The Turin Shroud: but for the pseudo science it would have been dismissed long ago as a medieval fake

This is the new title for my blog. The previous one (“Casting a critical eye at the Shroud of Turin”) was OK for starters, but with well over 100 postings covering a wide range of aspects – chemical, physiological,  image characteristics, rival hypotheses, dud science  –  I felt the time had come to sharpen up the message.

As far as this retired science bod is concerned, the four chief culprits in the pseudo-science department are/were Paolo Di Lazzaro, Giulio Fanti, Raymond N.Rogers (deceased) and Alan D.Adler (deceased). That’s not to say that all their Shroud-related work is pseudo-science.  But when the chips are down, all four, without exception, have abandoned objectivity, and lumbered so-called ‘sindonology’ (or shroudology as I prefer to call it) with junk science that fails simply refuses to go away. That’s thanks to their own persistence, and  thanks to those starry-eyed pseudo-science groupies  who gratefully seize on anything they perceive as propping up their beliefs and preconceptions.

Here are my more popular (notorious?) postings – just those with 50 or more visits to date,  in decreasing rank order:

The Shroud of Turin – let’s focus on that hemicellulose coating on the linen fibres … It could explain a great deal 850
Blood-grouping the Shroud of Turin – like trying to sort apples from oranges in the dark wearing boxing gloves. 561
The Turin Shroud Man IS a scorchograph – and I challenge anyone to prove otherwise… 314
Did you know there is a high-definition image of the Turin Shroud (most of it still under wraps)? 216
Was the Shroud of Turin intended as a visual double entendre – with an martyred Knight Templar serving as proxy for the crucified Christ? 169
A comprehensive new theory detailing a medieval origin for the Turin Shroud: a scorching onto linen – and human consciousness – of the last of the Knights Templar. 161
Shroud Scope 8: 372 impossible scourge marks (surely?) on the Shroud of Turin 156
Modelling the image of the Turin Shroud – an interrupted experiment using onion epidermis – just one cell thick. 124
Charring, fluorescence and image-forming mechanisms. Beware Shroudology’s junk science and flawed logic… 116
Comparison of Lirey Badge (Cluny medal) depicting the Shroud of Turin in the14th century with the 1865 Forgeais drawing – for open discussion 114
Seven short and simple answers to the Shroud of Turin Enigma Challenge – and a plea for the reporting of real science… 113
Corona discharge for Shroud of Turin – advance notice of my paper for presentation at the Quantum Theology 2012 Conference, Instituto Polytecnica of Mamma Mia, Italy 100
It’s clever, some might say pretty, but is it science? 90
A reply to Dan Porter and his Shroud of Turin associates re the significance of the Lirey Pilgrim’s Badge 87
I think I now know why STURP chemist Raymond Rogers detected hydroxyproline in the blood on the Shroud – and it’s to do with those medicinal leeches… 82
One very good reason why the Turin Shroud could not POSSIBLY have been produced by scorching onto linen – and 10 even better ones why it could. 81
Is the Man on the Turin Shroud a pseudo-negative imprint from a DEATH MASK? (Could that be why the modern-day photographic negative looks so much better than the original?). 79
Hello, all you Shroud sceptics out there 77
Shroud Scope 10: my very own gallery of 20 close-up views of the Shroud – all lightly photo-edited for optimised colour-differentiation 74
Who says the Shroud is not a scorch mark – and more to the point, WHY? 74
STURP’s Raymond N. Rogers, top-notch (?) thermochemist, appeared to have abandoned thermodynamics completely when he argued for that implausible Maillard reaction 73
Shroudie Congresses – places where fantasies are peddled… 67
About 59
Yet more ‘Fanti-sy’ from Fanti, Faccini et al, this time on the spear so-called “wound”… 57
An open letter to the President of the Royal Society. Would you and your Fellows be willing to assist in separating the science from the pseudoscience? 56
Message from Mr.Barrie Schwortz, President of STERA Inc (The self-styled “Shroud of Turin Education and Research Association, Inc”) 54
Dan Porter and his 2002 Long Bet,10 years on. Was he right? I say NO.Time has proved him spectacularly WRONG… 51
Needed urgently – scorch scanner (gd wkg cond) 51
Did blood-sucking leeches help to establish – at least in some eyes – the ‘authenticity’ of the Shroud of Turin? 50 bar                                                                                                                  …………………………………………………………………………………………………………..Strangely, the posting that I consider to be the most important of all – if not immediately obvious – is not in that list at all, having 3 fewer visits than the magic 50.  It is this one: link.

