Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Turin so-called Shroud: stunningly successful realization of a 14th century thought experiment?

Joseph of Arimathea's linen being used in 'stretcher mode' (NOT as a burial shroud). Might this kind of artistic imagery, fully in keeping with the biblical account, have been the inspiration for a 14th century THOUGHT EXPERIMENT, one that resulted in what today we call the Turin Shroud, erroneously so if taken to mean burial shroud, when in fact one's only entitled to call it a DOUBLY-IMPRINTED BODY ENVELOPE? Did the thought experiment assume or envisage imprinting as having  occurred en route from cross to rock tomb, NOT after the start of burial ritiuals with ointments, spices, winding strips etc and probable REPLACEMENT of Joseph of Arimathea's linen with that of Nicodemus's bandage-like winding strips?
(See my other site for more on the above painting and others of a similar genre that can be googled in image files as "deposition jesus from the cross", hoping the lower case does not give offence)

The further crystallization of ideas re the Turin so-called Shroud begain with this comment which I placed on a recent article by Kevin Kilbane in  Indiana's Fort-Wayne-based News-Sentinel: the article was ostensibly about Barrie M.Schwortz, documenting photographer for the Shroud of Turin Research Project (STURP).

July 11 2015 5:02 am
It's refreshing to see one of STURP's old hands, so to speak, still expressing a degree of caution re the authenticity of the Shroud. Yes, there is still much to be learned. STURP barely scratched the surface as to what the image is (sticky tape samples being the less damaging alternative to 'scratching' the surface!) as distinct from telling us what is not (definitely NOT a painting, despite attempts by some, notably historian Charles Freeman, to resurrect that notion with arguments that simply fail to address or do justice to decades of scientific investigation).

However, this Shroud researcher (3.5 years of testing different models) must take issue with a term employed here and pretty well every where else in the media, namely the description of the linen as a BURIAL shroud. I invite writer Kevin Kilbane and readers to go back to the Gospels and read what is said about Joseph of Arimathea and his arrival at the CROSS, not tomb, with fine linen. There is no indication that the linen was intended for use as a burial shroud (Nicodemus providing the wherewithal). It was merely for discreet and dignified transport from cross to nearby tomb. Once that is appreciated, then it greatly reduces the number of models that need to be tested, especially those that see the Shroud as having captured by some mysterious 'photographic' process the instant of Resurrection. Instead, one can view the image as a contact imprint, left in blood and PERSPIRATION. One then asks whether the Shroud bears a 2000 year old contact imprint, the body image being highly aged yellowed sweat, or a medieval attempt to reproduce what a then 1300 year old sweat imprint (plus blood) might have looked like.

My own preference is for the second of those. The current preferred model is one where a human volunteer is 'painted' from head to toe in a paste of flour and water and then overlaid with linen, gently pressed around contours, to leave a contact imprint. The imprint is then developed chemically, maybe with nitric acid to turn the imprint from white to yellow, or even by simple pressing with a hot iron!

Being an imprint explains the negative image, and even those 'mysterious' 3D properties revealed by modern computer software.

That was followed by this afterthought. Late edit: now highlighted in red, since it's suddenly disappeared from the Sentinel site (over-zealous moderation in response to outside pressure?)

 July 12 2015 9:21 am
Oh, and one has to challenge the bit that reads: "...the cloth, which holds the faint image of a man who has been crucified." (my italics).

In point of fact, the "faint image" is simply that of an adult male, recumbent in his birthday suit. The sepia-coloured body image itself shows no evidence at all as to manner of death, even assumimg he was dead. The evidence for crucifixion, indeed of scourging, rests entirely on those bloodstains. Take away the bloodstains and it's, as I say, simply an otherwise unmarked male exhibiting extreme wardrobe malfunction.

Does it matter? Probably not if one tends towards believing the Shroud is authentic. But it does matter if one tends contrariwise towards the view that the Shroud is a product of medieval creativity and inventiveness. Why? Because it's a lot easier to fabricate, dare one say fake, a seemingly genuine Shroud if one can imprint the base image first off an unblemished body, and then - and only then - add bloodstains in all the correct biblical locations to suggest scourging and crucifixion. That's especially true in the proposed flour paste/hot iron model where one makes the flour imprint first from a healthy live undamaged volunteer, then adds imprinted blood (scourge marks) or trickles of blood (from otherwise invisible sites of blood hemorrhage - crown of thorns, nail and lance wounds etc). Sorry to be so pedantic - but the details matter hugely where that iconic - but maybe too-good-to-be-true body/blood image - is concerned.

Late addition: 16:15  the missing comments have now reappeared! I'll keep this red for a day or two, until absolutely sure that the comments are permanent.

That article and comments thread was then picked up by Dan Porter's shroudstory.com.

In the course of responding to it and comments there, I suddenly realized that the description of the linen in its glass case in Turin as a "shroud", especially as a "burial shroud" was not only an unwarranted assumption, at odds with the biblical account if one assumes (reasonably) that the linen in question is the actual fabric provided by Joseph of Arimathea (or more likely a 14th century proxy thereof, consistent with the radiocarbon dating), but was responsible for much unwarranted speculation re the mechanism by which the blood and body images were acquired.
 All the while, the cogs were turning in this blogger's mind as to what to call the Turin so-called Shroud if it wasn't a burial shroud, but the fabric as it might have looked if taken from the body on arrival at the tomb (to be replaced by Nicodemus's bandage-like winding strips, spices etc) and then "aged" naturally for 13 centuries or so.Thirteen centuries, note, not 20, since what one is doing is a thought experiment that started in a 14th century head: how might Joseph of Arimathea's linen have looked in 1350 if starting with then MODERN 14th century linen, and imprinting the body of a recently-crucified man in blood and sweat BEFORE it and its enveloping linen reached the tomb? Here's the comment with the first shot at new nomenclature right at the end (bolded hre, not the original comment)

Let’s avoid a lot of futile talking at cross purposes. I maintain that the Shroud is the realization of a thought experiment, carried out in the 14th century, freely admitting that requires mhaving to make some qualifying assumptions. That leaves you or anyone else free to question those qualifying assumptions if wishing to undermine and/or demolish my case. What you cannot do is come back with pro-authenticity thinking that makes its own qualifying assumptions and imagine they have any relevance to my medieval thought experiment scenario, with incomplete knowledge of actual historical events, and based instead on an imaginative reconstruction of those events, accurate or otherwise (probably the latter).

But there’s a further sting in the tail, as I have flagged up on the News Sentinel artticle. The description of the Shroud as a “burial” cloth goes beyond the biblical record. It is based on making a number of qualifying assumptions, all presupposing authenticity, and then uses that label “burial cloth” essentially to promote authenticity via the back door, so to speak. That back door is then left open so as to admit further fanciful speculation, requiring still more qualifying assumptions e.g. thatthat the superficial body image could only have been formed by miraculous flash of radiation at the instant of resurrection (overlooking to mention that the image thickness corresponds roughly with that of the primary cell wall of the flax bast fibre).

