Developing a Hacking Theory

clip_image001Stephen Jones in a posting on his blog, Were the radiocarbon dating laboratories duped by a computer hacker?: Further to my replies to Dr. Timothy Jull and Prof. Christopher Ramsey has investigated the console computers used in Oxford and Arizona. For each he writes, it “CERTAINLY was programmable and therefore HACKABLE!”

Though I am so far utterly skeptical of his hacking theory, I am glad he is doing some necessary research.

23 thoughts on “Developing a Hacking Theory”

  1. You have to admire Stephen’s persistence, don’t you? I suppose his crucial question is now: How was his computer programmed? Punched cards? Roll of of punched paper? Magnetic tape? Or did the programme have to be typed in?

  2. Wow! So Ramsey puts out what looks like disinfo on a crucial question regarding how/if the numbers could have been fudged in the C14 tests (whether intentionally or it was just a ‘senior moment’ you can decide) — thus appearing to discredit himself — yet Stephen Jones is the one looked askance at and receiving cheap pot shots for pointing it out and daring to pursue the important questions! I guess the saying is true about knowing you’re over the target when you’re getting lots of flak! “Whoever misleads the upright into an evil way will fall into his own pit, but the blameless will have a goodly inheritance.” Proverbs 28.10

    ***

    Matthew 17:1-2 And after six days Jesus taketh with him Peter, and James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into a high mountain apart: and he was transfigured before them; and his face did shine as the sun, and his garments became white as the light.

    Mark 9:2-3 And after six days Jesus taketh with him Peter, and James, and John, and bringeth them up into a high mountain apart by themselves: and he was transfigured before them; and his garments became glistering, exceeding white, so as no fuller on earth can whiten them.

    Luke 9:29 And as he was praying, the fashion of his countenance was altered, and his raiment [became] white [and] dazzling.

    Luke 24:3-4 And they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus. And it came to pass, as they were much perplexed thereabout, behold, two men stood by them in shining garments

    Matthew 28:1-4 In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre. And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow: And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men.

    Revelation 21:23 And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof.

    Ephesians 5:14 Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.

    Psalm 17:15 As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness.

    Malachi 4:2 But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall.

    Daniel 10:5-6 Then I lifted up mine eyes, and looked, and behold a certain man clothed in linen, whose loins were girded with fine gold of Uphaz: His body also was like the beryl, and his face as the appearance of lightning, and his eyes as lamps of fire, and his arms and his feet like in colour to polished brass, and the voice of his words like the voice of a multitude

    Revelation 1:14-16 His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire; And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters. And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp twoedged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength.

    Exodus 34:29-35 And it came to pass, when Moses came down from mount Sinai with the two tables of testimony in Moses’ hand, when he came down from the mount, that Moses wist not that the skin of his face shone while he talked with him. 30 And when Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone; and they were afraid to come nigh him. […] And till Moses had done speaking with them, he put a vail on his face. 34 But when Moses went in before the LORD to speak with him, he took the vail off, until he came out. And he came out, and spake unto the children of Israel that which he was commanded. 35 And the children of Israel saw the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses’ face shone: and Moses put the vail upon his face again, until he went in to speak with him.

    Numbers 6:24-27 The LORD bless thee, and keep thee: The LORD make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: The LORD lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace. And they shall put my name upon the children of Israel; and I will bless them.

    Daniel 12:2-4 And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. 3 And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever. 4 But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.

    1. No, Christopher Ramsey wrote: “The software was very simple just outputting counts of 14C and currents measured. Age calculation was done offline and could just be done with a calculator, or by a simple program into which you typed the numbers from the AMS.” This is neither incorrect, nor deliberately or unintentionally msleading.

      1. It IS misleading. The “age calculation” was merely CALIBRATING the C-14 years displayed by the “software” on the AMS control console computer’s terminal screen. It led Dan to ask whether the computer was even “programmable”.

        In the interests of full disclosure, Prof. Ramsey could have said, “the AMS control console computer was a 32-bit DEC VAX-11”.(for example).

        And what WAS the point of Prof. Ramsey saying of my original proposal, that the AMS control computer was connected to ARPANET:

        “This would seem to be a suggestion from someone who does not know what computers were like in the 1980s.”

        if it was not to mislead? A DEC VAX-11 or PDP-11 could certainly have been connected to ARPANET.

