He tells us that he is writing to the Vatican to encourage a new round of carbon dating. I think that’s great. I’d like to see it. But I have a different perspective. I spent my entire career in business. I worked for a major corporation for 25 years and I ran a small company for another decade. I’m not a scientist by training but I’ve learned a great deal from scientists who have worked for me – mainly I learned how much I don’t know. I’m in awe of people like Hugh, Colin and Kelly.
Business people tend to look at things differently. Would we “bet the farm” on a single proposition? And we business people love to make bullet and number charts and think like the world is a big organization chart. Perhaps it comes from our inadequacies in science. So here is how I’d like to see a new round of tests organized:
Create an international, multidisciplinary umbrella organization (e.g. STURP 2). Within it there should be a Provenance Group organized into three sections, as follows:
A) Direct Scientific Methods to be considered and possibly used:
- Radiocarbon dating
- Micromechanical Properties Analysis
- Limitations and Advantages. Reliability.
- Important question for each method is appropriateness for ancient flax fiber,
- Potential problems such as thymol (C14), extreme temperature (Vanillin), etc.
- Completely transparent protocols published in advance.
- Actual tests outsourced to labs as needed (no lab involvement in sampling or writing protocols).
B) Historical Support Analytics
- Pollens (new samples and re-examination of Frei and Rogers tapes)
- Banding. Thread following filtering as opposed to FFT methods. Identify all hank changes (laying in) to see if they match changes in color that would support hank bleaching theory.
- High magnification, high quality, photography of eyes and places where some plants have been identified. Can we see anything meaningful?
C) Other Considerations
- The Sudarium. What can be tested to see if these cloths did indeed contact each other?
- Historical Documents such as the Hungarian Pray Manuscript. How good a visual match?
Since people in the Vatican and the Archdiocese of Turin read this blog almost daily (yes, I know that), I’ll just let this posting substitute for my letter. And you all get to comment.
You know it won’t happen.
It won’t if no one asks. As I’ve said before, our current pontiff is very open to this type of discussion. It’s definitely worth a shot.
WHOEVER WANTS TO DO ANOTHER CARBON DATING BEARS THE BURDEN OF PROVING BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT THAT IT CAN BE AND HAS BEEN COMPLETELY CLEANSED OF THE NATURAL CARBON, I.E. THYMOL, IT WAS CONTAMINATED WITH IN 1988.
Less of the screaming upper case, if you don’t mind. There is no burden of proof in science. One simply collects and evaluates data, and if objections are made to one’s interpretation, then one simply addresses those objections, doing further experiments if necessary. (Thus the need to repeat the radiocarbon dating, since objections have been raised, some legitimate, some less so).
As regards thymol, it was unfathomable that Raymond Rogers should have claimed it would form strong, irreversible chemical bonds with linen (as distinct from much the weaker reversible physical adsorption that would be nullified in AMS clean-up protocols).
It is easy enough to check if thymol can form strong chemical links, simply by doing some preliminary tests with modern linen and radio-labelled thymol. Alternatively, a fragment of Shroud thread can be examined by pyrolysis-mass spectrometry (Rogers’ own chosen instrument!). If there’s thymol there, it should be easy to detect by its aromatic ring and substituent functional groups.
Please stop making a roadblock out of thymol. At this rate, I’ll shall have to devote a short paragraph to it in that letter, now in preparation, I was hoping to keep it short and to the point, not laden with techie detail.
(Let’s hope this comment does not get held up in pre-moderation, as the last one did).
It was held algorithmically. I don’t know why.
Hi Larry, I don’t know if you have been following the comments on thymol posted on this site recently. Specimens of peat, it seems, are both regularly radiocarbon dated and regularly preserved in thymol. What’s more, being ‘whole plant’ based, they can often be dendrochronologically checked for accuracy. A recent paper by Piotr Kolaczek suggests that samples collected some time ago, and reserved in thymol, could nevertheless be accurately dated, provided the thymol is washed away with alcohol. This should be checked out, but if true, implies that thymol is unlikely to be a relevant factor in distorting radiocarbon dates.
I’m with you Dan. If we’re going to have a new STURP let’s go after all the data we can. C-14 can be part of the mix to be sure but there’s a raft of other investiagtions, non-invasive, that would be must-have’s, imo.
Now any chance we could, at the same time, petition the 1988 C-14 labs for a new study of their surviving samples?
Please ask if Richard Dawkins would like to invite some scientists join in the Sturp 2 project.
Perhaps he could also write to prof.Timothy Jull, and perhaps to others who have Shroud material that was handed to them for carbon dating.
Let’s move on shall we? Where would science be if it was still debating the pros and cons of the phlogiston theory? Let’s have new experimentation, new data, new (better-informed) debate.