The desription of the TS as a “burial shroud” is an egregious example of “begging the question”. There is no greater academic sin one can commit, short of downright fraud, than to create and promote lines of argument that “beg the question”, ones that carelessly or shamelessly create a closed loop between preconceptions and conclusions.

I can see why sindonologists want the TS to be seen as a burial shroud, and do NOT want it to be seen as having any transport role from cross to tomb – that creating all kinds of problems re stereo-register or lack thereof between blood and body image. But I’m not buying into any of that. Solid scholarship never begs the question, and scrupulously avoids terminology that eseentially begs the question. There are no legitimate grounds – scientific, historical or biblical – for describing the TS as a “burial” shroud. In fact it’s best not described as a shroud at all. It’s the Lirey/Turin body-imprinted envelope.

Yup. The first thought was to call it the Lirey/Turin body-imprinted envelope (which wins no prizes for impact, far less for tripping easily off the tongue).

That comment became "promoted" as a new posting on Porter's site (in reality demoted if one reads his tetchy response).

However, the splendid  David Goulet (whose book I've always been meaning to read if I can lay my hands on it) put up this appreciative comment on Porter's site a few hours ago:
Colin isn’t saying the Shroud was the actual transport linen, he’s saying a medieval audience may have been convinced it was a transport linen. The medieval audience wouldn’t have known the Jewish burial customs. There is medieval art that shows a linen being used when Jesus is taken from the cross.

If the Shroud is authentic it is not likely a transport linen but a burial linen given the image characteristics. But Colin’s theory is premised on a medieval forgery.


In the course of responding to it, I was able to fine-tune slightly this blogger's preferred description for the TS as a "doubly-imprinted body envelope", which is DIBE when abbreviated as an acronym, just about tolerable I guess.

Here's the comment in question:

Thanks again David. Spot on as ever, which is impressive, given you are correcting the record on views that are not necessarily your own (though i suspect you are one of the few here to see some merit in them). Yes, this blogger sees the doubly-imprinted body envelope (what some choose to call the ‘shroud’ ;-) as having started in someone’s head as a thought experiment, one that was finally realized in an artisan’s workshop. (See a recent posting on this site as to how the body image could have been realized in practice).

Wife-assisted imaging of my crossed hands using simple flour paste/hot iron technology available in the 14th century, seen here prior to 650 years of ageing (the latter being needed for that authentic softer-focus, now-you-see-it-now-you-don't  Turin "Shroud" look).

 As you and I say, the recreated scenario did not have to pass the test of 21st century biblical scholarship. It had only to seem credible to 14th century pilgrims who were drawn to a must-see relic that claimed to be a bigger-and-better version of the Veil of Veronica, both having natural or semi-supernatural images captured as a result of brief contact between body and linen, the Veil’s en route to the cross, the ‘recently discovered’ rival en route from cross to tomb in J of A’s linen used in up-and-over mode, possibly but not necessarily as a makeshift stretcher.
That book of yours, David, re your childhood experiences in a family home that also served also as your father’s undertakers’ business: is it still available? I’d love to read it. You’re someone who clearly shares my love of words.

Those who frequent this investigative site know that each posting generally begins as a work-in-progress, this one being no exception. I'll stop here for now and hit the Publish button, but will probably be tacking some more on the end in a day or two. Expect to see an image from the Hungarian Pray codex (illustrated manuscript, dubiously invoked in support of Shroud 'authenticity' )showing both Joseph of Arimathea's linen and Nicodemus's winding strips in the same picture).

Update: Wed 08:16 London time:

Lo and behold, here it is.


Pray Codex: JA: Joseph of Arimathea's linen , as per Matthew, Mark and Luke, used to transport body from cross to rock tomb, with no suggestion in the biblical account that is was ever used or intended to be used as final burial shroud and N: Nicodemus's linen as winding strips for ritual burial according to Jewish custom, as described in book of John.

Further update: 08:41

This, from Charles Freeman, not this blogger's favourite historian (of the book-writing, not ivory-tower variety), on Dan Porter's site. He begins by quoting my words:

    "Thanks again David. Spot on as ever, which is impressive, given you are correcting the record on views that are not necessarily your own (though i suspect you are one of the few here to see some merit in them). Yes, this blogger sees the doubly-imprinted body envelope (what some choose to call the ‘shroud’ […]"
It had only to seem credible to 14th century pilgrims who were drawn to a must-see relic that claimed to be a bigger-and-better version of the Veil of Veronica’.

The Veil was an impression of the face of Christ when still alive. It was the top papal relic, the subject of enormous crowds when exhibited in St.Peter’s in 1350.

So how do you go bigger and better than that ? Clearly it was a PA disaster if only because no one at the time saw any resemblance to the image of a living Christ (cf. Image of Edessa), and the double image of a dead Christ.

The choice of venue was also a serious mistake- far too out of the way for a serious relic cult. Compare the Shroud of Cadouin which was on a major pilgrim route so you could hardly miss it!

It was also extremely easy to get it suppressed in c.1355. Altogether an enormous flop.

My response?  It can wait. I'm interested in seeing that of others first.


Notre Dame Cathedral Paris, built 1163-1345. That's just the inside. One wonders how the unsophisticated  medieval mind as portrayed by Charles Freeman, so easily confused we're told between one image and another,  pre- verus post-mortem, could have been capable of producing this

Update (10:10):here's the first response to Freeman on Porter's site from "Thomas"

"Well Lirey isn’t THAT far from Paris…and who knows, there could have been a certain ‘mystique’ in venturing into the wilderness to see a relic…I know I for one like exploring off beaten tracks.
Also to what extent did Paris temporarily depopulate in the wake of the Black Death??"

Update: 10:25  Briefly considered re-naming the Turin Shroud in a way that provides greater descriptive detail, i.e. as Doubly imprinted, attenuated, tone-reversed image, body envelope.

Then realised ;-) that some unkind soul would make a new acronym!

Update, 12:00: It didn't take long to find a history educator being highly circumspect about attempts to over-empathize with folk who lived in earlier societies entirely different from one's own (what I pejoratively call archaeo-psychology). Here's just one (my bolding)

"Bruce A. VanSledright (2001) locates historical empathy within the same critical tradition as Lévesque – Ashby and Lee (1987) reading Shemilt; Shemilt reading Collingwood – but is more pessimistic than him or his intellectual forbears about the possibility of empathising with those in the past. For VanSledright, the highest of Ashby and Lee’s five levels of historical empathy is virtually unattainable, and none of Shemilt’s fantasy archetypes are achievable, let alone desirable. The reason is an inescapable presentism: we simply “have no place to stand outside our present bearings from which we could make sense of the past” (p. 58). VanSledright is serious enough to trace this assertion to its logical conclusion – the impossibility of historical empathy."

