The Eyes Have It?

I suspect that some of us have different, indeterminable acceptance thresholds
where I think I see becomes I see.

As the story goes, President Lincoln during a cabinet meeting voted "aye" on some matter before the group while six cabinet members voted "nay.”  The President then announced the result: "Nays, six. Ayes, one. The ayes have it."

So you want to argue with or agree with Max about coin images over the eyes.  Here are seven past postings in this blog (one aye and six nays, as it turns out) that may offer some help.

BEGIN with Coins on Eyes Issue Again which includes a six page illustrated extract from Max’s 2011 Totun research paper.



The Forger and the Coins: One in a Gazillion with 13 Zeroes

Paper Chase: Why There Are Probably No Images of Coins, Lettering, Flowers and Whatnots on the Shroud of Turin

Coins on Eyes Issue Again

An Excellent Analysis of the Coins-on-the-Eyes Issue

Comment Promoted: Of Coins and Flowers and More on the Shroud of Turin

I Don’t See Flowers and Coins and Teeth on the Shroud of Turin

You would think someone at LiveScience would know better by now

pareidolia again and again and again

imageIn a LiveScience article Man in the Comet: Why We See Faces Everywhere we read:

Though the face on the comet, with its shadowy profile, looks almost sinister, it is far from unique: Humans are wired to see faces everywhere.

In fact, the phenomenon is so common that it even has a name: Pareidolia, which in Greek means, in essence, "faulty image."

"Your brain is constantly trying to make the most out of just the tiniest thing," said David Huber, a psychologist at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, who has studied the phenomenon. "You’re sort of in overdrive on imagining from limited information that there is a face."

Faces, faces everywhere

From the Shroud of Turin, thought to carry the imprint of the crucified Jesus’ face and body, to faces in the clouds and the Virgin Mary on a grilled cheese sandwich, people have always seen faces in everyday objects. Even the faintest hint of eyes, nose and a mouth in roughly the right places will often trigger the brain’s facial recognition system, Huber said.

[ . . . ]

Brain processing

When people see faces in images, a brain area called the fusiform face region lights up in brain scans, said Kang Lee, a developmental neuroscientist at the University of Toronto, in Canada, who has worked with Huber on several studies of how people process faces.

This brain region is likely a key junction point where low-level visual information is processed to say "Aha! It’s a face," Huber said.

The distance between facial features seems to play a key role in the brain’s ability to spot and uniquely identify different faces.

As I pointed out back in December of 2012, LiveScience carried this bit of insanity then and that posting was called LiveScience Goofs Again:

A prime example of pareidolia and its connection to religious images is the Shroud of Turin, a cloth bearing the image of a man — which some believe to be Jesus — who appears to have suffered trauma consistent with crucifixion. The negative image was first observed in 1898, on the reverse photographic plate of amateur photographer Secondo Pia, who was allowed to photograph it while it was being exhibited in the Turin Cathedral.

Are there no editors at this magazine? In the three short paragraphs just above the paragraph I just quoted, Zimmermann very correctly and very clearly defined pareidolia as follows:

imageThe psychological phenomenon that causes some people to see or hear a vague or random image or sound as something significant is known as pareidolia (par-i-DOH-lee-a).

The word is derived from the Greek words para, meaning something faulty, wrong, instead of, and the noun eidōlon, meaning image, form or shape. Pareidolia is a type of apophenia, which is a more generalized term for seeing patterns in random data.

Some common examples are seeing a likeness of Jesus in the clouds or an image of a man on the surface of the moon.

The picture of a man on the Shroud of Turin is not at all mere random data. It is unmistakably a picture of a man. It might be a yet unexplained work of art. It might even be a photograph by Leonardo da Vinci.  (Humor me, I’m just trying to make a point). It might be the product of some natural phenomenon. Or it might be a miraculous acheiropoieton, an image not created by human hands. But it is not a pattern of random data that just so happens to look like a man. That would be so extraordinary and so statistically implausible as to be truly miraculous. It is not a pareidolia.

Whatever anyone may think about the shroud’s authenticity, there is one thing everyone should agree about: the image of a man with a well-featured face on the shroud is not a pareidolia.  Here is a handy search of this blog on the subject.

Glen Beck, Genius on the Shape of the Nose

imageHugh Kramer who has an Atheism column in The Examiner tells us Glenn Beck defends the ‘Jesus Pancake’

There’s a big flap over a flapjack in the news and the Christian blogosphere this week. The whole thing began on Good Friday when a cook in the Cowgirl Café of Norco, CA was trying to make a Mickey Mouse pancake but ended up with something wholly (holy?) unexpected instead: a johnnycake with the face of Jesus on it. . . .

Didn’t know about this big flap? You are lucky. The story continues:

And now, Glenn Beck is adding his two cents worth. On his radio program yesterday, Beck defended the possibility that the Jesus pancake was indeed a divinely-inspired message from God.

“I’m not one that buys into the, you know, toast and the pancake and stuff like that, but I’m also not willing to reject things that people interpret as a good sign of hope…”

“I don’t want to question God,” said Beck. “I really believe we are entering a season of miracles… and I’m not going to [second?] guess on somebody else’s miracle that’s giving them peace.”

To emphasize the possibility of a miracle, Beck put an image of the face on the Shroud of Turin and a photo of the Jesus Pancake side-by-side and remarked upon the similarities, mainly “the shape of the nose.”

His co-hosts however, were unimpressed.

Wait a minute, Beck was showing the pictures on a radio show? A radio show?

Pareidolia Again

imageFrom an announcement:

Pareidolia: New Works by Donald Fortescue

OPENS January 16, 6:30-8PM, Artist Reception

EXHIBITS January 16 – February 22, 2014

Oakland Art Murmur Celebration on February 7, 6-9PM

Vessel Gallery, 471 25th Street, Oakland, CA 94612, 510 893 8800

Gallery Hours:  Tuesday through Saturday, 11-6PM

You are cordially invited to join us as we kick off the New Year with the new and exciting solo show “Pareidolia: New Works by Donald Fortescue.”

And then there is this:

”Pareidolia” is the psychological phenomenon whereby a vague or random stimulus (often an image or sound) is perceived as significant or having recognizable form – classical examples being seeing the “man” in the moon (or the “rabbit pounding rice” if you are Japanese), the Shroud of Turin, and the “face” in the Cydonia region of Mars.

The face on Mars (pictured)? Yes, of course. And the man in the moon. But not the Shroud of Turin, not the man on the shroud. It is ludicrous to suggest that

Is the pareidolia on the shroud? I certainly think so. It includes, in my opinion, the images of coins, lettering, flowers and plants, and the appearance of teeth. But the image[s] of the man on the shroud are not and certainly cannot be pareidolia.

This Will Go On Forever, and Ever: More Jesus Pareidolia in the News

imageJoe Marino passes along some more Jesus pareidolia from a WND article,  Google photo: Jesus just spotted in sky? As Joe points out the Kit Kat photo, mentioned in the article is old stuff; see, Jesus in Toledo by way of a piece of candy in January, 2011.

Mention images of Jesus these days and the shroud gets mentioned. WND reports:

Dr. Paul Lakeland, director of the Center for Catholic Studies at Fairfield University, says visualizing the Creator of all things in everyday objects has become a way for people to bring their beliefs to reality, as they desperately want to see signs and wonders.

“Everyone’s religious life is connected to their imagination,” Lakeland told the Hour. “But I’ve seen this before. Someone has a bagel that looks like it has an image of the Virgin Mary on it … I do scoff at the sort of thing, but it doesn’t do anyone harm. However, they (the McCaffreys) shouldn’t have people line up at their home to see the ink blot.”

He indicated the Catholic Church often downplays any credence to similar sightings.

“There is a reason to be a bit skeptical because there are very few (images) that have seen the level of credibility as say, the Shroud of Turin,” Lakeland said. “But, it’s all in the eye of the beholder.”

