imageSciencebod, you write:

Maybe Paulette and others feel I should hang up my experimentalist’s hat, and content myself with evaluating other’s data only. They are of course entitled to their opinion, but I will not be prevented from ‘doing my own thing’ by the putdown comments they post here or elsewhere. If they don’t like my blog, then there’s a simple remedy: don’t read it…

I can’t speak for Paulette. I’ll leave that to her. But I can speak for myself.

You should know that I have been criticized by more than one person for linking to your blog. “If you had ignored him,” a reader wrote, “he would have gone away by now. He would have gone largely undiscovered had you not linked to him.”

That’s not how I run this blog. If someone writes something about the shroud that is the least bit significant, I’ll mention it in most cases. I’ll trust people to sort it out. Sciencebod, you write what you write for us to read. Read it we will. And  you will be criticized if we find reason to do so. That is the way it works around here.

It has been my personal observation that you, Sciencebod, tend to jump into things without fully exploring the science of others who preceded you. Perhaps that is because you can’t believe that science in support of the shroud’s authenticity can be real. Certainly, it seems, if there is a hint of a supernatural possibility, then anything that passes for science in the media or on this blog or any website, is pseudoscience, junk science. Some of it is. When religion is part of the mix as it is with the shroud, as it is with evolution, or anytime a literal interpretation of scripture is involved, pseudoscience emerges. ID, creationism, attempts to prove that the entire world was covered by floodwaters just a few thousand years ago or that dinosaurs roamed about with people is pseudoscience as I see it. It is to be expected that skeptics of religion or religious traditions expect that of the shroud, as well.

It need not be limited to religion. Skeptics are quick to mentally classify the shroud with all manner of nuttiness: UFO’s, crop circles, the Loch Ness monster, homeopathy, ESP and palmistry. To my way of thinking, statues of Mary that weep fall into this category. Atheists are quick to add miracles, the efficacy of prayer and apparitions. It is completely understandable that to many people the shroud is a hoax , a work of art or a technological achievement. All we need to do is figure out how it was done. Scorching, paint, acid etching, reverse bleaching, photography: variations of each of these; they have all been tried.

Sciencebod, you are to be applauded for experimenting. And indeed, you should be applauded for questioning scientific data amassed by others as well as conclusions from that data. That does go on, constantly, among shroud scholars who are for the most part proponents of authenticity. I wish there was more of it from qualified people in the skeptical community.

imageMaybe you got off on the wrong foot with us when you mocked the work of others. At least it seemed that way. You referred to Al Adler’s work as Mickey Mouse science. Maybe he is wrong and maybe you are right. But Dr. Alan D. Adler, once a senior staff scientist with the New England Institute and a professor of biochemistry at Western Connecticut State University, a member of the American Chemical Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the New York Academy of Science, the American Association of Clinical Chemistry and the American Society of Photobiology, an internationally acclaimed expert on porphryns may look a little bit like Mickey Mouse sans ears but his science does not deserve such ridicule from the likes of you or anyone.

Like you, I’m uncomfortable with ENEA report. That is what got you so fired up, it seems. But, the ENEA team, like you, must be applauded for experimenting. It may be that what they found was wholly unacceptable by you because you are at complete odds with their underlying belief systems. But doesn’t that seem to be prejudice?

I was once where you are. I changed my mind, not because of some religious experience, but because of careful research. It took me years. For one thing, I wanted to make sure I excluded junk science.

Many of us have done a great deal of research and felt that you approached everything, including experimentation and interpretation thereof, without having done so. It still seems that way when you announce your findings. For instance, you quote, I believe it is Rogers:

The coating is superficial. It is only found on the outermost fibers at the crown of the threads. Pulling back individual fibers reveals that there is no image color below the outer threads." 

Then you say, after looking at low resolution photographs:

Am I not correct in thinking that we are looking at the same highly superficial, selective scorch phenomenon – that it is only the most exposed part of the thread – the so-called “crowns” – where weft loops over warp, or warp loops over weft, that is scorched.


Superficial, in the context of the shroud, means pulling back individual fibers to look for image color below the outer two or three fibers. Moreover, as Rogers and others discovered, the image color is only 200 to 600 nanometers thick. If it isn’t confined to a residue or film layered on by evaporation concentration (what else can possibly produce such a thin layer? – I so far think that is what it is) then the image is no deeper into the fiber than the flax fiber’s primary cell wall (about 200 nanometers) or at most the secondary cell wall. The medullas of an image-bearing fiber is not affected by whatever caused the image. That is superficial. Real superficial!

imageHave you examined the fibers of your experiment (you are working with linen, right? not modern linen that has been plasma treated, right?) with perhaps phase-contrast microscopy or SEM to verify that you really do have superficial coloring of the fibers. Have you probed the linen thread to make sure that only outermost fibers are affected. Yes, I see from the photographs that you are getting image mostly at the crowns. But that is, excuse the pun, just the tip of the iceberg.

One of the things that many scientists have observed is the fact that the image has something of a halftone effect. Some fibers have color while adjacent ones do not. Rogers, Adler and others have noted that the color luminosity doesn’t vary much, not by more than 2% according to micro-densitometer readings taken by Adler. But the thread’s apparent luminosity, the visual tone as we see it, varies significantly according to the concentration or pattern of color discontinuities. Call it visual merging, halftone, or pixelation, if you will. You can see it, somewhat, in the shroud photograph closeup you showed, particularly in the lower right hand corner. Are you getting the same result on your experimentally derived image?

The image on the shroud, as you noted earlier, can be removed with adhesive tape. Have you tried that with your experimental product?

The shroud image resists normal chemical bleaching but it can be reduced with a diimide reagent, leaving colorless, undamaged linen fibers behind. Are you getting the same thing?

The shroud image does not fluoresce under ultraviolet illumination? Does yours?

On the shroud, image color has formed on the back side of the cloth in the region of the hair. It is interesting to note that the image is superficial to both surfaces of the cloth and that there is no image within the many dozens of fibers that constitute the yarn. Is your image formation process capable of forming this double superficiality? 

Is your image a negative? Well, yes, of course it is, but is it realistic? Does it seem to have 3D height-field characteristics that resemble the shape of the object you worked with? Can you please post larger, higher resolution pictures that we can study.  

Sciencebod, our putdowns may be nothing more than our inadequate way of saying to you, “Go for it. Experiment. Evaluate. Even challenge image criteria. But don’t shortcut the process by not answering some very material questions.”