Yes, best to stick to the facts, and not airily assume one knows better than non-historian layfolk as to what folk in the Middle Ages were really thinking.

Update: 13:15  this has just appeared from "Dcn Andy".

"Perhaps they weren’t ignorant idiots back then. That in no way means they completely understood everything. Architectural marvels in no way correlates to medical scientific understanding as we have it today."

The only kind of empathy one needs where then Turin DIBE is concerned is in asking what would be the first impression made on the viewer, seeing it with his or her own eyes, or hearing it decribed by someone else. Which features would make the greatest impacted. Let's imagine it's hanging verticsally, and one approaches from a distance. Here's my suggested list of key features:

1. It's a double-image of a naked man. The images are life-size. Why would they be life-size if it's just a painting? Maybe it's not a painting.

2. It's the same man, front and back,with a small separation at the head. He has a beard, moustache and longish hair.

3. The image is a fairly uniform yellow-brown, further evidence it's not an ordinary painting.

4. There's what look like bloodstains - a big one in the side and lots of others that are those expected from scourging and CRUCIFIXION. Ah ha.

5.The image is on linen, with an expensive-looking herringbone weave. Ah ha. The double image is because it was used "up-and-over" around the head, which suggests that the images are some kind of imprint left only by those parts of the body that made direct contact with linen.

6. There is indeed  something odd about the image. It has gaps here and there between raised parts of the body. No, it's not a painting. It's definitely an imprint.

7. It's as I thought. It's Jesus, the crucified Jesus. The big patch of blood is from the lance wound., ev So it's not the living Jesus. It is Jesus after he was taken down from the cross.
en though one cannot see the wound itself (why not?)

8. It must be the image left by Jesus on Joseph of Armiathea's linen.  Some of the image is blood, but there's that faint body image as well. Why?

9 .It must be a sweat imprint. It must be the same kind of imprinting process that resulted in the Veil of Veronica when cloth made contactt with just the face of Jesus. But that too was covered in sweat and blood, given he had a crown of thorns and was carrying a heavy cross.

10. It's a post-mortem imprint of Jesus, unlike the Veil of Veronica which was while he was still alive.

11.There is no loin cloth or crown of thorns. That's probably because they were removed before Jesus was placed in the linen.

12. Amazing. I could be looking at a whole body version of the Veil of Veronica, also imprinted in sweat and blood, but one of Jesus in death, after crucifixion, instead of life, when, according to legend,  he stopped next to Veronica on his way to the cross a day or two earlier.

13. This image is not legend. This image fits the biblical account of Joseph of Arimathea being allowed to remove the body from the cross, from which he placed it into fine, clean linen.

14. It may be his burial shroud. or there again, it may not, depending on whetherJesus was washed to remove blood.

15. There are no signs of myrhh, aloes, spices, ointments etc. So it may well be Jesus's imprint on Joseph's linen before being transferred to different linen clothes, supplied by Nicodemus.

16. Are the eyes open or closed? it's hard to tell, but then this is an imprint, not a painting. The eyes sit at the bottom of hollows, so eyes (or eye lids) would not imprint well, if at all.

17.While there's no crown of thorns, there's plenty of blood stains on the hair and forehead that are where thorns would have pierced the skin to cause heavy bleeding. It's not just any crucified man. It's the crucified jesus.

18. Those scourge marks, the lance wound, a nail wound in the palm (or could that be wrist?)  also make it a dead cert that it's Jesus.

19. This not an idealized,prettified image, such as an artist might paint. This is terribly, terribly realistic looking, what with the blood, the nudity, the scourge marks. This isn't a painting. It's the imprint left by the real crucified Jesus BEFORE he rose from the dead.

20. There are no wounds as such in the body image - only bloodstains to indicate the sites of wounds. Why is that?It's becasue the body image is a sweat imprint. Where there's a wound, there's blood but no sweat (or the sweat is masked). That explains the absence of wounds in the body image. It's impossible for the wound itself to be imaged on account of its blood.

Now let's try to reconstruct the thought processes of the entrepreneurial  and opportunist mind that conceived the Turin DIBE (reminder: Doubly Imprinted Body Envelope). The starting point will be the fabled Veil of Veronica.

Here are those "thoughts":

1. The legendary Veil of Veronica attracts thousands and thousands of pilgrims each year. It is the Church's most highly venerated icon. Where the Church goes, the Veronica accompanies it.

2. But the Veronica has no biblical authority whatsover. There is nothing in the Gospels about a woman wiping the brow of Jesus, bearing his cross on the way to Calvary, far less leaving his likeness on that cloth.

3. Why not create a new "relic" by supposing there had been another opportunity for Jesus to leave his image on cloth? Give the populace the thing it craves for- an image, preferably bigger and better, showing what Jesus really looked like.

4. There is an occasion when Jesus made contact with fabric other than his own clothes. In fact there are two, albeit post mortem. The first involves the linen with which Joseph of Arimathea received the body of Jesus from the cross. The second is the linen used by Nicodemus and Joseph at the nearby rock tomb to prepare the body for burial, described in the book of John as winding strips, used to incorporate sweet smelling myrrh, aloes etc etc.
Yes. more to come shortly.

5. Which of those two offers the better opportunity for displaying a captured image? No contest. It has to be Joseph's linen, which was clearly a single large sheet, not a long bandage-like strip for "winding".

6. How might an image of Jesus be captured onto linen, especially if the mechanism were the same or simialr to that which pilgrims take for granted where the Veronica is concerned? Answer: there's a brief contact between skin and linen. There's a faint imprint, in sweat, or blood, or both. Time does the rest to make that image darken and become more recognizable as that of Jesus. Being Jesus, part man, part God, one can invoke the supernatural if necessary if challenged by sceptics claiming the image is "too good to be true".

7.So one finds a way of imprinting the image of a man onto linen, such that it's instantly recognizable as the image that the crucified Jesus might have left on Jospeh of Arimathea's linen.  How does one ensure that it's not dismissed as the image of just anyone who had died and had been wrapped in cloth, even if they too had suffered death by crucifixion?

8. There is a way of signalling instantly to the viewer that a long sheet, representing J of A's linen, was used to receive a DEAD body. That is to show two images, head to head, one of the front of the body, one of the rear, with NONE OF THE SIDES (unlike a painting). In other words, the linen was used in up-and-over mode around the head so as to envelop the entire body. Some confusion with a simple bag-like burial shroud is inevitable,i.e. of the non-winding kind, but that is not without its advantages, even if at odds with the biblical account in the book of John. All that matters is that the image is immediately recognized as that of the crucified Christ.

 9. What if one encounters scepticism that an image of Jesus on Joseph's linen would be single - the rear side only if a body was laid on the sheet? No problem. As above, one says the linen was used in up-and-over mode so as to conceal the entire body from view. The linen would probably be strong enough to allow that up-and-over configuration to be used as a makeshift stretcher, with someone at the front, someone at the back, and maybe at the sides too.

