Dear Royal Society. Time maybe to take a hard line on those who peddle Turin Shroud pseudoscience?

This is the Last Post (cue one mournful trumpet) on this site, although comments are still welcome, critical ones included (provided the criticism is not intended to be purely destructive, and is preferably constructive and non-abusive).

If it’s a summary of this blogger’s somewhat unconventional views re the Shroud (unconventional = free-thinking, non agenda-driven) you seek, then I’d recommend this particular posting from August of last year, addressed to the then Pope Benedict XVI. It saves having to read the other (approx) 180 on which it is based!

The Pope calls it an icon written with blood. I say it’s an elaborate medieval con – still being promoted for all its worth.

My new site, which will run for about 10 postings only, each addressing a particular Shroud ‘story’, may look something like this.

blackboard 2Click to ENLARGE

Update: Or, on second thoughts, this one, a touch more aggressive:

blackboard 3

or, even more aggressive:

blackboard 4

And here’s a possible format I might use throughout the posting when I wish to make concrete proposals for Royal Society intervention:

whiteboard_2 straightened and cropped with statement re theology

If the Royal Society spots this post, (ed: with the, er deliberate spelling  mistake – science bloggers being fallible like everyone else)  ahead of the new start-up, possibly  with a little help from yours truly,  the following blog postings on this site should provide some background.

1. From 14th September 2012

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?

2. From 2nd March 2013:

Shroudie-Alert: Day 12: time now to write that long-overdue letter to the Royal Society…

So it’s a fond farewell then to those here who have informed and enlivened my comments, especially (no particular order) Adrie, Hugh, Matthias, Carlos,  Jos, Charles and others. Hoping to see at least some of you on the new site – but I’ll understand if you decide to stay away, given I’m intending to get (still more) bolshy, still more more polemical.

It’s time now to focus entirely on the main issue – pseudoscience – especially that which is intended for general consumption in the main media outlets – newspapers, the internet, TV documentaries etc. (beware all you disseminators of  self-serving theophysics, theochemistry and theophysiology –  aka crucifictional (sic) pseudoscience – I have you firmly in my sights).  Pseudoscience damages the reputation of real science, attempting as it does to shoulder real scientists, like you know, er, moi, yours truly, not to put to0 fine a point on it, ME,  Colin Berry MSc, PhD, out of  the debate, out of the public domain.

That Pope Benedict XVI should have commissioned a  surprise snap exhibition of the Shroud on March 30th (Holy Saturday) in his last act as Pope was for this retired science bod/blogger the last straw…

I have previously told (now Emeritus) Pope Benedict XVI exactly what I think about his increasingly ‘less-ambiguous, less-fence-sitting’  more wholehearted endorsement of  Shroud authenticity. I may be a low-profile blogger, but simply googling  (pope calls it icon written with blood)  will take you to my posting from August of last year, presently topping  the list of returns.

Alternatively, go to this link.

Yup, shame the blood has an atypical porphyrin spectrum, no sodium or potassium worth speaking of, virtually no red blood cells – so atypical in fact that STURP’s Alan D Adler felt obliged to describe it as a “serum exudate from retracted blood clots”.

Epsilon-shaped marking on forehead. Does that look like a serum-exudate to you? It looks like a dense deposit of a haem-containing deposit to me, too dense to be any kind of serum…

Epsilon-shaped marking on forehead. Does that look like a serum-exudate to you? It looks like a dense deposit of a haem-containing deposit to me, too dense to be any kind of serum…

Funny that, like funny peculiar. I’d have said it looks more like real blood on the Shroud than an anaemic wishy-washy ‘serum exudate’, despite (or because of) that failure to lose its red colour over the centuries. No wonder some prefer to call that problematical blood a ‘serum exudate’.

Click to ENLARGE

If it doesn’t look or behave  like real blood, then call it something different (while continuing to maintain the dogma that the ‘blood’ arrived first on the Shroud,  as required for authenticity. “Serum-exudate’ first” dogma does not have quite the same ring of authority, does it?

Take away the bloodstains from the Shroud (top) and what are you left with? Simply an image of a naked man, with no obvious wounds, except with the eye of faith. (Shroud with its bloodstains below for comparison). Without the bloodstains, there is no evidence the man had been crucified.

Take away the bloodstains from the Shroud (left) and what are you left with? Simply an image of a naked man, with no obvious wounds, except with the eye of faith. (Shroud with its bloodstains on right for comparison). Without the bloodstains, there is no evidence the man had been crucified.

