Tantalizingly Close Enough?

In The Imaginative Conservative, Fr. Dwight Longenecker summarizes the scientific work of Paolo Di Lazzaro (pictured) and his colleagues. The article is entitled The Shroud of Turin: Evidence for Everything? :

So what formed the image? The best description is that it is an extremely delicate singe marking. Italian physicist Paolo Di Lazzaro concedes in an article for National Geographic that every scientific attempt to replicate it in a lab has failed. “Its precise hue is highly unusual, and the color’s penetration into the fabric is extremely thin, less than 0.7 micrometers (0.000028 inches), one-thirtieth the diameter of an individual fiber in a single 200-fiber linen thread.”


They came tantalizingly close to replicating the image’s distinctive color on a few square centimeters of fabric. However, they were unable to match all the physical and chemical characteristics of the shroud image, and reproducing a whole human figure was far beyond them. De Lazzaro explained that the ultraviolet light necessary to reproduce the image of the crucified man “exceeds the maximum power released by all ultraviolet light sources available today.” The time for such a burst would be shorter than one forty-billionth of a second, and the intensity of the ultra violet light would have to be around several billion watts.”

As good a summary of De Lazzaro’s work as I have seen. But is tantalizingly close close enough?

imageWe’ve featured Fr. Dwight Longenecker many times in this blog. He is a graduate of Oxford University. He was an Evangelical Christian, later an Anglican priest and is now a Catholic priest.  He is the author of sixteen books and contributes to many magazines, papers and journals including Crisis, Integrated Catholic Life, National Catholic Register and Intercollegiate Review.

21 thoughts on “Tantalizingly Close Enough?”

  1. If I understand Di Lazarro’s comment, he is saying: (1) His experiments came close to producing the same kind of marking, but still measurably different in some way; and (2) yet he can predict what would produce the exact same kind of marking.

    1. Then it seems to me that Di Lazzaro may have made a scientifically significant prediction.

  2. I have some problems,which I am sure that hose who have been working on the Shroud for many years can help answer.
    1) From what I read, Di Lazzaro’s experiments have lasted over several years but he has not reproduced the images. He says that he now knows what would be required to do so and it seems beyond the bounds of possibility. So might it be that we can call it a day for radiation as a cause of the image? If so this would be scientifically important.
    2) Some people talk as if the images were caused by the Resurrection but the images are not of Christ going through a Resurrection-they are pre-Resurrection images.
    3) If there is human blood on the Shroud, where does this fit in with the images, radiated or otherwise? What is the best thinking of when the blood came onto the Shroud, before or after the images? obviously the blood cannot be the result of radiation so how can it be separated out from the rest?
    4) Where does the funding for all this work come from? it seems to have taken up a lot of resources at a prestigious laboratory- or perhaps it is after hours work.

  3. These are only some of the questions awaiting responses,and we can only speculate. Shroud studies have fallen short of the mark and Rome will turn a blind eye to what is being written because a deaf ear was turned to the advice it gave.

  4. Hi Lyfe.

    Several of di Lazzaro’s papers are at academia.edu and can be read for themselves, without having to go through Louis’s interview. ‘Superficial and Shroud-like coloration of linen by short laser pulses in the vacuum ultraviolet’ is the most informative. All he has been attempting over the last eight years or so is to reproduce a surface degradation of linen similar to that apparently observed on the Shroud, by means of electromagnetic radiation. Infra-red radiation (heat) could produce the right colour, but the heat generated within the fibres by the effects of the radiation damaged the threads in a dissimilar way to the Shroud. Radiation at 10.6 micrometres having failed to produce the desired outcome, radiation at 0.3 micrometres, and then 0.2 micrometres was tried instead, generated by an XeCl and an ArF laser respectively, of which the first was found less satisfactory than the second.

    The problem is a little like cooking a rare steak, when a very high temperature is required for a very short time, in order to brown the surface without overcooking the inside. Very hot, very fast, is the answer, but even with the ArF laser, if the pulse was short, insufficient energy was transferred, but if the pulse was long, the penetration of the cloth was too deep. The answer was to deliver a series of very short pulses (200 pulses at 11 nanoseconds long, for example). Appropriate degradation was achieved by a total reception of about 26 J/cm2, which requires an intensity of about 10MW per pulse. Even so, some aspects of the colour and penetration of the Shroud image were not duplicated, and require further experimentation.

    1) Di Lazzaro’s experiments never extended to more than few square centimetres, and no attempt was made to reproduce any aspect of the image per se. To do so would either take a very long time or a great many more lasers, or a process unknown to science, or a process unknowable to science – a miracle. Scientists do not engage in the last, and the second last is very much a fringe pursuit.

    2) The image on the Shroud is that of a man in repose. To what extent it reflects the process of Resurrection is beyond any current knowledge, either scientific or theological.