Pareidolia is a big deal when it comes to things some claim to see on the shroud like coins, flowers and inscriptions.

The Phoenix Pareidolia: But the most famous apparition of Jesus is the Shroud of Turin – a piece of 14th century linen

imageAre we talking about a 14th century apparition, or what? Leave it to The Sun:

A FLOOR tile said to feature an image of Jesus Christ on its surface has seen visitors flock to an American airport.

The apparition in Terminal 3 of the busy transport hub in Phoenix, Arizona, has disciples returning regularly to marvel at its resemblance to the son of God.

image[ . . . ]

Unemployed dental hygienist Becky Martin — who has been to visit the site every day for the last TWO WEEKS — told Phoenix New Times: “It’s definitely Our Lord Jesus Christ.

“He appears to us from time to time in ordinary places, to remind us that He is here with us always, being our spiritual guide.”

And when Becky was asked whether it might be easier for Him to just send a telegram, she replied: “No, if He did everyone would just think it was a fake.

[ . . . ]

Catholic priest Father John Shelter warned believers against getting too carried away.

He said: “The Church doesn’t automatically put its seal of approval on every apparition.

“They typically wait a few years before weighing in on its significance.

[ . . . ]

The most famous apparition of Jesus is thought to be the Shroud of Turin – a piece of fourteenth century linen said to bear the image of Christ which is housed in northern Italy.

It is still the subject of intense debate and speculation to this day.

Keep it simple; just call it a piece of 14th century linen.

Dear Stephen E. Jones

I noticed that you have responded to my criticism of your posting, The Shroud of Turin: 2.6. The other marks (5): Coins over eyes, with an inline addendum. You begin:

Response to Dan Porter In a post, "The Forger and the Coins: One in a Gazillion with 13 Zeroes," Dan Porter, owner of the Shroud of Turin Blog, has criticised my post above, dismissing the evidence for the coins over the eyes of the man on the Shroud as "pure pareidolia":

"… But this is so only if you believe that the images of coins are there. I’ve spent years considering this question; I don’t believe they’re there. What people see, I think, is pure pareidolia.

But pareidolia is (my emphasis):

"…a psychological phenomenon involving a vague and random stimulus (often an image or sound) being perceived as significant … Common examples include seeing images of animals or faces in clouds …"[126]

"… the imagined perception of a pattern or meaning where it does not actually exist, as in considering the moon to have human features"[127].

Stephen, if you don’t like the term pareidolia – and I still do – then how about visual noise?

You continue:

However, in this Porter is simply ignoring the evidence above, for example, that Jackson, et al. found on their VP-8 Image Analyzer three-dimensional `relief map’ of the Shroud, images of two, round, flat objects over the eyes, which were the same size and shape of Pontius Pilate leptons.

Round flat objects? Let’s look at several images:

image1) This is perhaps the most famous of the images. It is a VP8 image prepared by Jackson. One might say the images over the eyes seem like flat disks. There might be something there. It’s hard to tell. Barrie Schwortz says,

I do not argue that there appears to be something on the eyes of the man of the Shroud, and it may well be coins or potshards . . .

But, I’m not even sure of that.

clip_image0012) In the photo Stephen, you provide, seemingly (I agree with you on this) sourced from Giovanni Tamburelli of the Centro Studie Laboratori Telecomunicazioni S.p.A., Turin, Italy, we see, as you put it, “small, round, raised, object over each eye.” These certainly don’t appear like, “two, round, flat objects.” These could very well simply be eyelids.

You continue:

They did not "imagine" them-the images really are there. And this was confirmed by others using different three-dimensional computer processing. Even if the details on the face of those two objects could not be seen, it would still be a reasonable conclusion that they are Pontius Pilate leptons.

Look! How can this possibly be a reasonable conclusion? Potshards? Um, maybe. Nothing but the normal curvature of eyes, perhaps swollen eyes? It seems so.

3) The History Channel provides an image prepared by Ray Downing during the making of the Real Face of Jesus. I think this provides good confirmation that “two, round, flat objects” ARE NOT clearly (conclusively) there.


If anything, the 3D images, and there are others as well, argue against the presence of coins over the eyes.

But Stephen, you continue:

And Porter is simply ignoring the improbability that a lituus shape and even one letter, in the correct order and angle of rotation around the lituus (both of which can be clearly seen on the Shroud – see above) `just happen’ to be chance patterns in the Shroud weave, which `just happen’ to be over the eye of the man on the Shroud, is of the order of 1 in 1.1216 x 1015. Not to mention that the `chance patterns’ are three-dimensional, round and flat!

If I thought that what constituted particular shapes and letters was completely or mostly the same chemical product that constitutes the image of the man on the shroud, I might think the statistical argument has merit. But I don’t think so.

imageThe statistic that you refer to were based on observations made on the 1931 Giuseppe Enrie photographs, beautiful and detailed, technically wonderful and absolutely wrong for this kind of analysis of small details. Why? Because the film was high resolution orthochromatic film. The problem was compounded when Enrie coupled this film choice with near-raking light thus creating countless miniscule patterns and shapes from the shadows between threads of the weave. Since orthochromatic film basically only records black or white, any mid-tone grays that existed on the cloth as image, background banding patterns in the ancient the linen, and accumulations of centuries’ worth of dirt particles caused more miniscule imaging.

The picture on the right is an approximation of banding found in the face area. The dark horizontal band about a quarter of the way down goes right through the eyes. Vertical banding lines also go through both eyes. Before you can do any statistics you must adjust for the banding noise, shadow noise and visible contamination noise.

It helps to quote from something Barrie Schwortz wrote in 2009:

. . . the high resolution orthochromatic film used by Enrie, coupled with the extreme raking light he used when making the photographs, created an infinite number of patterns and shapes everywhere on the Shroud. Since orthochromatic film basically only records black or white, any mid-tone grays of the Shroud image were inherently altered or changed to only black or only white, in essence discarding much data and CHANGING the rest.

The grain structure of orthochromatic film itself is distinctive: It is not homogenous and consists of clumps and clusters of grain of different sizes that appear as an infinite myriad of shapes when magnified. It is easy to find anything you are looking for if you magnify and further duplicate the image onto additional generations of orthochromatic film, thus creating even more of these shapes.

Although Enrie’s images are superb for general views of the Shroud (they look great), they contain only a small part of the data that is actually on the Shroud so they are much less reliable for imaging research purposes and have a tendency to lead to "I think I see…" statements. I would feel much more confident if these claims were based on the full color images of the Shroud which contain ALL the data available.

As I used to try and explain to Fr. Francis Filas, who first "discovered" the rather dubious coin inscriptions over the eyes and who had enlarged and duplicated the Enrie images (through at least five generations – and always onto orthochromatic film), there is a fine line between enhancement and manipulation. Fr. Filas first presented his findings to the STURP team in 1979 and frankly, not one of the STURP imaging scientists accepted his claims.

And now Stephen, you suggest something that just isn’t true.

From other things Porter has written, for example, his preferring a naturalistic explanation of the Shroud’s image, I assume that he does not want there to be images of coins over the Shroud man’s eyes because that would be more problems for a naturalistic explanation of the Shroud’s image, and further evidence for a supernaturalistic explanation of it.

No. No. I don’t “prefer” a naturalistic explanation. I only prefer a true explanation. Less than a month ago I posted So which hypothesis, of all those ever proposed, do I prefer? in which I wrote:

I consider any image caused by radiation, of any kind, naturalistic. The only question is where the very natural radiation came from. I remain totally unconvinced from any evidence or by any argument so far presented that miracles produce energetic byproducts.

So which hypothesis, of all those ever proposed, do I prefer? None!

Let me repeat what I said: None!

Actually, I have a gut feeling that the image is miraculous in ways none of us have yet imagined (supernatural if you prefer that term). How is not something I am ready or able to articulate. I doubt the image was caused by the resurrection or by any energetic byproduct of the resurrection just as much as I doubt it is the accidental product of a pre/non-resurrection chemical reaction. 

