The Shroud of Turin is one of the most revered and famous artifacts of Christianity. For centuries, it was claimed to be the burial cloth of Jesus, having been left with a haunting image of the the very face of the savior mysteriously imprinted on it. The cloth, which is kept in a church in the city of Turin, Italy, gained great attention when it was first photographed, in the late 1800′s. It was revealed that the image on the cloth is far more easily discerned in a photographic negative than in the normal “positive” direct view.
In 1988, however, enthusiasm for the shroud took a major hit when samples were subjected to radiocarbon dating and revealed the cloth to be of more modern origin. The final result put the age of the cloth at less than one thousand years old. The period it was dated to, in fact, turned out to coincide perfectly with the historical record of when the shroud first appeared on the record – about 1350 AD. The procedure was done by multiple laboratories, using the most reliable radiocarbon dating protocol available, and all analysis was in agreement. The shroud was thus far too young g to be the burial cloth of Christ.
Almost immediately, objections were raised. Many of the faithful would go to extreme lengths to explain why the tests might not be accurate. Some claimed that the samples were contaminated with external organic material. While this may be possible, it’s a well known issue with radiocarbon dating and procedures therefore exist, and were used, to remove surface contamination. Others said that the cloth was taken from an area where newer cloth had been added for repairs. This seems to be at least semi-plausible, but there is no hard evidence that the material was not original to the cloth and the examination conducted at the time indicated that the samples were well representative of the entire cloth. Others claimed that the cloth could have been contaminated by soot or smoke from a fire or that there had been errors made in the calculations.
In the end, none of these claims have much hard evidence to back them. Radiocarbon dating has been well tested and is a mature science. The laboratories that tested the shroud samples were well qualified and followed the highest protocol standards. Radiocarbon dating does not produce an exact year of origin, but gives a range of probable years. It’s possible that the actual origin could be outside this period and could be skewed by some environmental factors, but for it to be more than 1,200 years off, there would have to be a major procedural error or confounding factor and no evidence of this has been produced.
Now a new claim has begun to make the rounds. It’s so unfounded, so unsupported, so speculative and so absurd that it really is not news. But, despite this, the news media has jumped on it.
Turin Shroud may have been created by earthquake from time of Jesus
An earthquake in Jerusalem in AD 33 may have caused an atomic reaction which created the Turin Shroud and skewed radiocarbon dating results, scientists believe The Turin Shroud may not be a medieval forgery after all, after scientists discovered it could date from the time of Christ.
The shroud, which is purported to be the burial cloth of Jesus – showing his face and body after the crucifixion – has intrigued scholars and Christians alike.
But radiocarbon dating carried out by Oxford University in 1988 found it was only 728 years old.
However a new study claims than an earthquake in Jerusalem in 33AD may have not only created the image but may also have skewed the dating results.
The Italian team believes the powerful magnitude 8.2 earthquake would have been strong enough to release neutron particles from crushed rock.
This flood of neutrons may have imprinted an X-ray-like image onto the linen burial cloth, say the researches.
In addition, the radiation emissions would have increased the level of carbon-14 isotopes in the Shroud, which would make it appear younger.
“We believe it is possible that neutron emissions by earthquakes could have induced the image formation on the Shroud’s linen fibres, through thermal neutron capture on nitrogen nuclei, and could also have caused a wrong radiocarbon dating,” said Professor Alberto Carpinteri, from the Politecnico di Torino.
The Shroud has attracted widespread interest ever since Secondo Pia took the first photograph of it in 1898 which showed details which could not be seen by the naked eye.
Last year scientists at the University of Padua in northern Italy dated it to between 300BC and AD400 – still hundreds of years after Christ, who is believed to have died between 30-36AD.
Other scientists have previously suggested that neutron radiation may have been responsible for the ghostly image of a crucified man with his arms crossed.
However, no plausible explanation has been offered for the source of the radiation.
Now Carpinteri’s team have hypothesized that high-frequency pressure waves generated in the Earth’s crust during earthquakes are the source of such neutron emissions.
The scientists base the idea on research into piezonuclear fission reactions which occur when brittle rock is crushed under enormous pressure.
Neutron radiation is usually generated by nuclear fusion or fission, and may be produced by nuclear reactors or particle accelerators.
During the process, neutron particles are released from atoms.
A powerful earthquake could achieve the same effect, generating neutron radiation from stresses in the Earth, it is claimed.