Who was it who recently described the Shroud as a ‘can of worms’, one that the Royal Society would not bother to investigate?  My advice to the Royal Society: start by looking at the semantics, and then perhaps you will see how that ‘can of worms’ came about, and how a ceaseless production line of canned semantic, pseudoscientific worms has become an essential strategy in Shroudology, being intended to wear down, browbeat and silence. pope homage shroud turin 2010No prizes for guessing the agenda (see those Vatican press-releases, see the reports of that day-long visit and homage that Pope Benedict made to the Shroud in May 2o10).

My hunch, for what it’s worth (and untested hunches come 12 a penny in that shroudological potpourri  of science and pseudoscience) is that the non-coagulated blood on the Shroud came from the gut contents of  a  well-fed medicinal leech.  It was accordingly semi-digested and thus atypical – not   fresh or even relatively fresh whole blood when it was painted on to linen, probably by an overzealous  monk who felt a wound-free image of a naked man alone did not quite do the business of packing them in (icon-gawking medieval pilgrims to the French village of Lirey that is).

Farewell, or rather au revoir, at another time, in another place.

Colin Berry

Postscript (added 20 June 2013): Discovered today that I get a mention in the wiki entry for Shroud of Turin, under the Image section:

“Shroud researcher Colin Berry has observed that the scorch marks and holes in the shroud also produced clear 3D images under the VP8 analysis.[127] He deduced from this that the shroud image was produced by light scorching, and has produced 3D images from scorches using appropriate software.[128]”

Actually, I had decided the Shroud image was a scorch well before doing any 3D enhancement, having been playing around with concave mirrors, seeing if it would be possible to focus infrared radiation to produce an scorch/image from a hot object (an aluminium pencil sharpener). But there simply wasn’t enough energy radiating from the object (probably at about 250-300 degrees C). Wondering how much heat was left. I grabbed the sharpener with pliars and pressed it into linen. Eureka: the contact image was far better than I imagined possible. From that point on there was no looking back…






Retired science bod


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 medieval forgery, Shroud of Turin and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to Dear Royal Society. Time maybe to take a hard line on those who peddle Turin Shroud pseudoscience?

  1. colinsberry says:

    An Australian flag has just this minute appeared on the sitemeter of my ‘Dear Royal Society’ site. No prizes for guessing who was the very first visitor!!! Thanks M (?) Feel free to criticize- I shan’t be offended, says he lying in his teeth…

    It’s WordPress btw that allows bloggers to track comings and goings, though in nothing like the detail of some sitemeters one can install – IP addresses, approximate location within a country etc etc, which, rest assured, I don’t ever intend to use here… says he, not lying in his teeth. Those sitemeters even reveal the site that a visitor had visited immediately prior to one’s own, and where they then went. I mean to say – what gives a blogmeister the right to know which site a visitor had arrived from, and which they departed too? That’s an invasion of privacy in my view…

  2. Matthias says:

    Ah yes it was I Matthias near the bottom of the earth…

  3. Matthias says:

    ah yes near the green patch at the TOP of the world!

    • colinsberry says:

      Hello Hugh

      You should be able to find it on:

      It’s still under construction, and partly experimental (so stuff may not just appear, but disappear also) but you’ll see my dander is up – this post-radiocarbon dating rabidly anti-science, anti-scientist thing has been going on for quite long enough if you ask me. Rolfe’s BBC documentary was the last straw. Why did the BBC accept so unbalanced a programme, or fail to note Jackson’s theology agenda (or Rolfe’s too for that matter)?.

      Pro-authenticity refrain: “My mind’s made up, do not confuse me with the facts”

      Instead, they try to confuse US with their bent version of the facts (or crackpot fizics).

  4. Hugh Farey says:

    I can’t even find your new site. What is it called?