Beware: incoming rehash of that posting(with a few additional flourishes and embellishments):

So why are there so few takers for the image on the left being a scorch?

Because if this is a scorch  how come it transforms into something as “realistic” and “right-looking” as the one next to it on the right? (One could also ask why countless generations of pilgrims had to be content with the unattractive negative image for which there was neither rhyme nor reason, but that is a side issue right now).

Answer: because unbeknown to Secondo Pia in 1898, and I suspect unbeknown to billions of living souls on the planet, that is what happens when you take a negative light/dark reversed image and reverse it a second time. You not only get an image that is better than the immediately preceding negative. It is highly likely that it will be better, at least in an artistic sense, than the original effigy/replica/template/mould from which the negative was produced.

To understand why that is, you have to note a major and unusual characteristic of the final image, notably its luminous, and (arguably)some might say serene quality.

But anyone can reproduce that, as I have done, at least in part, by doing a simple charcoal cartoon-like sketch, and reversing it.

Crude charcoal sketch on left: After light/dark reversal and 3D enhancement in ImageJ right.

All the original harsh lines and areas formed with charcoal become white space* (and thus LUMINOUS). Conversely all the subtle shadow that gives impression of contour, depth etc was originally white space – i.e. the parts of the paper that the artist had not blacked in.  Viewed in those terms it is not difficult to see how a simple photographic inversion can endow an image with qualities that the artist would have been hard put to achieve unless very, very expert. Yet those same enhanced qualities are instantly achievable by anyone with negligible skills as an artist and a stick of charcoal.

* From wiki entry for “white space”, aka “negative space”:   “White space should not be considered merely ‘blank’ space — it is an important element of design which enables the objects in it to exist at all, the balance between positive (or non-white) and the use of negative spaces is key to aesthetic composition.”

But the above analogy was picture to negative and then back to picture.

The added mystery here is that we do not know for certain what substituted for the initial picture, so cannot make before-and-after comparisons, if only to confirm that the end-result is superior in terms of ‘luminosity’.  But I consider, based on little more than commonsense, that the Shroud negative is a scorch, and must therefore have been obtained from a 3D or semi 3D effigy, e.g. using plaster of Paris ‘death mask’ technology, so while it does not permit a comparison of like-with-like, i.e. 2D images, it is perhaps not surprising that the final Shroud image has an even more “unique” character in terms of realism allied to luminosity given that it is a 2D image derived from a 3D object.

In short, the Shroud image looks exceptional, alongside the negative, and exceptional anyway, but then it is exceptional. Given the likely manner in which it was produced as a 2-step process of thermal imprinting followed by light/dark reversal, such that prominent features and prominent frontal planes on the original template end up as glowing white space in the final image.

Yes, this is a rehash of what I wrote previously, but I have written a great deal in the course of my 100+ postings, and now is the time to focus on the key and crucial considerations that have led me to my belief that the Shroud reversed image has mesmerised since first revealed by Secondo Pia, but for reasons that are to do with the unusual pattern of light and dark that is created by two-stage imprinting/reversal of a 3D, or semi 3D replica. In short, the Shroud image may look too good to have arisen by accident, but it IS an accident of photographic processing from an imprint from a 3D artefact.

The folk who created that thermal imprint had no idea that their sepia negative would one day be transformed by late 19th century photography. They were probably quite happy to have produced an image that looked like it had been scorched-on from a man who had ‘involuntarily’ acquired an over-abundance of thermal energy.

Conclusion:  Secondo Pia’s iconic reversed image may seem a one-off, and given its serene and luminous character appear to hint at deep mystery. In reality, any negative image would have responded the same way. But negative images are uncommon, certainly in art, for the simple reason they have nothing to commend them artistically. Had they been more common, there would have been a thriving industry in the early days of photography in reversing those negatives.

The thing that is special about the Shroud image is that the one on the Shroud is a negative imprint, and the favoured theories that claim a role for chemical vapours or radiation scarcely address that key characteristic of how a negative image could be produced without direct contact between cloth and prominent body features.  In contrast, a contact scorch between cloth and a heated effigy offers an immediate and obvious explanation for the negative image, and model studies (see banner) demonstrate that thermal imprinting from a 3D objects captures contours in a form that respond to later 2D->3D imaging software.

