imageA reader writes:

I am confused. Facebook Pages by you, Barry (sic) Schwortz and Russ Breault featured an article that claimed that Giulio Fanti figured out that UV radiation is the only thing that comes close to making the image on the Shroud. I thought it was Paolo Di Lazzaro.

Yes and no.

Barrie, Russ and I were reporting the fact that the article, The Shroud of Turin and Technoscience, appeared in The National Catholic Register. I think it was mainly a service to our readers. Here is what the article you refer to says.

Then, in 2012, an Italian academic who had been studying the mystery of the shroud for years released what seems to be the best theory to explain the shroud’s image. Giulio Fanti, an Italian professor of mechanical and thermal measurement at Padua University, reports that the only technique to come close to reproducing the image on the shroud is ultraviolet radiation.

Paolo certainly did suggest UV at least a year earlier. But the explanation needs some nuancing and clarifying. Alan Boyle did a nice write up for NBC’s Cosmic Log in December of 2011. Here is a piece of it:

The Italian studies, conducted at the ENEA Research Center in Frascati, addresses a specific question in Shroud science: Could a burst of radiation have created the coloration seen on the linen? The answer is yes, although the results reported in the latest studies aren’t a perfect match. So does that mean the Shroud image could only have been created by the flash of a miraculous resurrection? The answer is no, despite what you might read on the Web.

Five years of tests

“Sadly, we have seen many claims spread in the Web made by journalist/bloggers that discuss the content of a paper they never read,” lead researcher Paolo Di Lazzaro told me today in an email. “It is obvious that a serious scientific work cannot prove any supernatural action. We have shown that the most advanced technology available today is unable to replicate all the characteristics of the Shroud image. As a consequence, we may argue it appears unlikely a forger may have done this image with technologies available in the Middle Ages or earlier. The probability the Shroud is a medieval fake is really low. In this sense, the Shroud image is still a scientific challenge.”

Di Lazzaro and his colleagues based their conclusions on five years of tests, using an ultraviolet laser apparatus and strips of modern-day linen. They blasted the cloth with UV at different power levels, and reported that they “achieved a very superficial Shroud-like coloration of linen yarns in a narrow range of irradiation parameters.” The best effect depended on laser pulses lasting less than 50 nanoseconds.

“These processes may have played a role in the generation of the body image on the Shroud of Turin,” the researchers report.

They don’t go so far as to claim a miracle. But the fact that UV laser blasters didn’t exist in the 13th century, let alone in Jesus’ day, strongly implies that they suspect something out of the ordinary was going on.


Over the years, Di Lazzaro and his colleagues have published a long list of studies, including peer-reviewed papers (see below). The latest studies were presented at a May conference in Frascati and published in November as an ENEA technical report (with a disclaimer saying that the contents didn’t necessarily express ENEA’s opinion). But they didn’t really get traction until this week, just in time for Christmas, thanks to a series of sensationalized British news reports.

Actually, we can go back further to a paper, Deep Ultraviolet Radiation Simulates the Turin Shroud Image. Paolo Di Lazzaro, Daniele Murra and Antonino Santoni of ENEA are listed as authors. So is Giulio Fanti from the University of Padua.  And Enrico Nichelatt. And Giuseppe Baldacchini.

imageJohn Jackson (pictured) should also be getting some credit here. As early as 1991, he was suggesting that ultraviolet radiation was a possible factor in the image’s creation. Here from a complete copy of John’s paper, An Unconventional Hypothesis to Explain All Image Characteristics Found on the Shroud Image  (published in its entirety by Stephen Jones on his blog):

Chemical Nature of the Image. Electromagnetic radiation that is absorbed strongly in air consists of photons in the ultraviolet or soft x-ray region. It happens that these photons are also sufficiently energetic to photochemically modify cellulose. Such photons are strongly absorbed in cellulose over fibril-like distances. Experiments performed by the author have shown that subsequent aging in an oven of photosensitized (bleached) cloth by shortwave ultraviolet radiation produces a yellow-browned pattern like the Shroud body image composed of chemically altered cellulose. Thus, I posit that radiation from the body initially photosensitized the body image onto the Shroud. This pattern would have appeared, if the radiation was ultraviolet, as a white (bleached) image on a less white cloth. With time, natural aging would have reversed the relative shading of the image to its presently observed state where it appears darker than the surrounding cloth (which also aged or darkened with time, but not as fast). This mechanism is consistent with (1) the observed lack of pyrolytic products in microchemical studies of Shroud fibrils expected from high-temperature cellulose degradation (in this case image coloring occurs by natural aging at ambient temperatures over a long period of time) and (2) the absence of substances in the image areas that chemically colored the cloth (Note that image coloration is produced onto the cloth only by radiation and without any extraneous chemicals).

Bottom Line:  The article in the National Catholic Register misrepresented the facts.

Note:  I don’t maintain a Shroud Facebook page It is an automatic echo of my blog postings. Unfortunately it is the only way some people see my blog and as a result they miss the discussion that follows.