10. Make sure the soles of the feet are well imaged on the dorsal side, but, in contrast,  the tops of the feet are poorly imaged on the frontal side. That helps make the case (if challenged) that the image is not on just any sheet of linen, but on Joseph of Arimathea's linen used in makeshift stretcher mode.

11. To make it clear that those two images are not painted onto the linen by an artist, but are IMPRINTS left on the linen by the highest relief of the body only, they must be created by actual imprinting from a real adult male, naked, smeared or covered with agents that simulate bodily sweat and blood.

12. The double body image must be subtle, not too intense,  as to look like paint or dye, not too faint as to be too indistinct. It has to look like ancient degraded yellowed sweat.

13.The blood is even more problematical. It needs to be red enough to be seen immediately as "blood", but not too red, given that blood goes brown with age.

14.Careful thought needs to be given to the order in which blood (or blood substitute) and "sweat" (or sweat substitute) are applied, either to the individual acting as template, or the imprint on linen. Much depends on the method used to produce the sweat imprint - a simple one step dye-imprinting OR a two stage process in which the body is first imprinted, and the colour then enhanced, e.g. with heat, chemicals or both. The method chosen for the latter must be one that does not destroy the blood imprint, or cause it to flake off.

15. How might whole body, double-imprinting be done in practice? Leaving aside for  a moment the crucial choice of imprinting medium, one might do it as follows.
Instruct the subject to lie on a floor face down. Brush one's imprinting medium thinly over the entire dorsal surface (NOT encroaching on the sides) Then add blood in all the biblically correct places. Then drape the lower half of the linen over the body, and pat the linen gently downwards onto the highest relief.  Then peel the linen away from the subject. One has one's dorsal imprint, with blood UNDER the body imprint.

16. Then  get the subject to lie on his back, with hands crossed over groin, and do the same for the frontal side, coating with imprinting medium, adding blood, draping over the linen, being careful to get the position correct re long axis and head-to-head distance, followed by peeling off as before. One now has one's complete primary blood/body double imprint. It can, if necessary, then be further "developed" at leisure to obtain a more prominent Stage 2 body image, hopefully without too much change to the blood (though a little darkening would not matter, and indeed might add realism).

17. Imprinting medium? Yellow paint? No, it looks like paint. Yellow dye? No, it will quickly soak through the pores of the linen, making a mess on the opposite side. One does not want that. Why not go for something that is finely particulate, that disperses well in water to make a thin paste, that leaves its solid on the side where placed when the water is removed by 'blotting paper' action? It doesn't have to be yellow or brown. It could be white, provided one has a means of making it turn yellow AFTER imprinting. Better still, find a white powder whose dispersion in water has adhesive properties, such that the linen sticks to the skin and body relief immediately when one is pressed against the other. Why not try ....  white flour? Now we're motoring. Correction, cantering.

18. Thinks. How might one get a flour imprint on linen to go yellow or brown, without affecting the linen (though a little darkening, as with that blood earlier, might not be a bad thing if it gave new linen an aged appearance)?  Heat maybe, like putting in an oven and watching closely, removing when one has the desired result? Or simply pressing the imprinted areas with a hot iron? Or maybe adding a chemical that makes flour turn yellow? An acid maybe, or an alkali? Nitric acid? Limewater?
 More to follow.

Update: 16 July

This posting is already too long of course, if seen as merely that - a blog posting. But it's not, of course. As I've said before, it's a old-fashioned millennial type blog, that term being a contraction of 'weblog'. In other words it is a diary, a running account, the only difference being that new additions are going onto the end, not the top (I tried the latter 'reverse chronology' model but it created too many problems re archiving).

I was briefly minded today to create a new posting, addressing some of the criticism voiced on that other site. The latter hoovers up all the new 'Shroud' content often within minutes of its appearance in the blogosphere, whose followers rarely bother to check with the originating site (as judged by my sitemeter) and who use that other site to post comments of variable qualit, never on the source site. They then presumably consider that the end of the matter, having expressed their invariably partisan views.

The question then is: do I need to spend time here (or there) responding to what really is bad netiquette in so many different ways? Reminder: we are not discussing any old Shroud issues. We are discussing new content - mine for example - that has required some thought and in many instances originality, that has also required a decision to 'publish and be damned'.

If there were a simple solution to this problem, dare one say abuse of internet, with a particular site effectively acting as black hole for new content, everything going in, nothing coming back out, then I would surely have discovered it by now. However, that will not stop me experimenting with new approaches, ones that show I'm watching what happens on that other site, am occasionally willing to respond, but not in the way that those folk over there would necessarily approve of.

Let's return to one of those comments, cut-and-pasted earlier, the one from Charles Freeman in response to my link between the 'Shroud' and the earlier Veil of Veronica. The only part I consider worth addressing is highlightied in red.

The Veil was an impression of the face of Christ when still alive. It was the top papal relic, the subject of enormous crowds when exhibited in St.Peter’s in 1350.

So how do you go bigger and better than that ? Clearly it was a PA disaster if only because no one at the time saw any resemblance to the image of a living Christ (cf. Image of Edessa), and the double image of a dead Christ.

The choice of venue was also a serious mistake- far too out of the way for a serious relic cult. Compare the Shroud of Cadouin which was on a major pilgrim route so you could hardly miss it!

It was also extremely easy to get it suppressed in c.1355. Altogether an enormous flop.

This blogger has written numerous postings on the link that WAS made right from the very first appearance of the 'Shroud' in the written historical record, starting in Lirey in approx 1355. They began with a close scrutiny of the Lirey Pilgrim badge, the latter receiving but a fleeting mention in Freeman's 'History Today' article, merely to acknowledge that the Man on the Shroud was entirely naked. But it was the discovery of the Machy mould for a second Lirey badge, assisted by Ian Wilson's invaluable research on its new and distinctive features, totally overlooked or ignored by Freeman, that finally led to this blogger abandoning his original 'scorch hypothesis' for an altogether different one that viewed the 'Shroud' as an attempt to simulate a SWEAT IMPRINT. Not for nothing did I call that a pardigm shift, knowing it would provoke derision, but I stand by that term. The sweat imprint hypothesis is and was a PARADIGM SHIFT. I do not intend to repeat my reasoning here. If folk like Charles Freeman cannot be bothered to read my postings, then so be it. But when they make assertions that show they have not bothered to acquaint themselves with an opponent's thinking, then I shall simply remind them where those thoughts can be found, and refuse to engage with them until they learn what I consider to be standard academic courtesy (which may or may not be on the radar screen of those who write books and magazine articles instead of academic papers or mere blog postings).

Here are screen shots of two consecutive postings in which, at the instant of paradigm shift, this blogger DID make that all important link between the 'Shroud' and the Veronica, asserting that the first known owners of the Lirey Shroud WERE ALSO KEEN TO MAKE THAT SAME ALL-IMPORTANT LINK, at least on the Mark?2 version of the Lirey Pilgrim's badge, arguably as a CRUCIAL AND DEFINING MARKETING PLOY.