        Of course Hugh could have mislead Prof. Ramsey. So in the interests of full disclosure could Hugh please copy and paste here what he told Dr. Jull and Prof. Ramsey about my original proposal.

      2. Your wish is my command…

        > Dear Dr Jull and Dr Ramsey,
        >
        > There is a bizarre hypothesis circulating Shroud of Turin blogs that the AMS calculating software in your laboratories in 1988 could have been hacked by a mischief-maker, unbeknown to the scientists involved, so that whatever dates were actually measured by the machine, they were replaced by medieval ones with the specific intent of discrediting the authenticity of the shroud.
        >
        > Although the idea seems preposterous, it has been proposed by a man with some influence in Shroud circles, and needs more authoritatively refuting than I can.
        >
        > Could you both send me an email (for publication on the blogs) saying how impossible such a scenario would have been? It would knock it on the head for everybody except, I dare say, the man proposing it.
        >
        > Best wishes,
        > Hugh

  3. >You have to admire Stephen’s persistence, don’t you?

    I am persistent because I believe that I am on the right track.

    And because I am facing up to the key issue: if the Shroud is authentic (which Hugh doesn’t believe), then how did its linen, being first century or earlier, `just happen’ to have a C-14 date the midpoint of which is 1325, just before the Shroud’s historical debut in the 1350s?

    Indeed Arizona’s date WAS “1350 AD …the time its historic record began”:

    “Based on these 10 one minute runs, with the calibration correction applied, the year the flax had been harvested that formed its linen threads was 1350 AD-the shroud was only 640 years old! It was certainly not Christ’s burial cloth but dated from the time its historic record began.” (Gove, H.E., 1996, “Relic, Icon or Hoax?: Carbon Dating the Turin Shroud,” p.264)

    which is just too good to be true and should have rung alarm bells in the minds of normally sceptical scientists that something was wrong. But they all accepted that `bull’s eye’ date uncritically, even those who had believed that the Shroud was authentic.

    >I suppose his crucial question is now: How was his computer programmed? Punched cards? Roll of of punched paper? Magnetic tape? Or did the programme have to be typed in?

    If the AMS control console computer was a DEC VAX-11, as per my previous comment under Dan’s post that he has provided a link to above, then it supported a variety of computer languages, including “assembly language“:

    “The VAX-11/780 introduced on October 25, 1977 was the first of a range of popular and influential computers implementing that architecture. … The VAX instruction set was designed to be powerful and orthogonal…. When it was introduced, many programs were written in assembly language, so having a “programmer-friendly” instruction set was important…. In time, as more programs were written in higher-level language, the instruction set became less visible, and the only ones much concerned about it were compiler writers.” (“VAX,” Wikipedia).

    I would not be surprised if the AMS control console computer program was written in assembly language, because of its power and flexibility in controlling machines, albeit at the cost of difficulty of programming it it. But that would be no problem for a hacker. Even I wrote programs in “assembly language” back in the 1980s and I knew a programmer back then who did it for a living..

    1. These posts about the hacking theory … I wish I had more time to write. It brings back some good old memories of teaching young student (I was a bit older than my student) classes to program the VAX-11 (at a CEGEP in Montreal in the early 1980s) in assembly language. I guess I can say I was making a living programming the VAX-11 in assembly language. I hope a complete description of the set up of each lab can be summarized at some point. It would be an interesting historical record.

      I have not seen yet the raw radio carbon counting data. Did I miss them through all these posts?

    2. Such primitive programming as the AMS control console needed may well have been in assembly language. My point is; how was your fake program physically inserted, and later replaced by the original for the other samples? Did Linick or Hatheway swap spools of tape, or did they have to sit at the console and type in the program? Did they do it during a coffee-break?

      1. Sorry, these “Reply” comments seem to insert themselves just anywhere! The question above is, of course, for Stephen. As for the raw data, these have never been made available to anyone, as far as I know, and certanly not published.

  4. According to Vatican Insider (coincidentally exactly a year ago today), Timothy W. Linick’s death was “suicide in mysterious circumstances”:

    “Another episode was disturbing , June 4, 1989 , suicide in mysterious circumstances by Timothy W. Linick , a scholar of the method of the mass spectrometer .” (Giacomo Galeazzi,
    Never solved the enigma that still divides the Church,” Vatican Insider, Apr 1, 2013. Translated from Italian by Google).