Mark Antonacci, a leading expert on the Shroud and president of the Resurrection of the Shroud Foundation, is currently petitioning Pope Francis to allow molecular analysis of the cloth using the latest technology. It is hoped that such an investigation will be able to confirm or rule out the radiation theory.
What a load of bull.
The image on the shroud was most likely produced by searing the cloth with a hot bas relief and then touched up and enhanced by various pigments over the years. But regardless of how it was produced, the idea of a massive flux of neutrons from an earthquake is simply not credible.
Indeed, neutrons can and do create carbon-14. Most of the natural carbon-14 on earth was created by neutrons interacting with nitrogen in the upper atmosphere. These neutrons are a result of cosmic radiation. Carbon-14 can also be produced in nuclear reactors or as the result of nuclear weapons explosions. In those cases, artificial neutrons produce carbon-14 from nitrogen. Since nitrogen is common in both the atmosphere and in organic materials, if a piece of cloth were subjected to an extreme neutron flux, such as might be encountered at the core of a nuclear reactor, it would indeed produce carbon-14 at levels high enough to skew radiocarbon dating. It’s also not impossible that effects of the neutrons on the material could be great enough to leave visible changes or even an image.
Neutron imaging is certainly possible and does exist. It is used in non-destructive testing and in the examination of materials. The results may look similar to x-rays, such as in the case of the neutron-generated image of a compressor, shown to the left. In the case of film-based neutron imagine, neutrons pass through the object being imaged and strike a material which has a high neutron-cross section and emits gamma rays which are imprinted onto x-ray film. Successful neutron imaging requires a high neutron flux, as many of the neutrons will pass through the recording medium without leaving an imprint. Some older methods use a “neutron film” composed of a material which a high neutron cross-section and which is converted to another element by the absorption of neutrons, thus allowing the neutrons to imprint an image.
In principle, a high enough neutron flux could leave an imprint on a common material, such as cloth. An object, placed between the cloth and the neutron source, would moderate or absorb some of the neutrons, resulting in a modified neutron beam. When the neutrons strike the cloth, they would activate some of the material in the cloth, either directly transmuting it to another element (such as converting nitrogen to carbon-14) or creating ionizing radiation, which could modify the local chemistry of the cloth.
However, unlike neutron film, ancient cloth would not be composed of materials specially selected for sensitivity to neutron radiation. It would also be exposed under far less than ideal conditions. So any neutron field capable of producing such an image would have to be unimaginably strong.
The problem is, short of setting off a neutron bomb next to the shroud, there is no way it could have been exposed to such a massive amount of neutron radiation.
Earthquakes and neutrons:
Neutron radiation is created by nuclear reactions such as fission and fusion. On earth, the natural background levels for neutron radiation tend to be very low. The naturally-occurring neutrons that do exist may be the result of cosmic rays, from the spontaneous fission of heavy elements in the earth’s crust, or from secondary nuclear reactions that occur after decay of naturally-occurring radioactive material. The background level for neutrons on the surface of the earth is very low, in general, as such reactions are few and far between.
Earthquakes cannot create neutrons, at least not directly, because neutron radiation requires a nuclear reaction, such as fission or fusion and earthquakes are mechanical, not nuclear. Grinding or crushing rock does not produce fission, fusion or any other nuclear reaction.
There have, however, been some observations that support the idea that earthquake activity may be associated with variations in background neutron levels. The data is far from conclusive, but in at least a few areas, observations do seem to indicate a change in natural neutron flux during times of seismic activity.
Assuming this data does prove to be valid and is accepted (which it has not as of yet) an increase in background neutron activity does not imply that there is some kind of powerful or exotic nuclear reaction going on. There are much more simple and grounded explanations. It could be that certain quakes create stresses that allow radioactive gas, such as radon, to shift and come closer to the surface, resulting in more neutrons generated by photo-neutron reactions.
In all cases, the increase in neutron levels that may (or may not) be associated with earthquakes are tiny. They are small enough that they would not even be measurable without very sensitive instruments and large detection areas. This is orders of magnitude less than the neutron flux which is required to produce significant changes in a material, including the production of carbon-14.
If earthquakes did produce such large neutron fluxes (which they don’t):
- It would be difficult for it to have gone unnoticed, as there would be dramatic effects, like materials suddenly becoming radioactive due to neutron activation.
- Even relatively low-sensitivity neutron detectors, such as those around nuclear power plants or which are used for environmental monitoring would be pegged by earthquakes.