  5. colinsberry says:

    I received this email from “jsaun” a couple of days ago:
    “Hello and I came across your blog when I was looking at various shroud
    sites….and I am impressed that you noticed the shroud of turin ventral and
    dorsal photos are different heights…may I offer my theory about that?…welll
    my theory is that when the Lord resurrected the power caused the top cloth to
    raise above him and produced the front photograph at somewhat of a distance
    whereas the back photograph was closer to the cloth on the bottom….thank you
    for listening 🙂 sincerely…..

    there are videos on youtube to support this theory….”
    Well, jasaun, a lot of water has flowed under the bridge since I was involved in that ‘discussion’ – or should we say browbeating, only partly deserved from the schoolteacher I now call the Valkyrie, given her tendency to swoop on me from out of the blue. You see, that apparent length difference was just of one dozens of characteristics I had listed that seemed at the time to cast doubt on the Shroud’s authenticity. I had seen the same discrepancy in other people’s images, including one in a Cathedral, Italian as I recall, where there was a Shroud exhibition, but being a science bod, someone who takes nobody’s word for it, had decided to check it out for myself. That meant taking a head to head image, dividing it into two between the two heads, then rotating the top one so that the frontal and dorsal images were side by side, feet to feet. The dorsal image did indeed look taller than the frontal, and indeed bulkier around the shoulders. I simply noted it and moved on.

    Result: the Valkyrie swooped, said I had committed the grossest of errors, not worthy of one of her 9th(?) grade students, was a disgrace to science, and even suggesting I had rigged the comparison!

    What i had not fully appreciated at the time was that the apparent length of the feet on the dorsal image looks greater than if the figure were standing upright, because it is the underside of the feet that is imaged, almost as if the linen had been pulled around the heel, and then taken to the tips of the toes, without a similar right angle turn (push rather than press) being performed on the frontal feet images (which are scarcely discernible anyway). If one aligns the images shoulder to shoulder, it is then possible to see there may be no real height difference (although published detailed measurements do suggest that one is a few centimetres taller). I can look up the references if you wish.

    Running a science-based blog is all too often a case of “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” – certainly if one’s observations get picked up elsewhere. You then find yourself being blasted for trying to “blind lay folk with science” or being accused of being sloppy, taking liberties, of engaging in deception if one tries to keep things light and conversational, as I occasionally do, at least for starters.

    What was especially annoying where that lady is concerned (and she still hovers to this day) is the way she prejudges – and occasionally resorts to defamation of character – having had one of her hair-curling comments removed from TOS The Other Site) without waiting to hear my reply.

    Methinks some people have made a heavy emotional stake in the Shroud being authentic, and anyone who attempts to question authenticity from a scientific standpoint, as I do, can find themselves under attack, not because the detailed science is wrong (though my first impressions re the relative lengths were admittedly premature and unwise, even as one item in a long list) but because one is a “pseudoskeptic” as a NY lawyer has called me. Instead of attacking the science, folk attack the scientist, and in some cases are only a whisker away from attacking science in general ( see Pam Moon on David Rolfe’s Shroud Enigma site).

    Forgive me if I stop there. I’m sure that John Jackson will be delighted to see the way your thoughts are running in a supernatural direction, but coming from STURP’s lead scientist who initiated the famous science bash-cum-dash in Turin all those years ago, I do wonder how much the world knew at the time about his theological interests/agenda, as plainly on view if you visit his Shroud Center site, or read the “critical summaries” that emanate from that source, or see the way he tried every means in the book to discredit the radiocarbon dating in the BBC documentary, or read his “collapsing cloth” theory. John Jackson lectures in physics, but from where I am standing his radiation theories are ‘fizics’, not worthy of the term physics (try looking for scholarly examination of heat conduction or convection as alternatives to radiation. ) Somebody had to say it (even STURP’s Alan D.Adler once described Jackson’s collapsing cloth theory as unscientific).

    PS I am going back to the drawing board on my new site, and have wiped the contents, except for the Home Page title. I’m beginning to see the Shroud as the thin end of an anti-science wedge, the attacks on the integrity of the radiocarbon laboratories being disturbing, especially the veiled (and not so veiled) hints that they collaborated to produce a false anti-authenticity answer. My letter to Sir Paul may simply flag up this sinister element, leaving he and his Fellows to wise up on the detailed science only if they wish to (with a link to this site obviously 😉

  6. colinsberry says:

    I see that Daniel R.Porter’s site has re-imposed the block on my comments, and that I am now expected to wait and see if they are allowed or not. That’s presumably on account of my criticizing the role of Barrie M.Schwortz and his so-called Shroud of Turin Education and Research Association (Inc) for keeping so much crucial data from STURP under copyright, making the task of a Shroud blogger like myself well nigh impossible when one has sight of only some of the data.

    Update at 11:23 UK time: the comment has now appeared. It’s possible that it fell foul of WordPress and its filter for comments deemed to have an excessive number of links to outside sites – excessive in this case being two – one of them mine, the other being in the quoted passage.