The refusal of so-called scientists, STURP and post-STURP,  to properly address the scorch hypothesis, dismissing it with one flimsy pretext after another, failing to do a single model study (John Jackson being a notable exception, even if he hastily abandoned a promising line of research ) must rank as one of the greatest black marks against 20th/21st century science. My own attitude can be summed up as one of disgust and contempt. There has been a major abandonment of scientific objectivity – rendering millions of words of ‘alternative’ science’ utterly valueless, and indeed anti-scientific. When so-called scientists are quoted in the press as “hoping their findings will prompt philosophical and theological debate” or ending their papers with a section entitled “Theological Considerations” you know we are entering a new Dark Age of magic and superstition…  and all because of a length of scorched fabric of medieval provenance.

Postscript: I see this posting gets a mention on The Other Site. The two comments that have appeared so far typify the level of debate one has come to expect from that quarter –  basically little more than “You are a nobody alongside the likes of St.Raymond and St. Alan”.

Far be it from me to further unwrite the hagiography of the STURP sainthood…. Hydroxyproline as a marker for “unheated blood” anyone?  Permanently red “blood” thanks to photosensitive bilirubin?  You couldn’t make it up (but then who needed to when there were the two magical mystery chemists of STURP, one lacking even a doctorate,  who at critical junctures each allowed his imagination to run wild, abandoning the scientific method?).

 Afterthought: for those at a laptop, the litmus test of who has – or has not –  “made it” in scientific research is the ability to enter a field of research (as distinct from a name)  into a search engine, and then find the individual’s name on the first page of returns. I invite those on the Other Site who question my own credentials to google  dietary fibre resistant starch.  My sole-author 1986 paper is there as two separate links, once (at the top) against the number of citations, currently about 330, and the other to the abstract.

Now then, can someone on that site tell me what subject keywords to enter, unrelated to the Turin Shroud, that give returns for Rogers’ work (e.g. chemical explosives)  or Adler’s work (porphyrins)?  Repeat: I am seeking evidence that either made a deep impression as an innovator BEFORE working on the Shroud, one that would justify their description over there as “consummate researchers”.

Until those folk there can do that, then would they kindly cease making invidious comparisons between those STURP investigators and myself, given that those comparisons appear to be based on nothing more than uninformed speculation, aka pure guesswork, aka cheap shot internet trolling.

Thank you

Colin Berry PhD

Previously Wellcome Trust Interdisciplinary-Linked Research Fellow/Honorary Lecturer at Royal Free Hospital School of Medicine, and later Head of Nutrition and Food Safety at the Flour Milling and Baking Research Association, Chorleywood, UK.


Further postscript: added 7th October

My comments above have elicited a somewhat hysterical response from the host on The Other Site, under a title I am still trying to fathom (and I don’t just mean the redundancy in topping and tailing my name with both Dr. and PhD)

Shame on you Dr Colin Berry PhD – or Ray Rogers-consummate-researcher, excellent scientist.

There’s really nothing of substance to respond to there. I have stated the facts, a response to attempts over there to portray me as a nobody. I am not a nobody. I have solid credentials every bit as good those two, sadly now deceased STURP investigators. But that’s not really the point, is it?  What matters  where this and the other blog are concerned is the quality of the science re the question as the nature of the Shroud image, which I say is a scorch. The arguments that Raymond N Rogers adduced against it being a scorch, ones that Dan Porter cut-and-paste in his  response to my very first posting, Dec 2011/Jan 2012 , are what I have called Mickey Mouse science, because that is what they are – Mickey Mouse science.

Click to enlarge

I have given my reasons many times before – the redundancy of Roger’s lecture on the Arrhenius equation (all reactions involving molecules have an Arrhenius activation energy), the failure to acknowledge that linen has components that are more sensitive to scorching than crystalline cellulose, notable the hemicelluloses of the PCW, and Roger’s bizarre attempt to use hydroxyproline  as a marker for “unheated blood”.  I repeat – any one of those three is Mickey Mouse science: to have all three dumped on one as soon as one suggests scorching as if holy writ, when each is deeply flawed in its logic and understanding of scientific principles – nay, just plain mistaken-  is also bizarre. Nobody, least of all Dan Porter, has addressed my objections directly, although Paolo Di Lazzaro has compounded Rogers’ bad science with some Mickey Mouse science of his own.

I shall go one pointing out the Mickey Mouse nature of these two attempts to dismiss scorching with phoney pseudo-scientific arguments. Dan Porter and his commentators can squeal as much as they wish, but until they start to address the science, the facts, the details instead of attacking me personally, then they are wasting  their time.  The ad hom that emanates from that site on a daily basis is simply water off a duck’s back.  Let’s hear one, just one good argument, for why the sepia image is not a scorch … I continue to live in hope that someone on Dan’s site can produce some real science instead of the recycled Mickey Mouse tripe that  it has been serving up these last 9 months or so.