From my specialist 'Shroud' site, Feb 15, 2014

followed by:

From the same specialist 'Shroud' site, two days later, Feb 17, 2014.
That's really all I have to say to Charles Freeman, except for this: some of us have spent the best part of 3-4 years, attempting to fit together the pieces of the 'Shroud' jigsaw puzzle - scientific, historical and biblical, to form a coherent and credible whole. Charles Freeman appears not to understand that there is a jigsaw puzzle, or if he does, has contemptuously kicked it aside in his oh-so-condescending magazine piece that tells the world it was 'just another painting' , which conveniently for him has somehow managed to lose ALL chemical traces of its pigment leaving us scientists dottily obsessed and spellbound by a mere 'shadow image' (undefined except, that is, for its curious and unique set of properties - negative but non-photographic image, 3D properties, ultra-superficial, easily detachable, half-tone character, diimide-bleachable, etc etc). Taking a celebrated line from "1066 And All That" I personally would rather be seen as "Right but Repulsive" than "Wrong but Romantic".

Update: I do not understand why Daniel Porter allows troll "anoxie" to use his site for her constant stream of ridicule and spite.

Here's what she posted yesterday, showing her now highly practiced modus opernadi of weaponising one's own words:

"AONU, you should know Colin is never wrong, usually he vanishes and comes back with a “paradigm shift”. 

Next time he’ll explain you why the shroud was not the actual transport linen according to his latest comments on his blog."

One hardly need say that science is not politics. Ideas are not political manifestos that have to be adhered to come hell or high water. Science works by proposing ideas, then testing them. If they fail the test then the idea is modified or abandoned. There is no shame in a scientist using the tried-and-test scientific model. Troll anoxie, who claims to be a chemist, should know that. But who is troll anoxie, hiding behind that pseudonym, leaving us ignorant of her claim to be a working scientist? I see little evidence of an enquiring mind.   Publications? Or is she merely following a superior's instructions?

As for the toxic comment re Joseph of Arimathea's linen, I have made it clear that I see its role in the mind of a medieval forger as allowing a discreet and dignified transport of body from cross to tomb. That is apparent from the three synoptic gospels: the linen was produced at the cross, not the tomb. Whether it was used as a makeshift stretcher, as suggested in so much medieval art, is of secondary concern. The key thing is that it was seen in a 'thought experiment' as a opportunity to envelop an unwashed body taken down from a cross. Why should I retreat from any of those suggestions that are an attempt to read the mind of a forger seeking a pretext from scripture to create a rival to the Veil of Veronica?

Yes, I abandoned the scorch hypothesis and proposed instead that the 'Shroud' body image was a simulated sweat imprint. I was so determined that folk should sit up and take notice that I called it a 'paradigm shift' That was the one and only occasion I used that expression. yet here we have troll anoxie suggesting I bandy it around, or that I am constantly changing my mind. I am not: ideas evolve certainly, but as I say, there has been only the one major switch from one model to another - scorch to sweat. Everything else has been about the details: paradoxically, the latter is by degrees becoming a scorch hypothesis too, albeit by proposed thermal or thermochemical effects on a flour-based imprint as distinct from linen fibres per se. As i say, ideas evolve in the light of new data: it's insulting to see it portrayed as a flighty changing of one's mind, and a demeaning of the scientific method.

Why should one have to waste time fending off what in reality are character attacks that masquerade as something else. Dan Porter should do the decent thing and eject troll anoxie from his site. One shouldn't have to ask. Site owners who rely on others to supply their content should not allow those others be made targets for people with 'issues' that have nothing to do with the advance of knowledge, whether in correct directions or otherwise. I repeat, Dan Porter. Kindly eject troll anoxie from your site.

Update: reminder re the Lirey Pilgrim badge (Cluny Museum):

 The man on the herringbone weave linen is bas relief, note (frontal side only shown here, but dorsal side is bas relief too needless to say).Think of the fiddly meticulous work that required on the part of the mould maker. His material was a softer variety of stone, assuming it was the same as the Machy mould for Lirey badge Mk2. He had to gouge out that stone and then buff the cavities and hollows to get smooth contours. Why would he go to all that trouble if the man on the 'Shroud' was just a 2D painting? Answer:because the message he needed to get across was that one should regard the image on the 'Shroud' as an IMPRINT from a real 3D man, not a mere sketch of painting, and that man was Jesus. If the image was just a painting he could simply have scored an outline on the stone.

Update: Friday 17 July:

See the new posting on my specialist "Shroud" site, posted this morning;.


Thursday, July 2, 2015

Message to wikipedia: do stop taking yourself so seriously.

Wikipedia - that creeping control freak of the informationsphere, now attempting to throttle unfolding news stories, like the Taiwan water park disaster

 This posting is prompted by this new wiki page. It relates to that dreadful mishap in the Taiwan water park, involving the coloured powder that caught fire.

Odd title: it refers to the Taiwan Water Park fireball tragedy (June 2015). But it's wikipedia's over-strict editing policies that are mainly in the frame.

First things first. Let's overlook the fact that no one has called Taiwan "Formosa" for decades. But that description you see above ("Formosa Fun Park") may be the one that the local owners have coined, maybe with a hint of nostalgia, so we'll say no more on that score.

Next: what you see above is NOT the main entry, which I linked to in the preceding post. It's what one sees when one hits the Talk tab.  Why did I hit it? Because I wanted to flag up my suspicion that it may not have been the potentially flammable/explosive nature of the starch-based powder per se, at least in the first instance, but the means used to propel it into the crowd, which I correctly reckoned to have used gas. (Current reports are now confirming that a gas was indeed used in the stage effects equipment, although described improbably as CO2). But look at the injunction circled in red, top left. It reads "This is not a forum for general discussion of the article's subject". Why not? Are we supposed to believe everything we (and the article's author)  read in the initial newspaper reports? What if one suspects it's wrong, or merely incomplete? How else is one supposed to question the veracity of the 'authoritative'  wiki article, except by going to the Talk (or Edit) facility.

But it gets worse - much worse. Look at the second red circle, inside of which on reads "No original research".  Yup, I kid thee not:

And you thought a wiki entry was state-of-the-art?


Having had a brush with wiki editors not so long ago on a different matter (the Turin Shroud) I know only too well what's being said there - that wikipedia is for dissemination of ideas that have previously been published via authoritative  information outlets (often taken to mean peer-reviewed publications, even if that's not always the case). But how can there be authoritative information on so recent a tragedy? There can't.What's more, the preliminary information being published via wiki may confer a spurious degree of accuracy and reliability - all the more reason for needing a channel of communication by which obvious errors can be corrected (obviously) but additionally new interpretations can be flagged up. How can one do that when something seemingly as informal as a "Talk"  facility is closed off to those of us who wish to "discuss" the topic?

