Is agenda-driven ‘theophysics’ the real reason why John Jackson’s Shroud Center of Colorado is STILL pushing its ne’er- do- well radiation model?


Late addition (July 2019)

Please forgive this postscript, correction, “prescript”,  correction, intrusion, added many years later – based on some 350 and more postings here and elsewhere.

That’s including some 7 years of my hands-on investigation into image-forming techniques, chosen to be credible with simple, indeed crude, medieval (14th century) technology etc etc.

(Oh, and yes, I accept the radiocarbon dating, despite it being restricted to a single non-random corner sample, making all the oh-so-dismissive, oh-so-derogatory statistics-based sniping totally irrelevant – a ranging shot being just that me dears- a single ranging shot, albeit subdivided into three for Arizona, Oxford and Zurich).
Sindonology (i.e. the “science” , read pseudoscience – of the so-called “Shroud ” of Turin) can be simply summed up. It’s a re-branding exercise, one designed to pretend that the prized Turin possession is not just J of A’s “fine linen”, described in the biblical account as used to transport a crucified body from cross to tomb.

Oh no, it goes further, much further, way way beyond the biblical account. How? By making out that it was the SAME linen as that described in the Gospel of John, deployed as final “burial clothes”. Thus the description “Shroud” for the Turin Linen, usually with the addition “burial shroud”. Why the elision of two different linens, deployed for entirely different purposes (transport first, then final interment)? 
Go figure! Key words to consider are: authentic relic v manufactured medieval icon; mystique, peaceful death-repose, unlimited opportunity for proposing new and ever more improbable image-formation mechanisms etc. How much easier it is to attach the label “Holy” to Shroud if seen as final burial clothes, in final at-peace repose – prior to Resurrection- as distinct from a means of temporary swaying side-to-side transport in an improvised makeshift stretcher !
As I say, a rebranding exercise (transport to final burial shroud) and a very smart and subtle one at that . Not for nothing did that angry local Bishop of Troyes suddenly refer to a “sleight of hand” after allegedly accepting it when first displayed. Seems the script was altered, or as some might say, tampered with! It might also explain why there were two Lirey badges, not just one. Entire books could be written on which of the two came first… I think I know which, with its allusion (?) to the Veil of Veronica… yes, there are alternative views (the face above “SUAIRE” a visual link to the face-only display of the Linen as the “Image of Edessa” or as that on the then current “Shroud” per se.


Face shown  (left) on mid- 14th century Machy Mould (recently discovered variant of the Lirey Pilgrim Badge) above the word “SUAIRE” (allegedly meaning “shroud”). Inset image on the right: one version among many of the fabled “Veil of Veronica” image.  I say the two are related, and deliberately so, but this is not the time or place to go into detail.

No, NOT  a resurrectional selfie, but instead a full size version of, wait for it,  the legendary VEIL OF VERONICA , product of inital body contact – no air gaps- between body and fabric, but with one important difference. The Turin image was intended to look more realistic, less artistic.

How? By displaying a negative tone-reversed image implying IMPRINT (unless, that is, you’re a modern day sindonologist, in which case ‘resurrectional proto-photographic selfie” becomes the preferred, nay, vigorously proferred explanation assisted by unrestrained imagination, creation of endless pseudoscience etc etc, with resort to laser beams, corona discharges, nuclear physics, elementary particles, earthquakes etc etc – the list is seemingly endless! 
Welcome to modern day sindonology. 
Personally, I prefer no-nonsense feet-on-the-ground hypothesis-testing science, aided by lashings of, wait for it, plain down-to-earth common sense.

Start of original posting:




It’s difficult to know where to start when addressing John Jackson’s ideas – some good, some downright quirky. One could do a lot worse than take a recent review from his Shroud Center of Colorado, penned by a pair of Knights flaunting their Vatican-approved  standing in society.  (That gives a flavour of the Center’s modus operandi, attempting to bridge science and religion. Frontispiece. faithfully copied, word for word:

The Shroud

A Critical Summary of Observations, Data and Hypotheses

Robert W. Siefker, MTh, KHS, KC, retired engineer

Daniel S. Spicer, PhD, KHS, KC, Professor of physics

Be warned: it can take an eternity to download this document. Don’t be surprised if your browser gives up on the task!