    Also there is an Italian Wikipedia page (translated by Google) which says that others have theorised that Linick “could have been killed … to avoid…” him confessing “… the alleged fraud”:

    “The “conspiracy theorists” have also raised doubts about the death of Timothy Linick, forty-collaborator of the Tucson laboratory and co-signer of the Nature, who died June 4, 1989 by suicide, according to this theory, could have been killed instead, to avoid prove that the alleged fraud. [citation needed]” (“Examination of the carbon-14 on the Shroud,” Wikipedia, January 4, 2014).

    In the context this was about the `conspiracy theory’ that “Michael Tite [of the British Museum] and at least one person for each of the three laboratories” were involved in a switching of Shroud samples fraud. I do NOT believe that.

    And again I do NOT claim that Linick WAS a hacker and that his death WAS suicide,

    However, I can’t help thinking that the execution made to look like suicide of hacker Karl Koch, who had worked for the KGB, on 23 May 1989, and then the “suicide in mysterious circumstances” of Arizona lab’s Timothy W. Linick, less than 2 weeks later on 4 June 1989, only a few months after the 16 February 1989 Nature paper claimed the Shroud was dated “AD 1260-1390”, MAY have been linked.

    Significantly, that each of the three AMS laboratories used the same procedures for measuring the C-14 in their samples, under the control of their AMS control console computers, is stated in the 1989 Nature paper:

    “The specific measurement procedures for each laboratory are given by Linick et al. 9 … 9. Linick, T. W., Jull, A. J. T., Toolin, L. J. & Donahue, D. J. Radiocarbon 28, 522-533 (1986). That is the paper I cited in my previous comment, “Linick, T.W., et al. 1986, “Operation of the NSF-Arizona accelerator facility for radioisotope analysis and results from selected collaborative research projects,” Radiocarbon, Vol. 28, No. 2a, pp.522-533).”

    As can be seen, Linick was the lead author of that paper and therefore it is likely that he wrote the AMS control console computer program for it, given that he was “extremely mathematically gifted,” according to his obituary in Radiocarbon.

    And if the program was written in assembly language (see above) that would make it more likely that the program was opaque to the other lab staff, in Arizona and the other two labs.

    So Linick (if he was the hacker) could have modified the Arizona lab’s program to replace the Shroud C-14 dates with dates clustering around 1325, and he could also have sent both Zurich and Oxford C-14 labs his modified program as an `update’ of their program, which he had himself written.

    Admittedly this is necessarily speculative at this stage and again I do NOT claim that Linick WAS a hacker and that his death WAS suicide.

  5. I do recall back in 1984 when my computer class ran a Valentine’s Day fundraiser in which students filled out a survey and we did some matchmaking. I had the task of filling out a few hundred computer cards (with the big black pencils). A friend of mine asked me to ‘adjust’ his card to match that of a certain gal he fancied. I did so and he ended up on top of her list of ‘best matches’.

    Obviously our security protocols were less robust than the C-14 labs, but where there is a will there is a way. What is needed here is a late confession, similar to the one I just gave.

  6. >Wow! So Ramsey puts out what looks like disinfo on a crucial question regarding how/if the numbers could have been fudged in the C14 tests (whether intentionally or it was just a ‘senior moment’ you can decide) — thus appearing to discredit himself

    Prof. Ramsey’s claim that I was “someone who does not know what computers were like in the 1980s.”:

    >>Yes – I agree with all that Tim says. This would seem to be a suggestion from someone who does not know what computers were like in the 1980s.”

    is not only FALSE, I know from PERSONAL EXPERIENCE what computers were like in the 1980s.

    But also it is MISLEADING in the light of Prof. Ramsey’s next paragraph:

    >>In the case of Oxford the AMS had no connection to any network (and indeed even today our AMS control computers have no network connections). The software was very simple just outputting counts of 14C and currents measured. Age calculation was done offline and could just be done with a calculator, or by a simple program into which you typed the numbers from the AMS.”

    This could be taken to mean that the AMS control console computer was little more than a calculator. In fact, based on it, Dan questioned whether it was even “programmable”.