I say wikipedia has got it wrong - seriously wrong.  Leaving aside the  hopelessly Byzantine complexity of the site generally, doing its utmost to shut out newcomers from the editing/upgrading process with dense impenetrable jargon,  it makes a fundamental error. It imagines itself to be a finished product 'in the making' so to speak, one that with a few more tweaks here and there is an internet equivalent of a traditional encyclopaedia. Nonsense. Why do folk make a beeline for wikipedia? Merely because its free? I doubt it. Most folk go to wiki for an initial  taster of an unfamiliar topic, not because it's the last word on the subject, but simply the first or maybe second word -  preliminary, provisional,  one that can serve as a basis for further research, maybe one's own.  They like its provisonal feel. As such, "original research" (or OR to give it the wiki abbreviation, as if somehow unfit for spelling in full) is not a dirty word. The process of validating new knowledge is not one that is achieved in a single step, certainly not peer-review (more a means of filtering off shoddy data and conclusions than guaranteeing top quality).

Wikipedia needs to get down off its pedestal, and start opening itself up to newcomers and outsiders via the Talk and Edit functions, removing the 'barbed wire' with which it presently surrounds itself. Wikipedia needs to see itself for what it is - or should be - a uniquely internet-based and thus interactive source of information on topics where opinion is never allowed to gel into unquestionable dogma or shielded from criticism by the walls of an impenetrable fortress.  Wikipedia should be edgy - not stodgy.

Update: Friday 3rd July

Posted to the Telegraph in response to:

Big Rip will end the Universe, scientists claim

(Sorry about the crazy gaps/white space  that now appear at intervals. They come with cut-and-paste from news sites etc. They keep returning, even after editing in html (Yes. I delete long strings of line break commands that are respnsible for the gaps, only for those same breaks to be reinserted later by some mysterious default system that frankly should not be operating - this being MY site goddamit).)

It's going to be tough on chemistry teachers during the initial phase of atom expansion, as shells of negative valence electrons become further and further away from the positive nucleus. Electropositive elements, like the alkali metals, will find it easier to shed their outer valence electrons, so lithium will start to behave like sodium, sodium like potassium etc. Conversely, electronegative elements like the halogens will find it harder to attract electrons, so super-reactive fluorine will start to behave like tamer chlorine, etc. It's going to be tough on exam boards, having to keep changing the answers while the questions stay the same, but they can maybe get advice from economics teachers on how to cope. Alternatively, chemistry labs could be relocated to the fringes of black holes, where gravitational forces compress atoms back to their proper 21st century size, restoring standard textbook behaviour, for a few aeons at any rate..

followed by a light-hearted response to this oh-so-predictable comment:

Lots of those who support AGW tell me that when I query why they believe we should all go green; that's after they've called me a denier of course.<

There'll be less and less to worry about re AGW. The planet and everything else will be cooling with expansion of the universe needless to say. But micro-expansion of space and CO2 molecules will help divert attention. The carbon-oxygen bonds will weaken so that present infrared absorption shifts to longer wavelengths. There will then be government decrees on maximum listening to radio or watching TV or use of mobile phones (back-radiation causing our microwave ovens to overcook). Water molecules will be easier to split by photolysis, so green plants will have a field day, photosynthesizing like crazy, gobbling up the last of the CO2. There will then have to be brainstorming on what to poke down dormant volcanoes to make them erupt and replenish CO2 (some still being needed for fire extinguishers and keeping a head on keg beer). That's supposing anyone will be able to cut their way through the jungle and other biomass to reach base camp.
Update: Friday 3 July, 11:00

These two comments have appeared under a posting entitled  "Is Colin Berry Onto Something?" (laced with the site-owners customary admonition re my manner of dealing with  pseudo-scientific claptrap and those who have indulged in it, eminent Shroud so-called investigators included, whether living or dead, STURP or non-STURP).


I'm not sure whether the latest model can be described as a "scorch" hypothesis or not. I guess it's a scorch if one used a hot iron to bring up the colour in that flour imprint. But there are other ways of doing that which don't require heat, e.g. nitric acid, or which use a combination of heat and chemistry (hot limewater). It's probably better to avoid the term "scorch" for the new model anyway, since the aim is to selectively colour the flour imprint, leaving the linen unaffected (at least outside the imprint area - though what happens under the imprint at the flour/linen interface is anyone's guess).

I  call it the Blue Peter model, since it's one that can be done at home quite safely by a 10 year old, assuming they can be trusted not to spill flour paste on the carpet, and to exercise care with using a very hot electric iron (max setting). It's that simple, and for that reason is hardly likely to be suitable for the peer-reviewed scientific literature. It was conceived in real-time on the internet, and thus it will probably remains so, unless or until somebody in the MSM considers it has some mileage.

Thanks btw to the mysterious "reader" in Palo Alto who considers my model to be getting less attention than it deserves (my thoughts too, but then I would say that, wouldn't I?). There's a simple explanation, reader of Palo Alto, already alluded to. My model is TOO simple. It insults the collective intelligence and mindset of mainstream Shroudology!

Which brings me back to wikipedia and its vexatious straitjacket policies re editing and updating of existing articles. There are such things as overarching ideas, ones that need no report to a peer-reviewed journal. The world has a right to be informed of new ideas, even if the supporting data have yet to be garnered. Wikipedia is in fact suppressing ideas.Wikipedia has set its face against the world of ideas.

Update (13:30)  reminder for anyone new to the site who hasn't the faintest clue what I'm talking about (above)  re the Turin Shroud. It's to do with how the image (faint body image that is, not blood) was made, and why. Let's start with why. The 'scorch hypothesis' attracted initially because it accounted for the tan colour, the STURP belief that it was chemically-altered linen fibres with no known additives, the negative image, the 3D-properties even, assuming a hot metal statue or bas relief had been used to imprint a scorch image. But why - why a scorch? There was a rationale, albeit a long shot, based on the claim that the first known owner of the Shroud, one Geoffroi de Charny, had an uncle with an almost identical name, Geoffroi de Charney, who along with Jacques de Molay was one of several Knights Templar burned (or rather slow-roasted) at the stake in Paris in 1314. Maybe the 'scorched-on' image was an artistic attempt to depict the cruel, sadistic manner of those Templar executions. It was even possible to find clues on the Lirey Pilgrim's badge to death by roasting rather than crucifixion (assuming one was looking for them, needless to say ;-)

All that changed when we learned of the discovery of a mould for a second Lirey badge with an inset face, clearly of Jesus, above the word SUAIRE (face cloth), suggesting that the Shroud image too was an imprint, and one moreover in sweat (and blood) that matched the then celebrated Veil of Veronica.
So there was now an entirely new rationale for the Shroud image that needed to be considered, namely that it was fabricated to represent a SWEAT (and blood) imprint. How might that have been achieved, using medieval technology?