Stephen, you conclude:

Therefore Porter blithely dismisses all the evidence above that there are Pontius Pilate coins over the eyes of the man on the Shroud with the `magic’ word "pareidolia"! But in so doing he goes far beyond what the word "pareidolia" means. However, Porter is welcome to his beliefs and I don’t see my role as convincing him, or anyone, but just presenting the evidence and letting my readers make up their own minds.

Blithely? You mean, lacking due thought or consideration? Talk about going beyond the meaning of a word.

I know there are still a few people who think there are images of coins over the eyes. That’s unfortunate.

The Forger and the Coins: One in a Gazillion with 13 Zeroes

clip_image001Yesterday, in his blog, Stephen Jones revisited the topic in a posting entitled, The Shroud of Turin: 2.6. The other marks (5): Coins over eyes. He concludes:

Finally, this is yet another problem for the forgery theory[§14]. A medieval, or earlier, forger would have had to imprint the tiny letters 1.3 mm (1/32 inch), four of which are barely visible, and the rest invisible to the naked eye, on linen, in photographic negative[123], when the very concept of photographic negativity did not exist until the early 19th century[124]. Moreover, these leptons were not identified as being coined by Pontius Pilate until the early 1800s[125], so even in the unlikely event the 14th century or earlier forger knew of these coins, he would have no reason to think they were significant.

But this is so only if you believe that the images of coins are there. I’ve spent years considering this question; I don’t believe they’re there. What people see, I think, is pure pareidolia. (see: Paper Chase: Why There Are Probably No Images of Coins, Lettering, Flowers and Whatnots on the Shroud of Turin). Unless Jones can prove the images of coins are there, he cannot legitimately say that a forger would need to “imprint the tiny letters.”

Jones, to his credit, tries to prove it. He is thorough. His posting is comprehensive with extensive notes and citations. Maybe its me. Can someone explain this to me?

Fifth, the probability that there is a lituus and one letter in the correct position over one of the eyes of the man on the Shroud is 1 in 1.827 x 106 x 6.1389 x 108[122] = 1.1216 x 1015, i.e. 121 with 13 zeroes after it. Therefore the evidence is very strong that there is an image of a Pontius Pilate dilepton minted between AD 29-32 over the right eye of the Shroud. This is true irrespective of whether there is over the left eye the image of one or two Julia leptons, minted by Pontius Pilate in AD 29; and despite the mistake of Filas and Whanger in not realising that since the lituus on the image of the coin in an Enrie 1931 negative photograph over the right eye of the Shroud has a reversed question mark shape, then the Pontius Pilate lepton coin which was the basis of that image must have a question mark shape.

And Now the Flowers

clip_image001“Here is ‘2.6’,” writes Stephen Jones as he continues his series . . .

. . . The other marks (4): Plant images", which is part 15 of my series, "The Shroud of Turin." The previous post in this series was part 14, "2.6. The other marks (3): Dirt on foot and limestone." See the Contents page (part 1) for more information about this series.

As many of you know, I’m not a big believer in the plant images. I’m not saying they aren’t there; I’m saying I’m not convinced. I think they are a form of pareidolia.

I do think there are at least two “marks,” to use Stephen’s terminology, that look like petal flowers, above and to the right and left of the face — marks that artists might have interpreted as flowers.



Paper Chase: Why There Are Probably No Images of Coins, Lettering, Flowers and Whatnots on the Shroud of Turin


. . . or even a second face on the back of the cloth . . .

Undoubtedly, “Perception of Patterns After Digital Processing of Low-Contrast Images, The Case of the Shroud of Turin” by Paola Di Lazzaro, Daniele Murra and Barrie Schwortz provides a long needed scientific clarity to an important subject.

The abstract reads:

We discuss the link between visual perception and the potentially misleading effect of software techniques for elaborating low-contrast images. In particular, we present the example of the stains embedded into one of the most studied archaeological objects in history, the Shroud of Turin.

We show for the first time that image processing of both old and recent photographs of the Shroud may lead some researchers to perceive inscriptions and patterns that do not actually exist, confirming that there is a narrow boundary line between image enhancement and manipulation.

I have frequently discussed the subject of pareidolia in this blog. This paper, however, provides the scientific explanations, lucidity and focus I could not achieve. Bravo! (One of my most recent postings on pareidolia was from last August, Les Fredette’s Crucifixion Nail: Why I am Skeptical About It).

This is the sort of thing that hurts the reputation of shroud science

The first thing you notice is the headline that reads, “EXCLUSIVE: Newly Published Images of the Shroud of Turin.” That exact headline appears in dozens of blogs and so do the images. So much for exclusive. The second thing you notice is the gobbledygook. When I see words like “proprietary technology” in this context I immediately think of the proprietary cure-all formulations of snake oil sold by peddlers from the back of mule drawn wagons.

imageThis is the sort of stuff that hurts the reputation of shroud science. This notion that the eyes are sometimes closed and sometime open or that Jesus is pictured with King Herod on Jesus’ abdomen is extreme pareidolia mixed with a wild imagination using highly manipulated photographs: nothing more.

The exclusive article reads:

Ron Stewart has consulted with law enforcement and various museums, including the Brooklyn Museum, in regards to analyzing photos and actual artifacts with his proprietary imaging technology, which is called Infinite Macroscopic Microscopic Imaging (IMMI).   The IMMI technology is a proprietary technology that in part uses at least three different combined imaging technologies, known in scientific terms as :  ”Preliminary, estimated, and extremely advanced Deconvolution Wavelet Transforms”.  In layman’s terms this simply means: “when an image is distorted, blurred, and unclear, that in part these three combined technologies will bring the image into appropriate resolution, clarity, and focus,”.

Mr. Stewart  holds a Doctorate of Theology in World History ; Emphasis On Historical Archaeology, and also has a Ph.D. in Theoretics.  Additionally he holds a Bachelor degree in Electronics with a focus in Imaging and Photography.  The culmination of these various degrees has resulted in the development of his specialized form of imaging and analysis.  For more information on his images of the Shroud, please visit his website at’

Get me some documentation that explains how to really unblur a picture or get me a letter from the director of the Brooklyn Museum telling me that Stewart is on to something and I’ll give this some real consideration. Well at least I’ll look at the pictures again.

Coins on Eyes Issue Again

imageMax-Patrick Hamon writes:

Please find attached a 6 page illustrated extract from my 2011 Totun research paper on the Turin Shroud coin-on-eyes issue by way of reply to Yannick Clément’s December 9, 2012 at 6:42 pm | #28 post

"Max, Max, Max… Can I remind you of one FACT concerning Barrie’s negative opinion about the whole question of the possible coins over the eyes ? He cleverly based his judgment on the profesionnal opinion express by Don Lynn at the beginning of the 1980s who was the true imagery expert of STURP (he worked on many important project for the NASA) and who analyzed the question in deep. Lynn was categorical about the FACT that it was scientifically impossible that so tiny coins letters could get imprinted on the kind of coarse threads of the Shroud in such a way that they could be readable… That’s the definitive argument that convinced Barrie that the whole coin thing is scientifically untenable. Barrie’s opinion is truly based on a real imagery expert and I hope you’ll finally realize that.".

The TRUE fact is Schwortz & Lynn’s opinion IS TOTALLY BIASED & MISLEADING as it is contradicted by metrologcal, optical and experimental FACTS: tiny partial ancient blood decals of 15 mm high letters in average CAN have been recorded on a 3:1 twill weave linen. as blood image resolution limit is ten times higher than that of the body image.

For the sake of GOOD archaeology and fairness of debate, thank you therefore for publishing in your blog this illustrated paper extract by way of reply to Yannick Clément.

It follows here:




AS A PRELIMINARY APPROACH, we shall use here a set of rhetorical questions to probe the optical and numismatic potential of the linen clothe in connection with the coin-on-eyes issue. Hopefully, the real quality of both arch sceptics’ and arch advocates’ main opinions and reasoning will emerge in the following and help the reader to judge for himself on more solid and objective grounds.

