Response to a confontational question on from “anonymous” re modelling of the Shroud image.


Postscript (correction: ‘prescript‘) added July 2019:

You have arrived at a 2014 posting. That was the year in which this investigator finally abandoned the notion of the body image being made by direct scorch off a heated metal template (despite many attractions, like negative image, 3D response etc. But hear later: orchestral DA DA!  Yup, still there with the revised technology! DA DA! ).

In its place came two stage image production.

Stage 1: sprinkle white wheaten flour or suchlike vertically onto human subject from head to foot, front and rear  (ideally with initial smear of oil to act as weak adhesive). Shake off excess flour, then cover the lightly coated subject with wet linen. Press down VERTICALLY and firmly (thus avoiding sides of subject). Then (and here’s the key step):

Stage 2: suspend the linen horizontally over glowing charcoal embers and roast gently until the desired degree of coloration, thus ‘developing’ the flour imprint, so as to simulate a sweat-generated body image that has become yellowed with centuries of ageing.

The novel two-stage “flour-imprinting’ technology was unveiled initially on my generalist “sciencebuzz” site. (Warning: one has to search assiduously to find it, and it still uses a metal template, albeit unheated,  as distinct from human anatomy):


sbuzz oct 24, 14 flour 1


So it’s still thermal development of sorts, but with a key difference. One can take imprints off human anatomy (dead or alive!).

A final wash of the roasted flour imprint with soap and water yields a straw-coloured nebulous image, i.e. with fuzzy, poorly defined edges. It’s still a negative (tone-reversed) image that responds to 3D-rendering software, notably the splendid freely-downloadable ImageJ.  (Ring any bells? Better still, orchestral accompaniment – see , correction HEAR earlier – DA DA!))

This 2014 “prescript” replaces the one used for my earlier 2012/2013 postings, deploying abandoned ‘direct scorch’ technology.

Thank you for your patience and forbearance. Here’s where the original posting started:

Original posting starts here:



From:  “Anonymous”

January 27, 2014 at 11:42 am | #19

“Question for Colin Berry: How in the world the same exact source of heat (with pretty much the same intensity) could only color the first fiber at the top surface of a linen cloth while the source of heat is located at 3 or 4 cm away from the cloth and, AT THE SAME TIME, could also color ONLY the first fiber at the top surface of the same linen cloth while the very same source of heat is located in direct-contact with the cloth?

Theoretically speaking, I think it’s fair to say that such a scenario seem close to absolute zero in term of probability…”

My immediate reply (posted to same site, i.e.


January 27, 2014 at 1:00 pm | #20

If you want my opinion, then all you have to do is ask. But kindly wait for an answer before attempting to preempt my reply with your probability assessments. I do not take questions under any kind of duress.

In fact, I will make a posting of your question, and provide a short answer on my own site.

And here’s that reply (a stiff whisky first may help)

Here's an image from a previous posting, to show semi-selective scorching of the outermost PCW by virtue of its higher concentration of easily heat-degradable hemicelluloses.

Here’s an image from a previous posting, to show semi-selective scorching of the outermost PCW by virtue of its higher concentration of easily heat-degradable hemicelluloses.

In a simple conduction model there would be no scorching if there were even the tiniest air gap. In practice, there is scorching at a distance, due to convection processes (superheated steam, pyrolysis gases etc). However there are limited amounts of target hemicelluloses in the most superficial primary cell wall (PCW), the latter probably accounting for less than 5% of the total fibre diameter. So most or all of that thin PCW may become maximally discoloured in affected threads even with a small air gap (but not excessive – millimetres  rather than centimetres) . When there is no air gap, then of course  heat transfer becomes a lot more localised and efficient  (direct atom-to-atom contact/conduction),  but there is no greater maximal image intensity due to the presence of the same LIMITING amount of hemicelluloses.  In other words, the system is one that shows what might be described as a low saturation effect, and it’s a result of the co-axial geometry, with susceptible PCW hemicelluloses most concentrated on the outside (though some in the core too – see diagram above) with a more  scorch-resistant core comprising the secondary cell wall (SCW),  the latter containing large amounts of heat-resistant crystalline cellulose).   This explains scorching both by contact/conduction, but also at a distance (albeit not very much) primarily by convection.  Easy saturability also provides an explanation for the peculiar half-tone effect  (though I have previously expressed doubts as to whether it’s really as digitally, non-analogue, all-or-nothing as we have been led to believe).