 I’ve simply taken 3 of the points in its self-serving summary, the one that awards penalty points to all rival models except its director’s own untestable radiation hypothesis-cum-miracle*  of …?  Yes, you guessed correctly

Point 1:

spicer 2 cropped adjTry clicking to enlarge

Re that so-called “luminance distribution”:   we’re asked to believe that the ‘luminance distribution’ (what luminance?)  “can be correlated to the clearances between the three-dimensional surface of the body and the covering cloth”. Well, that’s begging the question for a start. Where’s the evidence that ‘luminance’ played any part in capturing the Shroud image. Light source? Frequency? Imaging or collimation mechanism  etc etc.

Yes, we know that radiation can cross air gaps. But what kind produced an IMAGE, and what was the chromophore (light-absorbing species) in white linen that was able to absorb that radiation as an essential first step (First Law of Photochemistry, aka the Grotthuss-Draper Law, states that light must be absorbed by a compound in order for a photochemical reaction to take place. )

Or don’t normal terrestrial laws operate or matter in theophysics?

But that would depend on an imaging mechanism able to operate across an air gap. No such imaging mechanism has been proposed, far less authenticated. It certainly cannot be radiation, at least not infrared radiation or white light, since neither affects linen, at least not from templates that are only just hot enough sufficient to produce faint or intense scorches by direct contact (say 200 to 250 degrees C approx).  Or if you think it is radiation, then one needs to specify the frequency range, that could produce images, and say how.

In short, one cannot say anything yet to dismiss scorching when all we have so far is an unsupported alternative model that is thrust under our noses (and has been for decades).

What we see here is quite frankly bad science – imposing a fanciful model –  almost certainly agenda-driven, given the theological sideline (see  below)  and using it as if established fact.  Believe what you want, but published science has to be kept entirely separate from any theological agenda. Why are the two authors sporting those initials after their names (KHS, KC) on a paper entitled “Critical Scrutiny etc”. It is they who need the critical scrutiny (KHS = Knight of the Holy Sepulcher, KC = Knight of Columbus).

That comes as little surprise when you read the Shroud Center’s mission statement.

Shroud Center theology

As regards the attempts to dismiss conduction scorching in a few throwaway lines, which I frankly consider shabby treatment,  it is in fact absurdly simple to produce striking thermal imprints from bas-relief templates by direct contact –  ones that respond magnificently to 3D-enhancement in ImageJ (see my banner). Compare with the comparable processing of the Shroud image (in the margins) to see the close correspondence. My patience with those who attempt to belittle scorching-by-contact on trumped-up charges of  being unfit-for purpose – when it clearly is  nothing of the sort – is now wearing somewhat thin…   But one can do when there are people out there who think nothing of promoting their own version of spin-doctored ‘science’ year in, year out, even to TV cameras (see the BBC Rageh Omaar programme)?

That’s because the imprinting mechanism captures information from the contours of the template as it is thrust down into the linen under applied pressure, achieving a sharp negative imprint, NOT just draped loosely over the top.  There is no need to invoke imaging across air gaps because THERE CAN BE NO IMAGING ACROSS AIR GAPS  with any known infrared or visible radiation.

One cannot talk about what the Shroud produces “uniquely”  unless one has explored all the realistic alternatives, and not tried to prematurely write them off as non-starters – no doubt because they don’t fit the theological agenda.  The realistic alternative, par excellence, is scorching by direct contact, but done in an considered way that attempts to reproduce some or all of the subtleties  (see the latest modification of my scorch model, posted yesterday, designed to produce a faint and “fuzzy” image, using powdered clay between template and linen as a thermal buffer.

“A body image is visible in areas of non contact”. Maybe, but I can assure you that was not by radiation (see my very first Shroud posting which assumed the need for an opaque absorber – e.g. charcoal if wishing to use radiant energy ). Imaging by conduction could also be modified by the action of heated air (natural, or more likely forced convection) that acts in concert with contact conduction. See today’s earlier posting.

“The characteristic is inconsistent witn contact conduction”. Only if you close your eyes to one of the three classical means of heat transfer (convection) as you have done consistently in all your years of research, almost certainly attributing (falsely) convection effects across air gaps to radiation.

Point 2:

spicer 3 cropped adj

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In fact, the concave hollows are scarcely represented – look at areas around the crossed hands, look at the lateral extremes of cheeks, look at the poor imaging of shins etc where there may well have been an air gap between subject and linen. Is that such a surprise?  Not in any contact model it’s not, although pressing downwards into linen helps capture a little of the hollows – far better that the draping of a linen over the subject, with no applied pressure.