    Here’s the comment, in response to ‘anoxie’ that is currently blocked now unblocked.

    April 7, 2013 at 5:41 am | #129
    Reply | Quote

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.
    In response to anoxie , who wrote:

    “… which doesn’t mean bilirubin is not part of the answer.
    The spectra obtained with addition of bilirubin and methemoglobin is non additive :

    As far as color is concerned, red means more relative absorption in blue/violet.”


    That link makes the point better than anything I can say as to why all of Adler’s data need to be searchable and accessible online, and not just in copyrighted books and so-called ‘Orphaned Manuscripts’ (redacted). The proposition being floated there is just plain ludicrous – namely that if mixing A and B reinforces absorption in particular parts of the spectrum – notably the blue/violet you mention – then regardless of what is happening elsewhere – you re assured of your intensification of red colour.

    One does not often meet intensely blood-red colours in the laboratory, so when one does, it pays to look closely at the absorption spectrum. A simple model compound for “blood” is iron(III) thiocyanate, with the Fe(CNS) ++ ion. When you look at its absorption spectrum, there is a single almost symmetrical peak, centred approximately on 480nm:

    That’s the only kind of spectrum that guarantees that a compound will be blood red – one with a single peak at that value. I’m not saying that there cannot under any circumstances be secondary peaks or shoulders, simply that Adler’s mixing exercise is worthless unless one has a photograph of the end-result – to be certain that a convincing blood red colour really has been achieved . A set of absorption spectra on their own tell one next to nothing – and can in fact be highly misleading.

    Do you think that mixing bilirubin and oxidized haemoglobin would produce an end-result that was virtually indistinguishable to the viewer from fresh blood? Hugh Farey tried it – and just a few days ago reported here a negative result. Now there’s a surprise…

  7. ankenyman says:

    Ha, it says in the caption below a picture of the Shroud: “Take away the bloodstains from the Shroud (left) and what are you left with? Simply an image of a naked man, with no obvious wounds, except with the eye of faith.” That’s like saying about a forensic report of a murdered man, “If it wasn’t for the bullet holes and blood on the body, this dead, bullet riddled man would be simply a man with no obvious wounds, except with the eye of faith.” You are so biased that you refuse to acknowledge the obvious evidence right in front of you. You have no credibility and your rantings are worth nothing because you have an agenda and no objectivity. No evidence of wounds on the Shroud? Wake up. There’s only over one hundred of them.

    • colinsberry says:

      Tell me where you think there are wounds on the body image. Not bloodstains, but wounds, like in lacerations, punctures, any kind of broken skin. In other words, what you would expect to see if the bloodied site of a wound were washed free of blood. I’ll then go to Shroud Scope and post one or more pictures of your chosen site(s) here.

  8. colinsberry says:

    Received just now from the “Personal Assistant and Events Manager” of the Royal Society – name withheld, at my decision – but visions of a large marquee and afternoon cocktails. My emails had been addressed to the “Policy Unit”, listed under the RS’s “Contact Us” – with no option for posting to Sir Paul Nurse PRS directly):
    Dear Colin
    Please accept my sincere apologies for the delay in responding to your messages.
    The Royal Society does not have a position on the Turin Shroud and it is not an area of expertise within the organisation so unfortunately we are not in a position to comment. As we have limited capacity within the Royal Society to investigate and comment on pseudo-science (and indeed much high quality scientific work) we concentrate our efforts on topics where we have extensive expertise within the Fellowship.
    I am sorry that we are unable to provide a more detailed response.


    I am reviewing the situation. One option is to revert to Plan B (or was it Plan A?) and write to Sir Paul directly….

    Update 11th April: have been provided with the email address of Sir Paul’s PA, but with the following proviso:

    “As you would expect, Sir Paul has a tremendous workload and is constantly in meetings and regularly overseas and therefore it is likely that you may encounter a delay before you receive a response.”

    Further update: 12th April

    I’ve just discovered a link that provides Sir Paul’s email address at the Royal Society.

    I have not gone back on the previous decision to write a formal snail mail letter, but it’s handy to combine it with an email that can provide links to websites, this one included.