Having spent the last 20 years designing and building the systems that support scientists in their work, I have some particular suggestions for any future investigations into the Shroud. They can be generalized as a plea: Pay as much attention to the technology and information model used to identify, preserve, and share scientific data as you do on the methods of collection and analysis.
The goal here is to structure information such that it can readily be understood and reused by others. Much of the web today consists of ‘mashups’ made possible through open APIs. This enables others to combine and recombine content from multiple sources to deliver new information, adapt existing information to a new purpose, or discover relationships between previously disparate sources. In other words, it powers everything from serendipitous discovery to cutting edge computer-aided research, but it can only exist when openness and sharing are prioritized rather than grudgingly conceded.
Any future investigative project should carefully consider and implement the following:
1. Transparency. We live in an age of digital rights management, copyright wars, and efforts to control what can exist and persist on the Internet. Any future investigation should commit to the release of all images, video, data, analysis, etc. gathered. In fact, there is no technological impediment to streaming all collection activities to a global audience in real time. After the fact, data should be similarly public from a single Internet repository. While I have great respect for scientists, the work they do, and the publishing process, the Shroud belongs to the world. So should the data. Wherever possible, authors should request that their published materials be publically available, rather than secreted behind paywalls. For some publishers, this will be a deviation from preference or procedure; again, the Shroud is different.
2. Data structure: Wherever possible, identify and structure information according to accepted international standards — not just in terms of file formats, but semantics as well. For example, the Open Provenance Model (http://openprovenance.org/) provides a framework for explicitly identifying and tracing the nature and sources of scientific data. BioPortal (http://bioportal.bioontology.org/) is a searchable repository of ontologies for the life sciences. Semantically-structured data is vital for fruitful communication and collaboration, especially between different communities of interest or scientific specializations.
3. Public involvement: While the very thought will rankle some, there needs to be a way for non-professionals to be involved in the preparation, planning, execution, and analysis. The fact is that important contributions have been made by non-professionals or by scientists working in “home laboratories.” It is far better to encourage — but also formalize — those contributions than to summarily exclude them. An example implementation might work something like Reddit. Allow members of the public to comment or make suggestions, and use a system of weighted comment promotion as a traceable, rigorous way to move information collectively identified as valuable from a comment all the way to the attention of the scientific team.
Other priorities need to be stressed, but with these three implemented (as well as the existing methods of getting people’s attention such as SHOUTING and comboxes) others will advocate for them more effectively than I.
They used to say “two nations divided by a common language”. No, it’s a lot, lot more than that (at least on the world wide web)
Actually, it was an American, I believe who wrote that brilliant “Desiderata”. “Speak your truth, quietly and clearly”.
Equally incisive is Erwin Schrodinger: “It seems plain and self- evident, yet it needs to be said: the isolated knowledge obtained by a group of specialists in a narrow field has in itself no value whatsoever, but only in its synthesis with all the rest of knowledge and only inasmuch as it really contributes in this synthesis toward answering the demand, “Who are we?”
In other words: Nothing means anything except in the context of everything. You gotta love it when physicists get philosophical.
I’ve been doing some re-reading, trying to get the facts right for a PowerPoint presentation I’m setting up for next year. Ian Wilson’s “The Shroud” 1978, Appendix D, itemises the threads taken on 24 Nov 1973 for the 1969-76 “Turin Commission” under Cardinal Pellegrino. As well as the two 40mm pieces, a warp thread 13mm and weft thread 12mm given to Gilbert Raes, several other dorsal threads, most of them “blood-stained” were also taken; To Profs Mari & Rizzati (vice Prof Frache): one 28mm thread no image, ten threads 10mm to 40mm, “blood-stained” (scourge-marks, feet, small of back); To Profs Filogamo & Zina: one 13mm, one 18mm, “blood-stained” from right foot dorsal.
The Italians were unsuccessful at identifying blood, that had to await the work of Heller, Adler & Baima Ballone in 1978. King Umberto had required that on completion of their investigations, the samples were to be returned to their reliquary. Considering the wide-spread distribution over the dorsal image, the samples if still extant might be suitably representative C-14 candidate samples. Could C-14 produce adequate results from such small samples? Where are the samples now? Back in the reliquary as requested, or distributed goodness knows where else? If extant, can their provenance be assured?
