Who Proposed Ultraviolet?

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.

21 thoughts on “Who Proposed Ultraviolet?”

  1. Why is it that most of these writers feel that they have to shy away from allowing the image to have been produced by the action of a miracle ? Is it that if they find a very likely cause of the image by some use of the natural world then it can be said that it was not produced by the action of Christ’s resurrection which would have been a miracle – would it not have been ??

    1. Scientists have no tests for miracles. The closest they can ever come to it is to say that such-and-such an event is inexplicable by any known natural means! That would not exclude any unknown natural means. As they have no tests for miracles they are unable to give a scientific opinion that a miracle has occurred. Miracles are beyond their competence to comment on as scientists!

  2. I don’t know if it’s a sheer coincidence , but since his Turin trip Hugh Farey has posted practically no comments on this blog . Seeing the object in real life didn’t ignite any enthusiasm apparently.

  3. Dilazzaro is someone who has published in peer reviewed journals belonging to the JCR more than 100 papers on laser research, out of which only a few have anything to do with the Shroud. I think this is important because he came to the Shroud world after already being a laser expert. Little by little he has been fine tuning his experiments with linens and finally has identified the very narrow laser operation conditions that lead to obtaining very similar coloration as we see in the Shroud. He has published his works in peer reviewed journals, just like Marion with his image processing and the letters he found. Although both Dlazzaro and Marion have decided to publish their results according to the standard scientific procedures in JCR journals, it is to me difficult to understand how little credibility is given to their work in shroud circles.

    1. Concerning Marion, or Castex, or Frale, it’s no more than “i think i see” with a scientific vernish.

      Concerning Di Lazzaro, he’s a laser expert and tries reproduce the shroud tanks to lasers, naively. Carpentieri, lost in unconventional neutronish radiation, is trying to reproduce the shroud thanks to neutron radiation, and Colin Berry, our food expert, is trying to reproduce the image, with flour.

    2. It is not that di Lazzaro has no credibility in Shroud circles. What we need is another hands-on examination.

  4. Thank you, PHPL, it’s kind of you to be concerned. I have kept a watching brief since I returned from Turin, but the last few weeks of term are always an extremely busy time of year, what with reports and general end-of-year activities, especially for the organiser of Sports Day! I did find the ostentation extraordinary, mostly because of the complete lack of context in which the shroud was displayed, scientific, religious or otherwise, but my enthusiasm for the subject was nor affected, for better or worse, by the visit. Recent topics on shroudstory have been rather general, and not specific to the science of the Shroud, which is, if anything is, my forte.

    For what it’s worth, none of the action-at-a-distance hypotheses have satisfactorily explained why the image appears only on the crowns of each thread, and not close to the places where any thread dips under another. This is characteristic of an imprint, but not of any kind of radiation or vaporograph.

    Daveb is entirely correct about scientists and miracles. The best ones do not ‘shy away’ from the idea that the Shroud may be miraculous; it’s just that if it is, then there is nothing for them to investigate!

    1. ” … the image appears only on the crowns of each thread, and not close to the places where any thread dips under another. This is characteristic of an imprint, but not of any kind of radiation or vaporograph.”

      This would seem to be an extremely significant observation! But perhaps might not necessarily exclude radiation nor vapours as providing some kind of catalytic action essential to the process of image formation.

      1. Yes. If there was a pre-existing reactive layer only on the crowns of the threads, itself produced by some kind of imprinting (I don’t think Rogers’s evaporation layer is particularly convincing at this scale), then radiation or gas emission might trigger it. This layer could not have been produced as part of the spinning or weaving process. It the shroud had been laid lightly on a layer of something and then removed, that might have done it.

    2. Are you still producing BSTS newsletters at 6 monthly intervals, Hugh (hint, hint)? Any chance the flour paste/hot iron model might get a mention, hint, hint?

  5. Why do you say Di Lazzaro is trying to reproduce the image naïvely? Have you read the interview?

  6. The point I want to make is that advances obtained and made public by scientific standards accepted in any other field of science, are widely rejected by the shroud community -usually not on scientific grounds- how can we ever expect to reach one day solid conclusions on its origin and nature?If it is not through standard procedures valid for any other scientific area, how then?

  7. “Advances obtained and made public by scientific standards accepted in any other field of science, are widely rejected by the shroud community – usually not on scientific grounds.” Which ones, specifically? The radiocarbon date?

  8. Sorry, off topic but…
    I’ve been re-reading ‘The Sign’, and de Wesselow mentions 2-3 historic references with regard to the Mandylion as a ‘himation’ or ‘mantle’. Clearly references that imply something much bigger than a small cloth.
    Does anyone have any independent thoughts on this?
    Also, every time I read his analysis of the de Clari and Mesarites descriptions of a shroud in Constantinople around 1200 I always come away thinking there is a very compelling case that this object in Constantinople was the shroud!

    Skeptical views very welcome

    1. Thomas, probably the most comprehensive collection to early references of Jesus images in Constantinople is by Daniel Scavone, “Acheiropoietos Jesus Images in Constantinople: the Documentary Evidence” Daniel C. Scavone, University of Southern Indiana, now found at: http://www.sindonology.org/scavone-acheiropoietos.pdf It’s a solid read but authoritative and comprehensive.

      Word of warning: Scavone still seems to accept the Ian Wilson Mandylion theory, and there are good reasons why this seems no longer tenable. Most history scholars reject it, as do a number of Shroud scholars. Markwardt believes it was something else, the Image of Camuliana, sometimes referred to as the Image of God Incarnate. Others believe it was neither of these objects. But if you want more information on early references to what might have been references to the Shroud in Constantinople, Scavone’s paper is a good place to start. Heavy going, but worth it.

      1. Thank you Dave. What are the primary concerns with the mandylion theory? In my opinon de wesselow presents quite a compelling case for mandylion and shroud being one and the same.

      2. Succinctly there seem to be two primary issues: 1) Many scholars claim that all the references to the mandylion suggest that it was no bigger than a towel, and reject Wilson’s interpretation of tetradiplon implying that it was shroud size; 2) Both the mandylion and burial cloths appear in various Constantinople relic inventories, and hence it is claimed cannot be the same object. It is conceivable that the true mandylion may have been either the original Veronica, or something very like it. It is also conceivable that the mandylion may have been copied from the Shroud image.

        For a comprehensive criticism of Wilson’s mandylion theory, see paper by Jack Markwardt presented at St Louis conference last year: “Modern Scholarship And The History Of The Turin Shroud” presented by Jack Markwardt at Saint Louis Shroud Conference on 12 October 1214. Text can be found at: http://www.shroud.com/pdfs/stlmarkwardtpaper.pdf

        Two earlier papers by Markwardt give his theory that the Shroud was taken to Antioch. He believes that Bishop Avercius was given temporary custody of it ~200 AD to convert the court of Abgar the Great in Edessa, thus giving rise to the Abgar legend whose true meaning is deliberately concealed by an allegory (by citing a predecessor), and also to the Hymn of the Pearl, and then it was returned to Antioch. When Persian king Chosroes attacked Antioch in the 6th century, he believes that Bishop Ephraemius took it to Anatolia and hid it there for safe-keeping, but died before he could retrieve it. It was later discovered as the Image of Camuliana and taken to Constantinople. However some have found objections to the Shroud and Camuliana being the same object.

        First off, you need to get your head around Scavone’s paper.

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