Oh, and here’s the latest rant from that site, each new one more hysterical than the last:

October 7, 2012 at 4:44 pm | #5

It’s the Berrys of the world that have tarnished the respect the title PhD may have once demanded in my eyes. His habitually biased and obnoxious approach in shroud studies are enough to defrock him of any objective scientific ‘credentials’ he is ever so keen to remind you of at every passing chance; frankly, it’s childish. He appears to be little more than a shill for the typical shallow-minded hypercritics and militant atheists to thoughtlessly lap up and regurgitate on message boards across the web when confronted with the hard facts and serious scientists like Rogers. He seems to generate noise designed to drown out the good information and slow the progression of knowledge. In short, he’s a career troll.

I for one will ignore this nuisance from now on.


Calm down, dear. It’s only a scientific controversy. Yup, “scientific” – I trust you have some inkling as to what that word means.   Or there again, maybe you don’t. If you did, you would not be adopting so hysterical a tone.

Once again, I would like to hear ONE good reason why the image on the Shroud is not a simple contact scorch – but please don’t waste time quoting  Raymond Rogers or Paolo Di Lazzaro.  I have neither the time nor patience for junk science….

Oh, and this is just in from Thibault Heimburger:

“Incidentally, I have just finished my paper about the famous Scorch hypothesis (including about 25 microphotographs) that will convince anybody of the fallacy of Berry’s hypothesis..except of course Dr. Berry himself.”

How does Thibault know what my reaction will be to findings that I have yet to see? Is he blessed (or cursed) with an ability to see into the future?  Or does he merely suspect that I will find his new findings less than convincing on scientific grounds, and, anticipating my critique , wants to misrepresent me  in advance as the kind of individual who would reject them regardless of their merits? To which I say: I have absolutely no axe to grind where the Shroud is concerned, except insofar as I despise  agenda-driven pseudo-science, and far too much of what is or has been published on the Shroud sadly fits that description.  If Thibault’s findings are as good as he makes out, then he can rely on me to give them serious consideration.

Oh, and I challenged those who attempt to canonise Rogers or Adler to enter an area of investigation into Google, and see if the saints come marching in on the first page of returns. So when Thibault comes back with the following, you know that someone has (so far) failed the audition: “Regarding Adler, it’s the same : one has to enter “Adler” as “author” in the advanced search engine of Google Scholar to find many peer-reviewed papers from him about porphyrins.” That’s not what I said Thibault – start by entering the area of knowledge. Anyone who has published anything, no matter how trivial, will appear if one simply enters their name… Note too the number of citations, or whether it is a single or multi-author paper. (My understanding is that Adler and associates developed a handy method for synthesising a certain class of porphin compounds while at the University of Pennsylvania, which is where I too worked as a Research Specialist (Faculty Staff appointment) on the phototherapy of neonatal jaundice (I believe I was first to propose photoisomerism as the  mechanism that allows bilirubin to be excreted without prior conjugation with glucuronic acid, the clinical implications of which are crucial in attempting to evaluate the efficacy and safety of phototherapy). As a bilirubin specialist for those two years – not counting later work with that bile pigment at Royal Free, I can tell you in all candour and honesty that Adler’s attempt to use bilirubin to explain the longevity of the red colour of Shroud “blood” is Mickey Mouse science. If anyone disbelives me, look at the wiki entry of the Conservation of the Shroud, where Adler’s intervention has caused much alarm and despondency. There you will find Adler quoted as acknowledging that biliribin is photosensitive. (Good, isn’t it, that bilirubin is initially cited as stabilising blood, and then as a reason for protecting the Shroud from light, oxygen etc – as blatant an example if ever of having one’s chemical cake and eat it: either bilirubin stabilises or destabilises Shroud components, though personally I’d like to see real qualitative and quantitative evidence there is ANY bilirubin on the Shroud, and it was not not a figment of Adler’s over-active imagination, drafted in to prop up his increasingly erratically – and latterly – agenda-driven pseudo-science .)


About Colin Berry

Retired science bod, previous research interests: phototherapy of neonatal jaundice, membrane influences on microsomal UDP-glucuronyltransferase, defective bilirubin and xenobiotic conjugation and hepatic excretion, dietary fibre and resistant starch.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s