THE “UNFATHOMABLE” RAY ROGERS IS GENERALLY CONSIDERED THE BEST CREDENTIALED CHEMIST TO EVER ADDRESS THE SUBJECT OF THYMOL CONTAMINATION. HE WAS CONVINCED THAT IT WOULD LIKELY BE IMPOSSIBLE TO SUFFICIENTLY CLEAN THAT MODERN CARBON FROM THE SHROUD AND THEREFORE THE SECOND CARBON DATING WOULD ALSO BE WRONG AND EVEN MORE MISLEADING. IF THAT HAPPENS, THE SHROUD’S CREDIBILITY WILL BE FOREVER DESTROYED REGARDLESS OF WHATEVER OTHER “TECHIE DETAILS” THERE ARE. THUS, THE BURDEN OF PROOF, BEFORE A SECOND CARBON DATING, IS CLEARY ON WHOEVER PROPOSES THAT THE SHROUD IS FREE OF MODERN CARBON CONTAMINATION.
There’d be no thymol on the 1973 threads! Where are they?
No one knows. Raes sample is somewhere. As to the bloodied threads -dissolved with acid?
In his ‘Frequently Asked Questions’, Rogers suggested that thymol was likely to damage the shroud by reacting with any iron on it to produce “intensely coloured complexes.” He says nothing about affecting the radiocarbon date in this paper. Later, in ‘A Chemist’s Perspective on the Shroud of Turin’ he speculated on the radiocarbon effects, but seems to have forgotten the discolouration. Perhaps if we combine the two, we will be able to see how much contamination there is, if any, visually.
I don’t normally try to maintain a conversation with people who write in uppercase, so I’ll simply sign off with this. I recently responded to Thibault Heimburger’s listing of Rogers’ case for irreversible thymol contamination with a point-by-point rebuttal, and invited folk to contact the American Chemical Society for a ruling on who was right, who was wrong. Response – zilch. So here it is again – the email address.
Where’s the original listing? If you’re game to write the Pope I don’t mind writing the ACS. Good to get a 3rd opinion.
Here was my response to Thibault’s checklist:
His comment is the one that preceded it, and I suggested an approach to the AMS later in the thread. I’ll be interested to hear its answer, assuming you can get them interested . (Mention that it’s being cited as a reason for NOT having the Shroud re-tested, and that while the present stalemate continues, the reputation of science and individual scientists is being harmed on an ever-increasing scale – that there are new books and documentaries in the pipeline that claim conspiracy theories to misreport the “true” age of the Shroud).
Done. Here’s hoping their interest is piqued.
The Vatican will want to show itself independent and unlikely to respond to demands for specific tests proposed by outsiders. If it wants to keep to the idea that what the Shroud is is purely a scientific matter, it will presumably farm it out to a laboratory that has high scientific credibility. It is clear that even if that lab came up with a radiocarbon date of 1350 and unambiguous evidence that there was no blood on the Shroud but there were pigments that showed that the image had been painted there would still be some people who would not accept that. But why should the Vatican bother about that? They would gain much more from being shown to be open to science and ready to accept that nothing in Catholicism depends on the Shroud, or any other relic, being authentic. That would fit with the new Francis persona. And if the tests did come up with a first century result they would not lose anything either.
The important requirement is that the lab that does the testing is known to be as good as one can find so that the wider world of science respects the result and the Church can reap the benefits of being seen to be open to the wider world.
I don’t agree about the enthusiasm around a new round of carbon dating.
(B.T.W. : … from where we can take the linen sample ? Where is the right place ?).
I don’t think that’s great because this is a destructive test.
I have a different perspective, as you have read what
I wrote in the past (March 26, 2013) on this blog (argument treated =
New Italian Book: The Mystery of the Shroud by Giulio Fanti and
Saverio Gaeta) :
>The AFM and the Raman analyses can show the truth.
>There are the highest performance AFM-Raman systems…
The time is ripe.
We have to see what happens under the SPM controls.
The Micro-nanomechanical Properties Analysis is another very
If I am right, in the past,
I wrote something about the application of the well known method :
the AFM three-point bending test on linen fibrils …
Also the Nanoscale Chemical Imaging is very interesting.
But, here, is uselss to list (enthusiastically) all the possible
SPM analyses …
— — —
… the isolated knowledge obtained by a group
of specialists in a narrow field has in itself no value
whatsoever, but only in its synthesis with all the rest of knowledge …
(Erwin Schrodinger, quoted by Jeff Liss)
This is the right way.
There is the Probability Calculus to take into account.
The Shroud and the ancient coins (f.e. the solidus by Justinian,
see under : http://greatshroudofturinfaq.com/History/Greek-Byzantine/Pre-944AD/Vignon/justinianIIcoin692.html )
are older than the invention of probability calculus …
Do you agree ?
Not a bad idea. I kind of doubt it will happen, but not a bad idea. Thanks Colin.
How about we also see if new C14 tests are done the actual piece being taken from the Shroud by video tape
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