PS:  What I’ve described above is an illustrative example where a convection scorch from a distance could (in principle) be as intense as a contact scorch. But I’m not suggesting that is the norm.  In practice, the norm would be a fainter image from a distance giving a range of contrast values that give depth, probably best appreciated  after Secondo Pia-style light/dark inversion, and no doubt contributing to that iconic 3D-enhancibility.

Update: 29 Jan 2014

January 28, 2014 at 11:39 am | #29

As I said in my previous comment: in order for me to buy this, I need some microscopic photographs that will prove that.

And even if such a heat process could really produce a complete image (front and back) of a man with absolutely no color penetration anywhere (just saying this is almost non sense to me), this would not answer why a medieval forger would have wanted to accomplish such a feat that was impossible to see to the naked eye anyway!!!

Look, I can buy the improbable idea of a forger who would have wanted to created a sort of ghost image of Jesus on a burial cloth in order to produce an enigmatic false relic, but I’m not ready to buy the idea that, along with this, he would have taken time to make sure that there would have been absolutely no more color penetration is darker zones than in lighter zones.

It’s fun to imagine things, but one day, we must also be logical and rational…

Reply.  Oh dear. This is getting ridiculous, childish even.

Centuries ago, with primitive technology, our forbears were capable of creating an ultra-thin sub-microscopic surface film, probably just a few molecules thick, one that diffracts  and chromatically disperses white light like a modern DVD,  producing all the colours of the rainbow. Except for one thing – it was a complete accident. All they had to do was choose a sunny day, and put a few drops of oil into a pond, spreading out of its own accord to create an exceedingly thin film on the surface.

When looking at an artefact one has to distinguish between what was achieved by design, and what by accident. Someone using pyrography to scorch an image was possibly intending merely to get a ghostly image (though it’s a reasonable supposition that the one they achieved was a lot more visible than the one we see today).   They were NOT attempting to achieve superficiality at the microscopic level. That was the result of a host of chance physical,  chemical and botanical effects related to the interaction of a heated template with a heat-susceptible woven fabric. What we can say is that if there had been an initial desire to avoid having folk say contemptuously “Oh, but that’s just a plain old heat scorch” the artisans would taken simple practical steps to minimise time, pressure and temperature of contact so as to  make it difficult to identify immediately as a heat scorch. That would have resulted in minimal change at the microscopic level (about which they knew nothing and cared even less). Alternatively, they WANTED folk to recognize the image as a heat scorch, making a link in their minds with one of the major historical events of that period, namely the suppression of the Knights Templar, with countless members imprisoned, tortured then burned (or slow-roasted) at the stake. Indeed, it was just recently I proposed that the pre-1532 L-shaped so-called poker holes were no accident, and had been added deliberately to reinforce the link between a scorch-on image , symbolising a hot corpse at an intermediate stage of barbecuing, and the hideous events that took place in Paris  (a relatively short distance from Lirey – 200km approx.) in 1314.  L for Lirey?


January 29, 2014 at 1:13 pm | #48

Anonymous :
I don’t wanna waste my time anymore with someone who can’t see the reality of facts and prefer to rely on his personal preconcieve notions of what must have formed the Shroud image…
Just by merging together the evidence of the bloodstains and the evidence of the ultra-superficiality of the image (as superficial in darker zones as it is in lighter ones), any intelligent person would come to the conclusion that the Shroud image has not been formed by a forger using heat… But now I see that you just don’t want to look at REALITY… By the way, you’re not the first to act like this… Einstein did the same thing versus the idea of a universe in expansion!

Who’s to say that the most of the damaged, more brittle, more superficial fibres in the darker zones have not broken off over the centuries, so there’s now less difference compared with the lighter zones, creating a ghostlier, more homogenous image? Or are you one of these people who imagines the TS to look exactly the same today as it did centuries ago?

Your all-conquering bloodstains flake off too with age and handling (revealing to some eyes at any rate hints of mantra-defying underlying image).


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 Shroud of Turin 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 )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.