1/Are there any buttonlike protrusions over the eyes?


Figure 1 Somewhat rounded suspected areas on 1978 Tamburelli’s 3D reconstruction

From 3D reconstructions of a close up of the Shroud face, three eminent forensic medical examiners [namely Pr. Buckling, Pr. Baima-Bollone and Pr. Zugibe]1 and four computer science experts (among whom a 3D image analyst) [namely Mottern, Halarick, Pr. Tamburelli and Pr. Balossino]2 confirmed the finding, by the American physicist John Jackson3, of flat somewhat rounded foreign solid object imprints on the eye areas. Unless one can demonstrate the eight researchers’ intersubjectivity, this is a rather well established optical and “extra-anatomical” fact.

Actually the whole problem the Shroud researchers were facing was to correctly identify the said object imprints. In 1978, the late American theologian, Francis Filas, submitted a photographic enlargement (a third generation reversed photonegative copy) of the right eye area to the American professional numismatist and Greek classical coin expert, Michael Marx4.

clip_image004.clip_image006 clip_image008 Figure 2 Right eye area photonegatives flanking Pilate coin obverse side photograph taken under raking light

The latter could then identify the possible reading of “UCAI” – between 9.30 and 11.30 o’clock – as a fragment of the full Greek legend TIBEPIOY KAICAPOC, ″of Tiberius Caesar″, that appears on the obverse side of a small Roman colonial bronze coin 15.5-16mm in diameter minted under the authority of the prefect of the province of Judea, Pontius Pilate (26-36 CE).

Between 29-32CE, two small bronze coin types, a “dilepton” and a “lepton” featuring a “lituus” (short curved wand used by Roman priests to foretell the future) and a simpulum” (libation bail with angular shaft and handle) on their respective obverse side, were actually minted under the authority of Pontius Pilate. Both coin types bear the Greek legend TIBЄPIOY KAICAPOC, ″ [coins] of Tiberius Caesar ″.


Figure 3 Augur’s wand/Laurel wreath & Libation bail/Three ears of barley types

In the 80’s of the past century, some Shroud researchers who were neither professional numismatists, nor archaeological image analysts or cryptanalysts or even familiar with late ancient Greek alphabets, claimed to have found half a dozen lituus dilepta (Greek plural of dilepton) showing a rounded U (without a tail) substituted for an upsilon (Y) and a lunate sigma (C) for a kappa (K) by a die maker confusing his Latin and Greek in the legend TIBЄPIOY KAICAPOC.

2/ Are misspellings such as TIBЄPIOU CAICAPOC or TIBЄPIOY CAICAPOC really to be found on extant Pilate coins?

In actual numismatic fact, the claimed misspellings cannot be observed on any extant Pilate coins. They are only due to misreading inscription fragments on much worn out coins. This is pretty obvious from the following figure presenting the three alleged “best specimens”.


Figure 4 Misspelling or misreading specimens?

In spite of my deep respect for Filas’, Whanger’s and Moroni’s pioneering work5, their “coin legend misspelling theory” shall therefore be dismissed here as totally erroneous.

Actually the reading of the “UCAI”-like fragmentary tiny inscription on the right eye area from authentic (first generation) reversed orthochromatic film or slide copies of the Shroud face and 3D image enlargements can be specifically associated with the same reading “UCAI” embedded within the inscription KAICAPOC on tens of existing Pilate coins minted in the 16th, 17th and 18th regnal year of Tiberius. This is a spy numismatic detail. Here are a few examples:


Figure 5 Possible reading of “UCAI” on both 3D enhanced right eye area and extant Pilate coins

In the hypothesis the impression on the right eye area would have been left by an ancient coin 2/3 the size of an average fingerprint:

3/Would not the Turin Shroud’s three up, one down twill-weave linen fabric have been far too coarse to resolve the average 1.5mm high letters on such a small coin?

The Shroud thread count is 38 lengthwise (warp) threads of 0.14mm in average diameter and 26 widthwise (weft) threads of 0.25mm in average diameter woven into a measured one-centimeter square of the shroud fabric6.

The 0.5cm Shroud body image resolution limit should not be mistaken for the 0.5mm Shroud blood imprint resolution limit that is also the visual resolution limit. Now – and contrary to the body image – it should be here emphasized that the intriguing faint and very tiny faint brown letter-grouping-like patterns on the right eye area do appear photographically positive like the blood stains on the linen cloth. If we apply the Occam razor principle (i.e. if we try to give the simplest explanation to account for sharply defined appearance of the very tiny impressions), in the light of a funeral custom, it might well be the kind of incomplete decal or tell-tale sign a coin manipulated with blood-stained fingertips and placed over the right eyelid of the deceased is expected to leave on the internal upper side of a shroud soaked with a watery solution and pressed to the face. This has been demonstrated by experiments [Rodante’s and Moroni’s]7 (see figure 6) and just bypasses the theoretical objection that the threads would be too large to show this type of faint brown tiny letters on the Shroud face image.”


Figure 6 Colour photopositive (a) and reversed photonegative (b) of experimental blood decal of a Pilate coin ilate coin’s;5mm) eriuson.a dozen of Pilate coins? 1.5mm high inscription fragment on a non-stretched 3:1 twill-weave linen fabric soaked with a watery solution and black & white reversed photonegative of the Shroud right eye area (c)

Therefore metrologically, optically and experimentally speaking, nothing at all precludes a 1.5mm high letter resolution blood decal to have been left on the facial image by a Pilate coin 16mm± 0.5mm in average diameter.

4/ Can the reading of “UCAI” on the Shroud be a “mere figure in clouds” due to the photographic procedure, the computer processing or the variegations on the linen cloth?

If we take a glance at digitized 2D reversed photographic enlargements of the right eye area from 1931 Giuseppe Enrie’s, 1978 Vernon Miller’s and 2002 Gian Carlo Durante’s photo-negative of the Shroud face, the same letter-grouping-like shapes can be detected (though as if a little bit out of focus on both Miller’s and Durante’s compared to Enrie’s). This means it is not an artefact of a certain photographic procedure as it can be depicted by photographs shot in different techniques whether orthochromatic, traditional silver and extensive digital.


Figure 7 Photographic enlargement comparison of the right eye area from Shroud face reversed photonegatives

The letter images are not apparent on 1978 Schwortz’s and 1997 Durante’s Shroud face photograph just because of the use of two different lighting techniques. In 1978, Schwortz lit the Shroud from the front so as to minimize weave appearance to invisibility thus causing some already faint bloodstain patterns nearly standing out on the Shroud fabric to technically disappear from the photographs. In 1997, the “UCAI” sequence orientation happened to be nearly aligned with the incoming light direction thus causing a form of obfuscation from illumination to occur.

As far as 2D to 3D conversion by digital processing is concerned in terms of reduction in the weave pattern and increased sharpness of image, it must be noted that no additional graphic data can be found in a resulting 3D image from an authentic (first generation) orthochromatic film or slide copy, had not the graphic information been integral to the original 2D image8.


Figure 8 Digitized reversed photographic enlargement of the right eye area from: (a) authentic orthochromatic film copy; (b) Tamburelli’s digitized 3D image; (c) 3D visualization within a maximum 16 mm diameter area

The letter-grouping-like shapes are thus clearly distinguishable from the vagaries of the weave. If the reading of “UCAI” had really come from the banding, both vertical and horizontal, encroaching on the area of the right eye, or been a mere “figure in clouds” on 1931 Enrie’s, 1978 Miller’s, 2002 Durante’s Shroud face photographs and 1981 Tamburelli’s 3D reconstructions of the said area, how come then the same “figure in clouds” can be also seen – visually embedded within the inscription KAICAPOC as a spy numismatic detail – on tens of existing Pilate coins minted in the 16th, 17th and 18th regnal year of Tiberius (see Fig. 5)?