    3) If it were ever established that the linen of the Shroud within the boundary of a bloodstain, was degraded in the same way as the image outside the bloodstain, there would be a strong presumption that the blood was added after the image and the Shroud was the product of artifice. This has not been established. However the evidence that the blood was added before the image is not particularly strong either. Nor has di Lazzaro or any other of the radiation hypothesists carried out experiments on blood to determine its effect. One might surmise that a series of powerful laser pulses sufficient to ‘scorch’ cloth would create an observable alteration to a bloodstain.

    4) All these experiments could be carried out within a graduate or postgraduate study programme without incurring any extra expense.

    1. Thanks, Hugh and Louis. It will be interesting to follow up more on Dr.Lazzaro. Not sure I am up to church politics on this one though. What does Di Lazzaro want to do that the Church does not want him to do? Can’t he just get on with his experiments even if they haven’t created anything positive so far- they don’t seem to need access to the Shroud itself. Will need to get on with the reading to find out.
      If the apostle Paul is right, that the Resurrection was the transformation of Christ’s physical body into a spiritual body, then the Shroud does not show that but something before that. So I presume the images could not have been from a source of energy created by the body as it was being changed into a spiritual form as they would not have come out in the static form we have now. They would have shown something of the life that the apostles saw.
      Will get reading. Thanks for the suggestions.

      1. You (Lyfe) wrote:
        >…the Resurrection was the transformation of Christ’s physical body into a spiritual body, then the Shroud does not show that but something before that. …

        So, in your own opinion…
        What is that shows the Manoppello’s Face?
        Was that the Resurrected Jesus or the image of Jesus during his own passage through the Purgatory… or both?

  5. It is important for Lyfe to read the interview with Dr. Lazzaro because it also explains why the Church is hesitating to go forward with tests. The Church is also ignoring pleas and petitions for what is going on in the realm of Shroud studies is something that has not been appreciated.

  6. Lyfe, Saint Paul preached the resurrected Christ as the other apostles understood it. He joined the Christ movement late, after the Ascension.
    Many Shroud scientists want access to the Shroud in order to follow up their research, however the Church is not interested for reasons I mentioned earlier.H

  7. I am not sure how radiation ever got into it in the first place. The way that Di Lazzaro is heading, It could only have been some kind of supernatural event but that would not explain why the images are of a dead body rather than a transformed or transforming one radiating energy.The present Shroud does not offer any clue as to the fact of the Resurrection- the body is still dead. I can’t find anything that Di Lazzaro has written that helps me here but you know his work better than I do.

    1. Pure speculation ,but here goes….
      The resurrection involved an instantaneous dematerialisation of Christ’s body. In this process of dematerialisation, Christ’s body was imaged onto the Shroud.
      The Shroud was left behind, imaged.
      Christ’s resurrected body materialised beyond the tomb. My take on that resurrected body is something between ghostlike and physical

    1. In a word, no. This energy is the energy needed to produce the laser beam at that intensity and in those pulses. The total energy arriving at the cloth, about 26J/cm2, would not even heat it, which was the whole point of the exercise.

  8. Hi Lyfe
    Other Shroud scientists proposed the radiation hypothesis before Dr. Li Lazzaro, however it has its problems. There are no side images, but this of course can be explained by assuming that the dead body was not tightly wrapped since it was a temporary burial arrangement, and blocks of spices were placed at the sides of the body.
    It is true that what we see is a dead body, as you said. I personally do not believe that the image was formed by a natural process, as you may have read in the interview. It may have been formed during a pre-resurrection process, that is, the instant the event began but before it came to an end. Of course, this is just speculation.
    There is another interview you may like to read:
    If you want to go deeper into the topic you could consult the references given at the end of Dr. Di Lazzaro’s interview and if you are willing to spend some money you get hold of a copy of John Klotz’s copy, mentioned in the introduction of the interview with Professor Giulio Fanti.

    1. In my opinion, “colour and penetration” can be better
      investigated using SNOM and AFM (for example: AFM-Raman)
      — —
      Anyway … don’t you ever faced the problem of
      the presence of iron oxides?
      If these iron oxide powders are invested by the
      powerful VUV excimer laser then, probably, they produce holes.
      But this is not shown in the experiments…
      That is, it does not appear to have been made
      experiments using linens treated with iron oxides.
      Am I wrong in my hasty remark?

    1. Louis/ Thomas/Hugh- thanks.. I can see why the Shroud is such a mystery when there is even controversy over some of these basic issues. Interesting though trying to sort it out.


    Shroud Of Turin DNA Indicates Global Origins |   | |   | |   |   |   |   |   | | Shroud Of Turin DNA Indicates Global OriginsGenetic material suggests the shroud may have been created in India. | | | | View on http://www.huffingtonpost.com | Preview by Yahoo | | | |   |

    I do believe that the facts in this article are false and they want to arrive at the outcome they did so they did not properly relay the facts of the 1988 STURP.  They find a way to arrive at the outcome they want by leaving out the full facts.  It may be helpful to write a rebuttal to the alleged science used in this article, because it is imcomplete. 

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