the few last days: Proof of the Resurrection?, October 31, Bob Rucker: A Burst of Radiation Did Three Things, October 30. Plus recent editions of Colorado’s Center Critical Summary 3.0, and Mark Antonacci’s new book.

And I just ask: should we go straightforward to the aliens?

Don’t understand me wrong, I do not deny that those scenarios may be correct. I don’t deny that there indeed may be Dyson swarm around the star KIC 8462852 either. Simply: should we go first to extraordinary “Resurrection effect” explanations, or carefully examine all naturalistic theories first? Primacy of naturalistic explanations does not exclude the Resurrection event. Paul Vignon, for example, was a devout Catholic, but tried to explain the origin of the Shroud image in purely natural terms. He did not succeed, indeed, but this not lead him to accept so easily supernatural explanation, ignoring all more or less plausible natural scenarios. Had astronomers abandoned their attempts to explain atypical light curve of KIC 8462852 via purely natural means, instead jumped right to the aliens theory, everyone would consider them crazy eggheads. But in sindonology, going right on to the supernatural, without carefully considering everything else first, seems quite common, to my dismay.

But of course, the analogy is not fully corresponding. “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”, yes. But the Shroud is extraordinary on its own. It isn’t just some star, even with the most peculiar light curve. It isn’t just some cloth. It’s a cloth with a image of Man corresponding to what was described in the Gospels -which proclaimed Jesus (suffering the same way as the Man of the Shroud) the Savior and God Incarnate.

So maybe in case of the Shroud a different approach is justified?

Categories: Guest Posting

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