    But in fact it now appears that the AMS control console computer was a “DEC computer system,” either a PDP or a VAX. In which case it would have been a mini-computer, i.e. a mini-MAINFRAME-computer, far more powerful than personal computers were until a decade later.

    Given that Prof. Ramsey must know that, his attack on me seems strange for an Oxford Professor, let alone that it was FALSE and MISLEADING.

    Therefore it seems to me, at least, to be a case of “protesting too much”. That is, I suspect that Prof. Ramsey may know, or suspect, that the C-14 labs were, or could have been, hacked and therefore their 1260-1390 date of the Shroud was, or could have been, a fraud, perpetrated on them. The 1989 suicide of Timothy Linick may have alerted them to that possibility, or even actuality.

    >— yet Stephen Jones is the one looked askance at and receiving cheap pot shots for pointing it out and daring to pursue the important questions!

    It just shows that they fear the truth. It also reflects poorly on Dan as Moderator, that he would allow me to be continually defamed while seeking the truth, without him lifting a finger to protect me. However, I have noticed less ad hominems, so perhaps Dan is belatedly moderating the defamers..

    >I guess the saying is true about knowing you’re over the target when you’re getting lots of flak!

    I had never heard that saying, but it is apt!

    Thanks again to EGM for his support.

  7. I was doing a search of my computer last night for the name [ . . . content edited out]

    “Hardly had this wave of publicity died down before on 26 August the London Evening Standard ran as its front-page lead story `Shroud of Turin Really is a Fake’. Accompanying this was a seemingly authoritative article by librarian Dr. Richard Luckett of Magdalene College, Cambridge, cryptically remarking that `laboratories are rather leaky institutions’ and `a probable date of about 1350 looks likely’. This again generated media stories all round the world, yet both the Oxford laboratory and Dr. Michael Tite of the British Museum insisted that they knew nothing of how Dr. Luckett had come by his information, and had had no dealings with him. When in a telephone enquiry to Dr. Luckett I asked whether the Revd. David Sox had been his source, he hastily changed the subject.” (Ian Wilson, “On the Recent “Leaks,” BSTS Newsletter, 23 September 1985).

    The evidence is pointing to [ . . . content edited out ] being one of the hackers, but at this stage I am still not yet claiming that he WAS.

    1. I’m sorry, Stephen, but some time ago I explained some ground rules about questioning someone’s intellectual honesty in this blog without solid evidence. The above comment, as you wrote it, was unacceptable for that reason. Someone’s possible attitude and speculation, therefore, that he may have told someone else something privately is not evidence. I have removed the name and much of the content.

    2. I don’t see anything in Linck’s comment that necessarily implies an anti-authenticity bias.

  8. >some time ago I explained some ground rules about questioning someone’s intellectual honesty in this blog without solid evidence.

    Dan, MY intellectual honesty has been continually questioned on your blog, as well as other personal attacks, but you don’t lift a finger to protect me.

    You are biased against me but you probably don’t realise it. Your position is sitting on the fence: “Is the Shroud real? Probably”. Which gives you the tactical advantage of sitting up there on Mt Olympus looking down on us mere mortals arguing for and against the Shroud’s authenticity, and sending down the odd thunderbolt. But your position is the worst of all: “not EVEN wrong”.

    I am therefore leaving your blog in that I will read its posts from time to time, and I will respond to those posts as posts on my blog, where I feel it is warranted.

    But I will no longer read the comments under those posts on your blog nor comment on them on your blog. If anyone has a comment or point they wish to draw to my attention for my response, they will have to do it as a comment on my blog, and I will respond to it on my blog.

    Again I thank you for the free publicity.

    Goodbye.

    PS: [content edited out by Dan Porter]
    Stephen E. Jones

    1. What’s wrong with a bir of fence sitting? The evidence is not categorical either way

    2. Stephen, I draw a line here. Yes, the man is deceased, but he probably has family. It is a serious matter to infer that he was a hacker in the sense of cheating while doing science, particularly when you are also suggesting that the KGB was behind the hacking. If you had evidence it would be a different matter. But you don’t. You have an assumption about bias and a bit of flakey conspiracy-theory-like speculation; that’s all that I can see.

      I’ll continue to point to your blog. That is what I do. That may even seem hypocritical on my part; in fact it may be. Regardless, I can’t condone what you are doing so you can’t do it here. Other than that, your comments are always welcome.