  9. colinsberry says:

    There’s a common misconception that phototherapy of jaundice in newborn infants uses and/or requires ultraviolet light to convert bilirubin to more easily excretable derivatives. That view is currently being promoted on ‘the other site’ by a medically-trained lady anaesthetist (or anesthesiologist as they say in the US where she works). Not true. It is ordinary visible white light from fluorescent tubes that is used, and it the visible blue component that is absorbed by the yellow/orange bilirubin, whose absorption maximum is approx 450nm. So all the speculation about the “too red” bloodstains on the Shroud maybe only looking too red when viewed in broad daylight, the latter providing some “obligatory” uv component is pure tosh. There’s more sloppy and mistaken so-called science from the same source appearing on a daily basis, and has been for some weeks now. The lady has only the most superficial understanding of physiological topics relevant to the Shroud, yet sets herself up as an authority, issuing rebukes to those of us who attempt to correct her errors, and we then find ourselves the target for offensive comments that question our mental state. If she continues in this fashion, I shall have no hesitation in saying where she acquired her initial medical training, such as it is. It was not a prestigious US centre of excellence – that much I can tell you.

    Update: we’ve now been told that bilirubin is conjugated to hyaluronic acid in the liver.

    How did this individual ever come to be medically qualified? (It is of course conjugated with glucuronic acid).

    Update, 30 May: The same source of chemical mis- and disinformation is now claiming that carbon monoxide is “unstable”. It is not. It is chemically stable, showing reactivity towards a fairly narrow range other substances, notably oxygen but requiring high temperatures to kick start the combustion to CO2. Of course, CO in the atmosphere may last only a few months, without combustion, though still being oxidised finally to CO2, but that is more a reflection of the reactivity of the tiny concentrations of highly reactive OH. free radicals (initiating chain reactions) or of soil bacteria.

  10. colinsberry says:

    Here’s a comment from The Venerable Hugh that has just this minute appeared on The Other Site (the one that insists on holding up any comments I post there while Mr.Prissy checks them out for unseemly language – while allowing everyone to make their snide character attacks on me):

    September 8, 2013 at 4:59 am | #15

    Thanks, Yannick, but I’m afraid I still can’t agree with you.

    1) Can anyone find a reference to McCrone finding starch on the shroud except what is mentioned by Rogers himself?

    2) Can anyone (Colin, perhaps, if he’s ever on board these days) say whether the ‘ghost’ coloration on the Mylar tape could be due to the detachment of the primary cell wall of fibres rather than an ‘impurity layer’?

    3) Although Heller and Adler failed to report finding any starch on the shroud, do we “have to assume” that they did find it but failed to report it?

    4) Can Thibault Heimburger, one of the authors of the paper, and who does read this blog from time to time, confirm that Fanti was “was not willing at all to even mention Rogers’ impurity hypothesis” until forced to do so?

    Frankly, I cannot be arsed (pardon the internet lingo) with Mr.Rogers’ so-called “impurity layer”. Maybe if he had taken the time or trouble to work in a PhD training in his career, his supervisor would have quickly disabused him of what probably is the most common error in scientific research. Yes, it’s good to have ideas, hypotheses, working models etc – all of which might be described as mental constructs. But what one must NEVER do is embrace a mental construct so closely that it becomes essentially “fact”, such well-established fact that you cannot be bothered to do the essential experimentation. But that is precisely what Mr.Rogers did – he took his “impurity layer” – a mental construct – and elevated it to the level of fact, with the result that some very silly and impressionable people, notably Yannick Clement on the other site, bang on endlessly about the “impurity layer”, and attack anyone who reminds folk that there’s a better candidate for the superficial image-receptive layer of flax fibres, namely that primary cell wall (PCW). Yes, Mr.Rogers could not be arsed to verify the existence of his own impurity layer, being content to make vague references to what others allegedly saw using reagents designed to look for something else (an iodine/azide reagent was used to test for sulphur proteins – not starch).

    Whether the PCW can be the entity that stripped off so easily with Mylar tape is something I’m not sure about. If it is, then that should not be too difficult to demonstrate in model studies with modern linen. What seems clear is that something that Mr. Clement thinks is needed to explain the discontinuous nature of the Shroud image should strip away so cleanly as a skin, pellicle, film etc. without disintegrating. There’s an expression about wanting to have one’s cake and eating it…

    PS: Check out this most appalling piece of obfuscation and bluster from the same Yannick Clement, someone who must now rank as time-waster extraordinaire…


    Stick to the things you know about, Yannick. You simply do not understand the imperatives of sound scientific research.

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