In fact the latter must be somewhat  of an embarrassment for those who envisage a recumbent corpse with draped-over linen. Maybe that’s why they make the linen droop unrealistically into the neck area.

draped sheet

How otherwise are they going to account for the good imaging of the neck. But here’s a tip: do what I have done, get a linen sheet, or cotton, and drape it over your partner. Such is the “body” in a typical woven fabric, i.e. the resistance to droop under its own weight, that you will see it bridge from neck to chest with little curvature. The droop you see in John Jackson’s diagram is wishful thinking if the truth be told. (Nope, I won’t bother with the selvage(US)/selvedge(Br.)theory since the first paper I read on that strip was adamant it had never been detached).

So what use will be made of this rather predictable observation that there little imaging of hollows? Is it screaming at us: lookee, radiation model? Is it telling us to work out regression equations on body cloth distance in the (vain) hope they fit the inverse square law of radiation intensity? Nope because imaging by contact, with probably a minor addition due to convection, is essentially an either/or process – imaging where there is contact, virtually none where there is not.  Look again at the large image free area of the abdomen around the hands, almost certainly the result of ‘tenting’,  the poor, nay abysmal imaging of lower legs and feet where there probably were sizeable air gaps between linen and ‘subject’.  That speaks of imaging by contact, not radiation, where you might expect a less severe fading effect if an inverse square rule were operating, as distinct from all-or-nothing. Just don’t forget hot air convection, natural or forced, to produce a softening to a conduction-only imprint (see previous posting if your physics is rusty).

Third point:

spicer 4 cropped adj

Click to enlarge

Why should it be incompatible? How many expts has the Shroud center done and reported with lightly applied hot templates, monitored on test strips for optimal temperature,  that produce scorches are of ideal Shroud-like intensity, visually and in image-enhancement programs?  How many measurements have they done on image location (PCW?) or image thickness(200nm?)  Are they aware of my onion experiment – all it takes is a gossamer-thin single layer of dried epidermal cells to protect underying linen, while the epidermal layer itself becomes an intense golden-brown

Intense scorching of the onion epidermis - just one cell thick. Essentially NO scorching of the underlying linen.

Intense scorching of the onion epidermis – just one cell thick. Essentially NO scorching of the underlying linen.

So here’s my advice to the Shroud Center (apart from dropping the theology): if it wants to talk about extreme superficiality as a crucial criterion, then it should demonstrate that qualitatively and quantitatively by new improved methodology instead of bandying around a quickie observation from 30 years ago. In any case, why should your radiation tick the superficiality box, apart from desperately needing ticks in all 24 boxes (how’s that for awarding medals to oneself)? ? If radiation were able to colour linen, then it would do so in the interstices , not just the crowns of the threads. That’s even assuming one had some focusing or collimation system that could produce an image, as distinct from a fuzzy indistinct brown patch. Let’s not mince our words – radiation is a lost cause. It’s time that the Shroud Center either documented it (which it won’t because it can’t) or take it out of its literature. Leaving it in without supporting evidence is not just misinformation. It is disinformation – which does huge disservice to the integrity of science.

I maintain that conduction, perhaps aided by some secondary convection, IS able to explain the more obvious features of the Shroud image, The radiation model appears to be based on a misinterpretation of  contact scorching (“maximum radiation intensity) and convection effects (smaller radiation effects at a distance). I cannot understand how physicists could have pursued a radiation model that does not even specify the wavelength, or explain how a heated bas relief at relatively low temperature – just able to produce contact scorches – can serve as a model for radiation, and then squeeze out all virtually all mention of conduction/convection. It is one of the most bizarre loss-of-bearings I have encountered in a lifetime of  teaching and research.

The Shroud is first and foremost a thing – not a mental construct. Theological agendas are best served in theological colleges. They have absolutely no place in objective, dispassionate science.

* Finally, here’s  Jackson’s “hypothesis” in all its glory. I decline to address those features that are more the realms of miraculous phenomenon than of science. It is not, repeat NOT, a scientific hypothesis, being UNTESTABLE!

jackson radiation theory

24/24?  Nope, 0/24 Dr. Jackson.


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.
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