  9. I am certainly not advocating the hacker theory(!), but what is odd, are the erroneous statements made by Prof. Ramsey and Dr. Jull about computer networking in the 1980s and the confusing statements they made about the calculation of ages based on the C14 and C13 counts for the Shroud.

    First, the erroneous statements about networking. Dr. Jull wrote “Indeed, in 1988 the internet (as we know it today) didn’t exist – there was a pre-existing network run by the US government which was quite restricted.” A) This is irrelevant because as soon as you can connect to a computer you can potentially hack it remotely, no Internet, as we know it today, is needed. B) It is erroneous: there were many large scale networks between universities, data centers, and government employees before 1988. In 1978, I was programming a computer located 250km away from my school and communicating with many other users at many other schools throughout the province of Quebec. By some accident, I turned out to be able to read all file names on some disks at the ministry of education. This is unthinkable today in terms of security. In 1981, I was working in a government data center in the province of Ontario. Their Amdhal V8 was connected to over 1000 terminals across the province of Ontario. From 1983 to 1989, I was programming a computer at the school I was teaching via a modem from my home. Remotely hacking computers was possible prior to 1988 and it was done. Of course, many people can attest to large scale networking in the early 1980s. Prof. Ramsey wrote: “Yes – I agree with all that Tim says. This would seem to be a suggestion from someone who does not know what computers were like in the 1980s.” This is unfortunately the opposite because Prof. Ramsey is either saying that large scale computer networking was not common back then, or that hacking computers (remotely or not) was not possible, but in both cases it was possible and done. That definitely may not apply to any computer used by the radio carbon dating labs, and only the persons that knew precisely their set up could answer.

    Second, the confusing statements about the calculation of ages based on the C14 and C13 counts. Dr. Jull wrote: “This is impossible. In our case, the software for the calculations is offline. In any case, the calculation does NOT require software, it was done offline and plotted on a graph, as I recall”. This is confusing. He wrote “the software for the calculations is offline”, so that means they were using a software on some computer, then “the calculation does NOT require software, it was done offline and plotted on a graph”. Why to state that it does not require a software? Does it mean that it was done by hand? Were they or not using a software to do the calculation? I can’t tell from these two statements. Prof Ramsey wrote: “Age calculation was done offline and could just be done with a calculator, or by a simple program into which you typed the numbers from the AMS.” That simply says that the calculation was simple, but that still does not say if a computer was used or not in the case of the dating of the Shroud.

  10. The question might be worthwhile pursuing if only to refute it. It occurs to me that for a successful hacking, the hacker would surely need to know that the specific labs and the specific computers were involved at the specific time of carrying out the various processes for the specific dating of the Shroud of Turin. It is now probably too late to ascertain if dating by the laboratories of any other artifact around the same time appeared to be suspect or compromised. Otherwise the accusation appears to be too implausible.

    I see it as an unfortunate distraction from more likely causes of erroneous dating such as the faulty sampling regime, and unusual contamination of the sample by cotton and other suspicious substances. A non-representative sample seems to be the most likely cuprit in the box, and it is unnecessary to resort to such extreme explanations as unproven hacking in the absence of any evidence for it, even it could be shown to be theoretically possible.

  11. How?, asks Hugh. Five inch floppy fits nicely in a false-bottom pizza box. That seems more like the CIA than the KGB. Remember this was 1988. Pizza had not come to Oxford yet. Fish and chips was still wrapped in newspaper. Punch cards would have gotten greasy.

  12. I agree with Daveb, this is a an unfortunate distraction.
    “Hackable” doesn’t equal “Hacked” and “software Programmer” doesn’t equal “Hacker”. And if Prof. Ramsey and Dr. Jull’s statements were conflicting then fraud would be the more plausible explanation not a KGB hacking operation. These are 3 different labs in three different countries, the claims that they were all hacked by the KGB because the computers in Arizona were “Hackable” and the lab teams included software programmers and the C14 dates match the historic record of the shroud is ridiculous. It’s very unfortunate to see Stephen harp on this, I used to like his previous work but, in my opinion, he has undermined his website and the total case for the shroud authenticity by posting these weak arguments. It almost seems to me like he is playing a chess match that he can’t lose, stomping the shroud in the process.

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