The photographic, eidomatic and numismatic evidence offers therefore a complete rebuttal against the “mere figure-in-cloud theory”8.

5/ Can Enrie’s black and white orthophotographs of the Shroud face taken eighty years ago on large glass plate negatives still yield usable and accurate information?

Besides mechanical squeeze and 3D scanning, it is common knowledge, among archaeological analysts and cryptanalysts that the best aids for deciphering purposes of 3D encoded ancient images and inscriptions invisible or almost invisible to the naked eye are applying false colour, 2D to 3D conversion and digital squeeze of photographs taken under appropriate raking light.

1931 Enrie’s Shroud face orthophotographs are not simply very aesthetic as some Shroud researchers would too hastily think. Mostly because of a longer time exposure under appropriate raking light and the use of specially designed filters which enhance local contrast, they did capture the finest details of the Shroud face image and haematic (or blood) imprints along with the characteristic weave pattern and the folds and creases of the linen fabric at scales 1:1 and 2:3. As such and regardless of 2008 HAL9000’s high definition digital photograph that should allow researchers* to analyze the Shroud in unprecedented detail, Enrie’s reversed negatives and positives are still the best candidates available so far (along with 2002 Durante’s digital photograph of the Shroud face as double or triple check) for detecting and studying any possible 3D encoded blood-stained coin tiny patterns embedded in the suspected image areas. Enrie’s photographs do yield usable and accurate information even more modern photographs fail to do. This is made pretty obvious with the photographic enlargement comparison of the right eye area from Shroud face photographs shot in different techniques (see Fig. 7).

Max, I know some people look at this and find it very convincing. I don’t. Is the cloth too coarse? Is the nature of the film inadequate? Maybe. I don’t know. My problem is perception. I suspect that some of us have different, indeterminable acceptance thresholds where I think I see becomes I see. 

Face of the Man of the Shroud of Turin Encoded in Sistine Chapel?

imageThis appears in the Christian Newswire press release service. I can’t see that it has been picked up by anyone, even bloggers. So here it is. Enjoy.

I must admit, however, that I can’t see anything that I’m supposed to see in the referenced paper: The Face of the Man of the Shroud of Turin Is Encoded Within the Sistine Chapel Frescoes.

Is it just me or is this a case of seeing elephants in the clouds?

RALEIGH, N.C., Oct. 31, 2012 /Christian Newswire/ — Investigative researcher, Philip E. Dayvault, of Raleigh, NC, discovered in 2003 that the Last Judgment fresco and a portion of the Ceiling fresco by Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel contain the encoded, and "hidden in plain view," image of the face of the Man of the Shroud of Turin, the traditional burial cloth of Jesus Christ. This forensic conclusion is based on distinctive pattern recognition, the detection of identifying individual characteristics and a progressive overlay comparison of both images. It is also concluded, based on abundant forensic circumstantial, documentary and physical evidence, and coupled with logic and reason, that Michelangelo unknowingly painted the encoded image within the Sistine Chapel, and which contains individual characteristics consistent with those from the Shroud face. Michelangelo never saw the encoded image…it only became observable with the advent of photography in the early 1800’s; and then specifically with the first photograph of the Shroud taken in 1898 by Seconda Pia! However, exactly how the encoded image was made remains unknown. This new data is being released to commemorate the 500th-year anniversary of Michelangelo’s completion of the ineffable Ceiling in the Sistine Chapel on October 31, 1512, and also the presentation of the Ceiling to the people of Rome, and ultimately to the world, on November 1, 1512, All Saints Day.

Importantly, the two frescoes were painted at different times in history. The Ceiling, (not shown in this photo), extending down to the top of the "eye brows," was painted from 1508 to 1512; and the Last Judgment on the Altar Wall, depicting "the face" from the eyes-down, was painted from 1535 to 1541. During the interim years, there were three different popes, each of whom could have commissioned anyone to paint the Altar Wall. Michelangelo was in such pain and agony from painting the Ceiling that he didn’t "know" if he would be alive the next day, much less, 23 years in the future.

Dayvault, a former Special Agent and Physical Science Technician with the FBI, utilized the preferred and scientifically accepted forensic principles and methodologies for facial review and identification. This research involved painstaking comparisons and iterations of the two images. Slight scaling of the Shroud Face was required to accommodate for the parallax, focal distance and lens variations present in each available Sistine Chapel photograph. This incredible image, shown below via a Progressive Overlay Comparison, has been critically reviewed by several Shroud colleagues and a forensic expert who concur with Dayvault’s conclusions. Some of the numerous individual features include the "Epsilon-like," or "reversed-3," bloodstain image around Jonah (not depicted in this photo), the off-centered bifurcated beard, the eye orbits, the circular cheek wound, unique chin markings, etc.

For further information, please visit, or click the link below to view the ENCODED article,

Who are the several shroud colleagues?

Max Patrick Hamon replies to Charles Freeman

REVISED: Maximage has asked me to publish a short PDF paper, Dormant archaeopareidolias of a most secret liturgical ritual, that helps make his point. I am glad to do this as I am for other active participants of this blog. This, as with papers by others, does not mean that I agree (or that I understand).

By way of an email to me, Max writes:

By way of a series of tongue-in-cheek and cynical comments, Mr Freeman asserted that “Clearly [I] have skills no one possesses” and asked me the reason “[w]hy [I] don’t […]assume [all relic historians] are ignoramuses [as far as the Image of Edessa is concerned] and spell out the Shroud history for [them] […]”.

Mr Freeman gives the impression that the sole archaecryptologist who takes early Cryptochristian’s, Nestorians’ and Knights Templar’s secret rituals seriously is ‘esoteric’ and so-called ‘conventional’ historians and Art historians can do without archaeocryptology.

Believing is Seeing?

imageAs part of a comment, Yannick Clement writes:

. . . In his recent report about the Valencia Conference in Spain for the BSTS, Mark Guscin wrote this about a paper presented there by Pablo Di Lazzaro: “He showed (Di Lazzaro) how our brain works to FILL IN SPACES and make us “see” things that we WOULD LIKE TO SEE, but which quite simply ARE NOT THERE. In reference to the Shroud this could be applied to the supposed inscriptions, the supposed coins, the supposed flowers and the supposed many other things that people “see” from time to time.” I think M. Guscin should have add to his list the desire of Wilson and his followers to see the Mandylion, a small towel showing only the face of the living Christ, which we can see in a great number of ancient copies that has survived to this day, turn suddenly into a burial Shroud full of bloodstains that show 2 different images (front and back) of a complete body… This process can be called “Seeing things we desperately wants to see even if they are not really there” and it can start to operate not only from the eyes, but directly from the brain. Wilson’s hypothesis is a very good example of that.

That brings to mind an article in the current issue of Smithsonian Magazine: No, Really, There is No Secret Code in the Pyramids. A tidbit:

“A hidden code can be found almost anywhere because people are adept at recognizing and creating patterns,” says Klaus Schmeh, a computer scientist specializing in encryption technology. Schmeh has updated Kahn’s research, documenting dozens of bogus or dubious cryptograms. Some are more than a century old, but still making the rounds in books and on websites; others are more recent, such as a claim that all barcodes contain the satanic number, 666.

[ . . . ]

Schmeh says misguided cryptologists tend to believe that spectacular sources yield the most spectacular revelations. Since the 1850s, perfervid sleuths have been scrutinizing Shakespeare’s plays, claiming to have found ciphers denouncing the bard as a fraud and proclaiming the true author to be Sir Francis Bacon. Generations of investigators have been convinced that—through divine revelation or the assistance of extraterrestrials—the builders of the Great Pyramid embedded the sum total of scientific knowledge within the dimensions of the structure. Fringe pyramidologists persist in their claims despite a 1992 effort to debunk them by Dutch astrophysicist Cornelis de Jager, who demonstrated the dimensions of any object can be manipulated to yield a desired outcome; he derived the speed of light and the distance between the Earth and Sun from his measurements of a bicycle.