Abandon the scorch hypothesis, especially as it needs hot metal. Develop a new model, one that created an imprint from a real person that can be claimed to have been formed from sweat - 1300 years earlier - such that it would be yellowed with age, but still faint.

The obvious option is to find a faint yellow dye, to imprint with that dye in one go. But that would look like a crude imprint. People would see that for what it was immediately. A dye would not have been well-received by the 20th/21st century scientific eye either - tending to soak through the weave to give a prominent reverse-side image too (which the Shroud lacks). STURP found no evidence for dyes, pigments etc.

However, there is a more nuanced alternative to a one-step dye procedure if one adheres to the logic of (a) initial imprinting with sweat and (b) subsequent yellowing with age.

One selects a pale-coloured substitute (proxy?) for sweat which one paints evenly all over one's real-life human subject. One then imprints onto linen. One releases one's subject to go and get showered. One lets that imprint dry, and then, at leisure,  one does something that selectively colours up the imprint to make it a yellow or yellow/brown colour, WITHOUT significantly altering the colour of the non-imprinted areas of the linen.

Back in April I tried a number of different proxies for sweat - egg white, milk, starch etc etc, but there was one that was found serendipitously to be superior to the others by virtue of its adhesive properties. allowing linen to stick to human skin, conforming to fine details of relief, like bunched fingers etc. It was ordinary plain white flour, stirred with cold water to make a thin paste. It dried reasonably quickly to leave an almost invisible imprint, while the subject could easily wash off the non-toxic flour.

All that remained was to find a means of making that flour imprint turn from off-white to yellow (or yellow-brown).   Nitric acid was tested, first as vapour, then solution. Both worked well. Then limewater was tested briefly, and seemed to work satisfactorily if hot. Then simple pressing with a very hot iron was tried, and that worked too.

Thus we have a simple two-stage imprinting process that works with a real person - 'paint' from head to toe with flour paste, imprint onto linen, then develop chemically to convert one or more flour components using either chemical OR thermal treatments, OR a combination of both.

In fact, things didn't happen as described above, i.e. as a short simple logical pathway. I wish they had. The pathway went round the houses. Here briefly is how we got from A to B via Z, Y,X, W etc.

Joe Accetta published a paper for his St.Louis (2014) presentation, proposing that the TS image had been obtained by woodblock printing using the kind of oak gall or iron/oak gall inks that were available in the 14th century. Whilst I was a little sceptical on account of the risk, indeed likelihood, of reverse-side coloration,  he had suggested that gum arabic had been used to increase ink viscosity. There was a mention too of the additional possibility of a mordanting action which assists with attachment of dye to fibre. I had been wondering if sulphuric acid might play a role in image formation , given a hint in the 1981 STURP summary and in the work of Luigi Garlaschelli, quoting Joe Nickell also.  Hugh Farey too had mentioned acids at one point.  But what was the source of acid? Might it have been there without folk knowing it? Possibly so, if alum had been used as mordant, because it hydrolyses to form sulphuric acid. So  I set up experiments using tannins from pomegranate rind as dyes with added alum mordants, but saw no obvious acid etching of the linen. That was followed by tests with sulphuric acid alone at a range of high concentrations. But there was only faint coloration of linen, even at the highest concentration tested.

That was the cue to try another strong  mineral acid , namely  HNO3 (nitric acid).  That produced a much better discoloration of linen. But why? By what chemical mechanism? Oxidation of carbohydrates was the obvious one, but there was another to consider, namely nitration of proteins via the so-called xanthoproteic reaction. If there was enough surface protein in linen to account for the discoloration by nitration alone,  then what would be the effect of supplementing the intrinsic proteins of flax fibres in linen with more from outside? What protein sources could be used to coat the linen? Milk? Egg white? Gelatin? White flour paste? It was then a small step to adopt a different approach. Instead of coating all the linen, why not use the protein and/or carbohydrate source as imprinting medium, and then use nitric acid to develop the colour.  That way, one gets a yellow image against a much paler linen background, even if the latter is slightly altered by the chemical developer. As I say, a somewhat roundabout route.

Why bother with the chemical reasoning? Why not simply try this or that recipe, working one's way systematically across the likely medieval pantry shelf? Answer: fine if one gets lucky quickly. But supposing one does not? Chances are one would lose interest quickly and abandon the project. The advantage of the systematic chemical approach is that it usually throws up something interesting along the way to keep one interested. One is far more likely to stick at it when following a methodical scientific pathway than if simply taking shots in the dark.

Update: Friday, June 3

Have just googled (taiwan water park fireball).
Page 1 of returns :

The wiki article - the one I'm not allowed to discuss, even under the Talk Tab -  is near the top of the returns. My blog posting, suggesting that a flammable gas (butane?) had been used to propel the powder into the crowd is directly underneath. (See inside my yellow box).  How crazy is that - I'm not allowed to flag up the flammable gas idea on the wiki page, despite there being a sizeable number of visits to my posting? What do I have to do? Get it published in Nature? Get it published in a tabloid newspaper?  Write a pdf for academia.edu that looks for all the world like a peer-reviewed paper, but has probably had token scrutiny only?
Update Saturday

Imagine for a moment that I had accompanied my 'Blue Peter'  (paste, press 'n' iron) model of the Shroud  with this photograph:

Imagine I had said that what you see above is the gold standard that all other models have to aim at.

What, you may ask? That discoloration on a piece of linen? Where's the image? Where's the negative tone reversal? Where's the 3D properties?

Where indeed? Yet in a galaxy far, far away, one called Shroudology, that photograph was presented just yesterday as the model that I and others have to aim for. It was produced by blitzing linen with a laser beam radiating in the ultraviolet region of the spectrum. Lasers are man-made, needless to say. There are no grounds for thinking that the laser effect exists anywhere else in the Universe. Even if it did, what we see (or rather faintly discern) in the photograph is not an image, any more than a patch of sunburned  or suntanned skin is an "image". As such it is totally irrelevant in  any discussion on modelling the Shroud IMAGE. What we see is in fact an egregious example of what I stated earlier to be my chief bugbear as a retired researcher browsing the newspapers and internet - PSEUDO-SCIENCE! What we see above is a misapplication of technology, one that still postures in the MSM as cutting edge science. Shame on Italy's ENEA for allowing this intelligence-insulting nonsense to continue under its banner and patronage.

Update Sunday

I tried using the "Talk" tab on that wiki coverage of the Taiwan fireball. Here's a link.

Immediately I was given all the folderol about "No Original Research" (unless previously published elsewhere, and no, my  blog site does not count as an authoritative source). So newspaper reporting IS regarded as an authoritative source, and treated as such, until an investigator has taken the trouble to  write a formal paper and get it published somewhere that wiki regards as 'authoritative'.