- Significant quantities of short-lived radioactive materials, such as tritium would be found in the environment, much larger than what has been observed and levels would be especially high in seismically active areas.
- Large earthquakes would routinely result in numerous cases of radiation poisoning. The kind of neutron flux necessary to produce large amounts of carbon-14 or cause major chemical changes in a piece of cloth would almost certainly result in fatalities.
- Carbon-14 dating would be so badly skewed by seismic activity it could end up being useless in areas where quakes are common. This is not the case. It has been used on artifacts in areas like Japan, where earthquakes are common, and it has proven accurate, being verified by historic records.
So what could possibly be the source of such a massive flux of neutrons? According to Carpinteri , it’s a “piezonuclear reaction.” Allegedly, materials can produce nuclear reactions as the result of physical shock, such as could happen to rock during an earthquake. This is analogous to the piezoelectric effect, where materials produce electricity as the result of being compressed.
The problem with this is that piezonuclear effects of this kind violate well-established scientific knowledge on the nature of matter. Indeed, research into piezonuclear fission (or fusion, it seems that both have been proposed) is regarded as extremely fringe-science. It is analogous to claims of cold fusion, if not, even less plausible.
It has, however, managed to achieve a cult-like following, especially in Italy, where the claim is made that it could be a source of limitless energy from nuclear reactions that produce neither gamma radiation nor radioactive materials. As is often the case, proponents have taken to claims that the science of piezonuclear reactions is being suppressed by governments and corporations that fear the implications of cheap, clean energy.
The image from the right comes from the page “New Nuclear,” which advocates peizonuclear reactions as a new and revolutionary energy source. It shows two of the “researchers” in with samples of the peizonuclear material used in laboratory tests. Interestingly, their laboratory is equipped with a crucifix. Perhaps it’s an Italian thing?
Currently the claims of peizonuclear reactions, and both their ability to predict earthquakes and to create limitless energy seem to be confined to Italy. They have, however, gained enough traction and to persuade the Italian government to invest in researching the phenomena. Plans were thwarted, however, when a large number of scientists informed the government that the entire concept was hogwash.
Via Science Insider:
11 June 2012
Italian Government Slams Brakes on ‘Piezonuclear’ Fission
taly’s research and education minister Francesco Profumo has heeded the call from more than 1000 Italian scientists not to fund research into a controversial and disputed form of nuclear fission. The scientists had signed an online petition urging Profumo to block research on “piezonuclear” reactions at the National Institute of Metrological Research (INRIM). The petitioners say they are concerned that the institute’s president, Alberto Carpinteri, was prioritizing research on the subject and that Profumo was about to place a second proponent of the research on the institute’s scientific council. But Profumo has told ScienceInsider that he changed his mind about the council nomination and that he has “no intention” of funding piezonuclear research without the backing of the scientific community.
Carpinteri, a civil engineer at the Politecnico di Torino in Turin, Italy, has worked on the controversial research with a handful of other Italian scientists since 2008. His collaborators include Fabio Cardone, a physicist at the National Research Council in Rome. The researchers claim that when they crush various kinds of rock, they observe very high emissions of neutrons: 10 times the background level in the case of granite, and 100 times in the case of basalt. They interpret the emissions as being due to the splitting, or fission, of iron atoms in the rock into lighter atoms such as those of aluminum. Unlike the materials used in conventional fission reactions, the crushed rock does not emit ionizing gamma rays or leave behind radioactive waste, the researchers say.
Speaking to ScienceInsider, Carpinteri acknowledged that the group’s conclusion is controversial, as established nuclear physics shows that the compression could not supply the enormous amounts of energy needed to split nuclei. But he argues that several other lines of evidence—including chemical analyses he and his colleagues have carried out on the rock samples before and after compression—indicate that nonstandard fission is indeed taking place. “The classical theory of fission still has a few holes in it,” Carpinteri says.
So it seems Carpinteri has been at the center of this whole “piezonuclear” nonsense for some time. Carpinteri, who has no formal background in nuclear science of physics, has been pushing the idea for several years. Scientists obviously remain skeptical and have urged the government of Italy not to sink money into researching this supposed reaction.
So how does the Shroud of Turin factor into this? It appears to be nothing more than a wild claim intended to gain traction in the press. To this extent, it, unfortunately, seems to have worked.
This entry was posted on Friday, February 21st, 2014 at 8:28 pm and is filed under Bad Science, Conspiracy Theories, Just LAME, Not Even Wrong, religion. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
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