Still, amateur codebreakers take their work seriously. According to British psychologist Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, who has studied personality profiles of conspiracy theorists, “They are altruistic,” since they think that they’re uncovering truths hidden from the public. For them, believing is seeing.

Believing is seeing? How much of what we believe about the shroud is what we think we see?

Les Fredette’s Crucifixion Nail: Why I am Skeptical About It

Les Fredette seeing what he thinks is a crucifixion nail has inspired me to repost something I wrote in November 2010. It explains, in large measure, why I am skeptical of his claim about a nail and many other such similar claims. For those bored with me repeating myself, don’t read it.


image"I think I see the light coming to me, coming through me giving me a second sight." Those are words from the song, "I Think I See," by Cat Stevens, written years before Yusuf Islam, as he is now called, converted to Islam. It was, some said, a metaphor for the promised land.


"And sometimes the light [I think I see] at the end of the tunnel isn’t the promised land. Sometimes it’s just New Jersey," Jon Stewart said at the "Rally to Restore Sanity," not meaning, of course, to criticize Yusuf Islam who was at the rally to sing his more famous song, "Peace Train."

In Shroud circles, when you hear the four-word phrase, "I think I see" you immediately think of Ray Rogers. "I think I see, won’t do," he wrote concerning one person’s observation that was pretty much only one person’s observation. "I think I see is not a scientific statement," he wrote often. To me, in an email, he wrote: "tests and measurements will always have more credibility than ‘I think I see.’"

What others said they saw, Rogers said he thought they merely thought they saw. I agree.

imageOne day, I was astonished to receive an email from someone who claimed that we only think we see an image of a face on the Shroud. What we think is an image, he told me, is merely the happenstance accumulation of smudges and stains on the cloth. It is no different than an imaginary image of Jesus on a burned slice of toast. It is a pareidolia, an apophenia. I had never heard of either of these words. Now I have. As far as I can see, they mean the same thing. According to my Merriam-Webster dictionary apophenia is "the experience of seeing patterns or connections in random or meaningless data." Pareidolia is defined as apophenia.

I wrote back. "The image is too detailed. It is too realistic and too complex to not be the real face of a man. When I say real, I mean by any means. Absent other evidence this includes painting, photograph or something else that we don’t understand."

But he persisted. His mind was made up. "You can’t prove it," he wrote back. "It could be pure coincidence and you don’t know for a fact that it isn’t. What is the threshold for perceiving an image? What are the criteria for saying that the image is of a man? Are you an expert on the human face?"

I suspect that there is a rather fuzzy swath of undecidedness between certainty that an image is of a face and is not. Given the setting and circumstance and a measure of sanity in whatever our worldview may dictate to us, we can usually avoid undecidedness. If I see a face in the clouds, I know it is a phantasm (another cool word), an illusion, an apparition of sorts. I am sure most of us think the same thing if we see a face on a piece of toast or in a smudge of a windowpane. It should be easy to know what we see for any given context. If I see a face in a Picasso, even if it looks less like a face than what I see on my morning toast, I know it is an image of a face because of the context. But what about the face on the shroud? It is a face. The context is clear. There is an entire body there – admittedly, at the risk of being declared incompetent, maybe a pareidolia. I don’t know how the face got there but it is a face.

The folks at the Harvard Law School are very much interested in this subject, as one might imagine they would be. In an interesting article on a fascinating blog they maintain called The Situationist, they explore the subject. They begin by pointing out that Carl Sagan once wrote:

As soon as the infant can see, it recognizes faces, and we now know that this skill is hardwired in our brains. Those infants who a million years ago were unable to recognize a face smiled back less, were less likely to win the hearts of their parents, and less likely to prosper. These days, nearly every infant is quick to identify a human face, and to respond with a goony grin.

But it need not just be faces. Takeo Watanabe, a neuroscientist at Boston University, "suggest[s] that subliminally learning something ‘too well’ interferes with perceptions of reality." The blog article continues:

[P]eople have gotten so used to seeing faces everywhere that sensitivity to them is high enough to produce constant false positives. This tendency to become hyperattuned to common stimuli may represent a survival advantage. "If you lived in primeval times, for instance," Dr. Watanabe said, "it would be good to be very sensitized to tigers."

z-Martian_face_viking_croppA famous example is the giant face on Mars from a NASA photograph. In 2001, Michael Malin, the president and chief scientist at Malin Space Science Systems, wrote an article entitled "Unmasking the Face on Mars." It is published on NASA’s official website. In it he wrote:

Twenty five years ago something funny happened around Mars. NASA’s Viking 1 spacecraft was circling the planet, snapping photos of possible landing sites for its sister ship Viking 2, when it spotted the shadowy likeness of a human face. An enormous head nearly two miles from end to end seemed to be staring back at the cameras from a region of the Red Planet called Cydonia.

There must have been a degree of surprise among mission controllers back at the Jet Propulsion Lab when the face appeared on their monitors. But the sensation was short lived. Scientists figured it was just another Martian mesa, common enough around Cydonia, only this one had unusual shadows that made it look like an Egyptian Pharaoh.

Indeed—and we should not be surprised by this—many people were convinced that this was a gigantic monument of some sort created by humans or human-like aliens who once lived on Mars. NASA re-photographed the mesa from different angles. They used the same ray tracing technology (think VP8) that is used to show the 3D image of the face on the shroud to show that the Martian face was not a face at all. Had it been, the results would have been similar to the results obtained from the face on the shroud. The face was a pareidolic image. But some people, not unlike flat-earthers, remain convinced that it is a face.

The images of a person, certainly a man if we look closely, exists on the shroud. Many well pronounced features are part of that image. But there may be other parts of the image that some people claim to see that are probably pareidolic perceptions.

Takeo Watanabe’s views "that subliminally learning something ‘too well’" results in false positives may explain many reported images and features of the shroud image. A botanist may see images of flowers and plants. A numismaticist may see images of ancient coins. A dentist may see what looks like teeth. It would be totally unfair to say that this is what happened when such experts saw these things. But it would be unfair to not suggest the possibility.

The shroud is dirty, creased and wrinkled. It has been exposed to dust, moisture, smoke from fire and almost certainly candles and incense. It has been exposed to moisture and there are clear water stains in places. It has been folded different ways and rolled up for storage. Folding causes creases. It has been held aloft and probably hung in ways that over time caused stretching. The cloth was woven on a hand loom with handspun thread that is not perfectly uniform. All of this contributes to visual information and visual misinformation.

coins.23So does the banding patterns, the variegated appearance of the cloth. We know that it alters the appearance of the face very dramatically. It certainly must contribute to what some say they see on the shroud. For instance, if you look closely, you are likely to see what looks like teeth behind the man’s lips, as though somehow the image contains x-ray qualities. But vertical banding lines may be the reason we see teeth. Clear banding lines extend well beyond the teeth, beyond the face even, and seemingly for the length of the cloth.

Photography also introduces visual noise. Different films have different contrast characteristics that can significantly change the appearance of faint details. Lighting may create small shadows between threads and among wrinkles and creases. Even the color temperature of lighting can have an effect because different films are subject to different colors being reflected from the cloth. What we perceive in a photograph of the shroud may not be what we see if we look at the cloth with our own eyes.

People have seen coins over the eyes; and not just coins but enough details to identify them as specific coins minted by Romans for Jewish use around the time of Jesus’ crucifixion. People have identified flowers and plants that are specific to the environs of Jerusalem. The list of things seen goes on and on. There are, supposedly, a hammer, a nail, a fluffy shaped sponge tied to a reed, a coil of rope, a pair of dice and part of a plaque with enough lettering in Greek, Latin and possibly Hebrew to identify it as saying, "Jesus of Nazareth." But are these things really imaged on the cloth? Are there criteria for deciding?

Consensus among people who closely study the images on the shroud is valid so long as that study is as completely objective as possible. Worldview nullification must be avoided at all cost. It is not proper to reject these images because you don’t believe the shroud is real. But it is fair to be skeptical, as in the case of the flowers, teeth, coins and lettering because there is identifiable noise such as the banding, wrinkles and crinkles and whatnots.

"’I see’ said the blind man as he picked up his hammer and saw," so goes the excruciatingly ridiculous old English ditty. "I see flowers, I see teeth . . ." You get the idea.

flower8I would like to see the flowers. I see something that looks like two flowers. I’m not convinced they are flowers. I’m not trained enough in botany to know many other types of flowers to look for. I’ve read the books. Studied the charts and diagrams. Looked at pictures through gadgets. I don’t see the flowers. I want to see. Show me. Show me that these images are not pareidolias or apophenias or phantasms or I-think-I-sees. Show me that the light at the end of the tunnel isn’t New Jersey.

I think I see another, different nail on the Shroud of Turin

imageIn a blog called the New American Mind, we learn that Les Fredette has discovered, or at least seen a pattern that he believes is a crucifixion nail, one that is consistent with a nail reportedly found in the tomb of Caiaphas. (See TIME Magazine for a story about the nails ). In the blog posting Crucifixion Nail Image Found on Shroud of Turin – Consistent with Nail Found in Caiaphas’ Tomb we read:

The discovery of an image of a crucifixion nail on the Shroud of Turin is, in itself, a major discovery, but its connection to a physical artifact of antiquity is also extremely significant. While all previous evidence that has been gathered regarding the Shroud has been based on the Shroud itself (e.g., blood samples and pollen samples), historical pictures (e.g., Prey Manuscript) and historical writings/accounts, Mr. Fredette’s discovery brings evidence supporting the Shroud’s authenticity to an entirely new level, one which could, according the Mr. Fredette, "put a significant nail in the coffin of speculation."

Cute pun!

Now, we read:

Mr. Fredette’s discovery is actually two fold in scope. First, there is an image of a crucifixion nail on the Shroud, and, second, the nail image may actually be of one of the nails found in Caiaphas’s tomb in 1990.

Isn’t that pure speculation? And how do we reconcile this with the different nails reportedly found by Wehrkamp-Richter? Or the one found by Alan and Mary Whanger along with . . .

a Roman spear, a sponge on a stick, a crown of thorns, two scourges, a large hammer, a pair of pliers, and two desecrated Jewish phylacteries or prayer boxes. All are consistent with 1st Century objects, with Roman crucifixions of Jews, with Jewish burial practices, and/or with Biblical accounts of the Crucifixion of Jesus.

I am a long way from being convinced that there are any images of nails, coins, flowers, lettering, etc. I recommend reading Sight and brain: an introduction to the visually misleading images by Daniele Murra and Paolo Di Lazzaro:

image. . . We should consider this “subjectivity risk" when using computer tools to elaborate images, because we may generally have the propensity to make visible something that we want to see but that is not embedded in the original image.

Concerning the scientific approach to the acheiropoietos images, only reproducible experiments are scientifically acceptable.

Interpretations of shapes, coins, faces, flowers or letters “seen” on acheiropoietos images by means of image processing tools should be considered a track useful to address further studies, but they cannot be considered as self-consistent proofs.

It is a short paper, wonderfully informative and easy to read and understand.

It is enough to make you want to become a skeptic.

I posted this just a little over a year ago on November 7, 2010. I called it, “Thoughts for a Sunday Morning: Tinfoil Hats.” I was reminded of it today by two people: 1) a Jesuit priest friend of mine who is thrilled that ColinB (aka sciencebod), a skeptic who is a real scientist, has joined in the discussions here in this blog and 2) someone who inquired about those crop circles in England that looked something like the face of the man in the Shroud of Turin. So here goes again:

It is enough to make you want to become a skeptic.

In recent years, we have seen a world of craziness when it comes to skepticism about the Shroud of Turin. Perhaps none was as historically dyspeptic as a great conspiracy theory woven by Lynn Picknett and Clive Prince: Leonardo da Vinci created the images on the Shroud.

image This wasn’t their only conspiracy theory. In The Stargate Conspiracy we learn that the CIA and MI5 are actively manipulating a secret cult of powerful and rich leaders, including leading scientists who believe that they are in direct contact with extraterrestrial intelligent beings from the star Sirius. These extraterrestrial beings are claiming to be the gods of ancient Egypt, the very gods responsible for an image of a face on Mars. Why are secret American and British agents, with help from NASA, doing this? To create a new insidious mind-control religion. As icing on the cake P&P tell us:

We reveal the ground-breaking research that provides a plausible answer to the most enduring questions about the ancient Egyptians’ achievements and beliefs – and, explosively, uncover the true nature of the gods themselves . . .

In How Leonardo da Vinci Fooled History we learn from P&P that the greatest painter and polymath in all of history secretly invented photography and then created a gigantic camera obscura. He discovered how to make film out of linen, how to chemically develop pictures and fix them. He was, after all, they remind us, a genius. He understood the camera obscura. So did many educated people, even for several centuries before Leonardo. He had experimented with chemistry. That, too, was a passion of many educated people in his day. Moreover, the authors tell us, he was, “[a] known joker, conjuror and illusionist, and a Church-hating heretic.” Is all of this not proof enough? Not even if it were true, which it isn’t.

A big problem for Picknett and Prince was the fact that Leonardo was born a century after the shroud was exhibited in Lirey. It was therefore necessary that he have an opportunity to replace one fake shroud with another fake shroud of his own making. He might have been welcome at the Savoy family palace, P&P tell us. After all they may have owned one of his drawings. Not only did he do all these things, say the conspiracy duo, he dabbed on blood in all the right places. He replaced the head of the crucifixion model with a photograph of his own head. P&P figured this out by comparing the head on the Shroud to a drawing of Leonardo and found, generally speaking, that the eyes and the nose and the mouth of both men were all in about the same place on their respective faces.

There were other strange skeptical theories about the image. There was the Shadow Shroud, a dust painting of a corpse lit by candlelight in a tomb, and another photograph theory sans Leonardo. On and on, theory after theory.

But hasn’t that been the problem of the proponents of authenticity, as well? To some extent, yes. You could say ‘yes’ and leave it at that. But there has been a stark difference. Proponents of authenticity always seemed a bit more reserved, somber, tentative. They spoke mostly of hypotheses and philosophical notions like Occam’s Razor. They sought and obtained publication in peer-reviewed scientific journals.

image The skeptics, on the other hand, at least some of them, tried not to get too close to science. According to Joe Nickell, not being a scientist is advantageous as researcher or investigator. In an article entitled, “An Interview With Joe Nickell,” Eric Krieg of the Philadelphia Association for Critical Thinking, describes Nickell (using Nickell’s own words) as an “investigator” and formerly an “undercover detective, teacher, draft dodger, river boat manager, carnival promoter, magician and spokesperson.” 

“Joe [Nickell] impressed on me the difference between being a scientist and an investigator,” Kreig continued:

Joe seems to have no significant credentials . . .  Joe remarks that a scientist tends to approach an investigation from the narrow view of his own specialty – where as a ‘jack of all trades’ would come up with more avenues of investigation.

But the skeptics always sounded confident and certain. “It happened this way,” they seemed to say. That sounds admirable, of course, until you realize that that no two skeptics were saying the same thing.

Lest you think that such nuttiness is reserved for skeptics, it ain’t so. The tinfoil hat crowd has arrived from wherever, perhaps from the star Sirius, to tell the world that the Shroud is real. It’s hard to pin down when all this started, but the publication of Frank Tipler’s The Physics of Christianity seems defining. Tipler is a professor of Mathematical Physics at Tulane University, a theoretical physicist, a quantum cosmologist. But . . .! In his newest book, The Physics of Christianity, he suggests that the Shroud of Turin is the key for figuring out how to save the universe from ultimate collapse so that brilliant minds can build and sustain a computer simulation of our past lives, including consciousness and free will, thereby giving us immortality. Heaven is a virtual reality. There is more. Here I must quote from Martin Gardner’s review of Tipler’s book to touch on one other aspect of the Shroud:

All conservative Christians believe Jesus was free of the original sin that resulted from the Fall, which has been passed on to all descendants of Adam and Eve. Catholics think that Mary, too, escaped original sin. (It is a Catholic heresy to reject the Immaculate Conception.) How does Tipler explain the way Jesus and Mary differ in this manner from all other humans?

Tipler’s answer is wonderful. There must be genes that carry original sin! This could be verified some day, he writes, by first identifying the gene. Thus, failing to find evidence of the gene on the Shroud of Turin would explain the sinlessness of both Jesus and his mother.

(I am, dear reader, doing my best to keep a straight face while I summarize Tipler’s convictions.)

image image There is, of course – I say ‘of course’ because everyone follows crop circle reports – the account, just this year, 2010, of two crop circles in Wickham Green, just South of the M4 highway, near Hungerford, in Buckinghamshire, in England, in the United Kingdom. There are images in each of the crop circles. If you overlay these two images after flipping one of them around left to right, and you squint, it is obviously the face seen on the Shroud of Turin. This discovery left one pundit to suggest that there were only two possible explanations: either extraterrestrial beings – may I suggest Picknett and Prince’s friends from the star Sirius – are trying to tell us something or some very talented pranksters used the image on the Shroud for some chicanery.

More recently we have been entertained by a pseudo-chemistry and pseudo-history that proposes that the shroud was a Jewish tallit. Now there is a soon to be released book that argues that the images are quantum bio-holograms. If that is not enough there is a published report from The Urantia Book crowd:

image It [=UB] says that Jesus’ resurrected body was like that of angels and that his physical body still lay in the tomb after the resurrection and that the angels were given permission, upon request of an archangel,  to cause the accelerated dissolution of his physical remains. This permission was requested and granted so that they would not have to witness the decay of his body. The correlations have primarily to do with the superficial nature of the image and current theories about corona discharge and nuclear medicine  imaging.

It helps to understand that the UBers believe that Jesus was the name that the most senior angel, Michael, the ruler of Nebadon, used, temporarily, after the incarnation and before the resurrection. The administrative angel Gabriel, his second in command, ruled the universe while Michael, a.k.a. Jesus, was visiting this planet. He is currently using the name Michael, not Jesus.

And finally – well for now anyways – from a book called Lost at Sea, we have explanations for errors in the carbon dating that defy human comprehension:

They label this skull fell back into dust in the radiocarbon year 5020 bc where this soul ate the fruit of this tree around the calendar ring—that is 6000 years before Christ rose into light: Here this ancient temple wall fell back into dust, around this soul on this raised mound, these doctors call Broca’s area, named after a brain surgeon, where they discover these tongues of many language begin to speak out through these gates and where they look for the Creator of the word— in this wilderness from this historic cross over  point through time—with the AMS. . . . The image locks in the location where this seed buried in the ground rose up into light and left its image to prove that the AMS can’t count the number of times this ancient body rose up into light and it circled these souls —lost at sea—as shown on the stump . . .

(Yes, AMS stands for Accelerator Mass Spectrometry, the method used to date the Shroud of Turin.)

Get out your tinfoil hats. It is only going to continue. It’s enough to want to become a skeptic.

NOTE:  When I originally posted this there was a comment that expanded on and sought to clarify Frank Tipler’s explanations. That comment can be found here.

Is that Jesus’ Face or DeNiro’s Face in that Sock

imageLeave it to the Daily Mail:

It is reminiscent of one of Christianity’s most significant relics.

But unlike the Turin shroud, this image of Jesus’ face was found on a sock among items of laundry in Kent.

Sarah Crane, from Orpington, was stunned when she hung her laundry out to dry and discovered the face of Jesus staring back at her from a crumpled sock.

Miss Crane was so impressed by the clarity of the face she even built a shrine to the sock.

Miss Crane, I’d be careful with that shrine, if I were you. I think the picture looks like Robert DeNiro playing Louis Cyphre (obvious pun on the name Lucifer) in the movie Angel Heart.

Source: Face of Jesus in sock: Image of Jesus Christ miraculously appears amid laundry | Mail Online

The Latest in Pareidolia: Face In Tumour

Yes, there are still some people who think the image on the Shroud is mere Pareidolia. But this is. From the Huffington Post on Nov 2:

imageAs reported by The Toronto Star, Canadian doctors were shocked when they looked at an ultrasound image of a testicular tumour (see image above).

“It was very ghoulish, like a man screaming in pain,” Doctor Naji Touma, who works at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont., told The Star about the picture taken in 2009.

Dr. Touma and Greg Roberts wrote in their paper submitted to the journal Urology that they saw a “…man’s face staring up out of the image, his mouth agape as if the face seen on the ultrasound scan itself.”

Their Urology abstract notes:

"A brief debate ensued on whether the image could have been a sign from a deity (perhaps ‘Min’ the Egyptian god of male virility); however, the consensus deemed it a mere coincidental occurrence rather than a divine proclamation."

Source and full article:Face In Tumour: Testicular Growth Shocks Doctors After Ultrasound – The Huffington Post

Comment Promoted on Sight and Brain and Shroud of Turin Images

imageYannick Clément writes:

I know many people will not love what I will say here, but I don’t care ! I’m not here to make friends but to express my point of view !

I just want to say this : In science, every conclusion MUST have a scientific confirmation from AN INDEPENDENT researcher or research team. In Shroud science, IT IS EXTREMELY HARD to find this kind of independence of mind because almost every scientist who’s interested in the Shroud believe it is the genuine Shroud of Christ and have some preconceptions ideas about the subject. I don’t think we can say that this work of Marion found his scientifically independent confirmation yet !

And sorry, but many of those kind of articles and researches about those kind of images (flowers and coins) are often done to confort the agenda that is to prove the resurrection using the Shroud. Why ? Because it is proven that the Corona discharge can produce an image of coins on linen. So the stretch isn’t to long to associate the image of coins produced by Corona discharge and the resurrection of Christ ! I think there’s a real danger of biais there.

I dream of the day when Shroud science will be lead by atheists or agnostics scientists who DON’T CARE ONE BIT about the Shroud being authentic. Understand me, here I’m not talking about the Walter McCrone of this world but I’m talking about honest scientist who have no preconception about the Shroud (like the majority of the STURP members were by the way). Now, that would be science we can trust because it would not be agenda driven.

And, I think Ray Schneider said it well the other day when he state : “The best of the “enhancements” do present the impression of elements of the Pilate coin, however the elements seem to be out of placement and not in the correct scale, so it may well simply be a case of similarity and not a real image at all. Remember that the folks doing the processing were looking for a particular appearance so there is a selection phenomenon at work which will drive the process to the best apparent fit.”

I think the last phrase is very true even when Marion pretend his method avoid every subjective interpretation. I’m not so sure about that because he knew what he was lookin for and I’m pretty convinced that he wanted badly to find it. By the way, this guy Marion worked with Barbara Frele and both believe also that the ghost writtings represent Jesus death certificate ! So, if you don’t see an agenda behind those claims, you could at least agree with me that there is something fishy about all those researches…

I agree. See the full discussion at Paper Chase: Sight and Brain and Shroud of Turin Images « Shroud of Turin Blog

Paper Chase: Sight and Brain and Shroud of Turin Images

Do read Sight and brain: an introduction to the visually misleading images by Daniele Murra and Paolo Di Lazzaro:

image. . . We should consider this “subjectivity risk" when using computer tools to elaborate images, because we may generally have the propensity to make visible something that we want to see but that is not embedded in the original image.

Concerning the scientific approach to the acheiropoietos images, only reproducible experiments are scientifically acceptable.

Interpretations of shapes, coins, faces, flowers or letters “seen” on acheiropoietos images by means of image processing tools should be considered a track useful to address further studies, but they cannot be considered as self-consistent proofs.

It is a short paper, wonderfully informative and easy to read and understand.

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