If that is wiki's position, my message is simple. Butt out of current affairs, wiki. You are doing a HUGE disservice to the internet and wider society, posturing as the fount of all reliable knowledge when, as often as not, you are accepting uncritically what happens to be in yesterday's or last week's newspaper, and allowing it to go unquestioned.

I personally will cease using wikipedia from now on. I've seen enough. I wish to have nothing more to do with that snobbish, pompous, narcissistic,  pseudo-professional operation

Further reading: here's a rather curious report, not because the event may have been Gay Pride-sponsored (with attempts in the Taiwanese media  to suppress that suggestion) but on account of the new chemistry being proposed. It was rainbow-coloured glitter we are told, based on metallic coatings and powders like magnesium, with no mention of the starch powder reporting. That seems highly improbable to me. I have personally ignited suspensions of a metal powder (aluminium) in air. One gets a sudden intense white flash, not the sustained orange/red conflagration one sees in the video clips.

Tomorrow I will respond to the latest putdown from a nameless wikipedia editor. For now, I am keeping to my new resolution of ignoring wikipedia entries when doing research. A  few minutes ago  I needed to look up the history of Kenyan independence in relation to the Mau Mau uprising. It was for a comment I have just posted to Jeremy Warner in the Telegraph re the hounding and asset-stripping of BP in the US courts, aided in part by anti-British rhetoric that has come from that country's Head of State (see below). I ignored the wiki entry at the top of the list, and went for something else instead, and how refreshing that was indeed.

My comment:

Obama’s vote-seeking has half destroyed BP


ColinB 31 minutes ago 
I suppose it's just possible that a Conservative PM has all of a sudden become lazy and complacent about reaffirming our commitment to NATO (minimum 2% GDP for Defence). I suppose it's just possible that a Conservative PM should unwisely seem to make light of a crude and ungraceful threat made by the incumbent US President just a week or two ago to downgrade the UK's status in NATO, stating that he'll have to wait till the Autumn Defence Review to see if the 2% is maintained or not.
Or maybe there are things we don't know, like this UK PM being fed up to the back teeth with the incumbent US President, one who imagines that GDP grows on trees, that he and his country's piranha legal system can use an industrial mishap to bleed one of our major companies white.
Whatsoever ye sow, so shall ye reap, Mr.Obama. You trashed what little remained of the special relationship with what JW here politely refers to as your populism, your grubbing for votes in the darkest corners of the American psyche.The latter with its limited grasp of history still likes to pigeon-hole Britain as an ex-colonialist oppressor, despite the example set by Australia, Canada, India and dare one say Kenya too, the latter after a nasty and some might say needless armed terrorist uprising about which you and your forebears know plenty, one that almost certainly delayed independence.
Methinks Mr.Cameron is deliberately keeping you waiting for the 'right answer' re our defence budget, Mr.Obama, and rightly so. You are indeed 'anti-British', and you are cynically using your country's merciless legal system out of vindictive spite.
You are not a statesman, Mr.Obama. You are a temporary obstacle to achieving a proper response by the liberal West to current security threats. The sooner your term of office expires, the greater and more audible will be the collective sigh of relief this side of the Atlantic (and possibly your side too, at least in the more enlightened sections of your long-suffering country's electorate).

Update Monday July 7th

Note the new picture at the top of this posting, added just a few minutes ago. Naturally I did a little checking of facts to remind myself that I was not being too harsh on Nurse Ratched from "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest", and by implication (or insinuation) wikipedia either. This time I purposely declined the wiki fix that seems to head 99% of my Google searches, and looked further down the list. Oh boy. What a liberating and refreshing experience. To think that all these years I have gradually allowed myself to become enslaved to that bunch of faceless control freaks who give their services to wikipedia for free, we are told (WHY???????). Now I know how they operate, with their simplistic mission statements, their attempts to demean those who have spotted flaws in their carefully scripted responses, my contempt for these people grows by the day, nay the hour. How dare they attempt to take ownership of an unfolding  news story, one in which scarcely any hard facts are in the public domain. Left to wiki, those facts could remain buried forever, given its stifling of attempts to question and analyse what really happened.

Update 6 July 15:30

Here's the magisterial putdown I received yesterday from the faceless wiki editor. Note the robotic and dismissive deployment of one of its no-no categories ("Fringe Theories").

Please read the core Wikipedia policies linked above. I'm not going to debate them with you, as they are not negotiable. The four tildes (~~~~) are responsible for the signature and timestamp that appeared after your first post above. Please always sign your comments on Talk pages. General Ization Talk 19:11, 5 July 2015 (UTC)
Also, please see Fringe theories which I, having taken the time to read your blog entry (the one about the explosion, not the one about Wikipedia), believe certainly applies in this case. General Ization Talk 19:15, 5 July 2015 (UTC)
 Here was my exasperated reply, penned just a few minutes ago (exasperated because this is about a current affairs topic, not an overview of the Big Bang or Evolution theory):

So, wikipedia is prepared to take the first reports of a current affairs topic, obtained from news agencies, official spokesmen etc, and use those to compose the wiki entry. Anyone who attempts to challenge the official record, those 'first impressions', barely a day or two old, is told they are proposing "fringe theories" no matter who they are, no matter their track record for getting to the truth via systematic lines of questioning. This is quite frankly appalling. Wikipedia has no right to preempt discussion and comment on current affairs, essentially crystallizing the first reports as if certain truth.
You have made an enemy wikipedia. I intend to expose your shoddy methods, your contempt for scholarship, or even plain detective work by those of us with enquiring or critical minds.
I have compared you on my latest blog posting with Nurse Ratched from "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's nest".
Colin Berry (talk) 13:12, 6 July 2015 (UTC)
Or, given the verbose and convoluted barbed wire with which your surround and protect yourself, I'll repeat that again in the reverse order, with the four tildes first and my name second. (talk) 13:12, 6 July 2015 (UTC)
Colin Berry

Update: Tuesday 7 July

Have just come across this through googling for updates on the Taiwan disaster:


Quote: Last weekend at a water park in Taiwan, a mysterious substance caused a massive fireball to ignite and consume the stage, resulting in the death of one person and the injuries of 500. While many celebrities took to Weibo to send their messages of hope, JJ teamed up with Taiwanese singer and guitarist Wing to compose a beautiful three minute ballad called ‘I Pray For You’ to give encouragement and strength to those affected in the explosion
At last - someone out there who still has an open and enquiring mind, one that recognizes that the fireball did not match the description of a dust 'explosion'. As such there can be no justification whatsoever for wikipedia or anyone else to go attaching that label pending the findings of an official enquiry. 
Does wikiepdia not realize the inconsistency and self-contradiction of its 'No Discuss/No Research policy? How does it think the first reports originated? Do journalists not do some quick research where breaking news stories are concerned. Most do, so what they write is "research" (of variable quality) which wikipedia writers use to create a new article. So they have used "research" but from what generally is a journalist with a deadline to meet, and unlikely therefore to be "authoritative". What does wiki do? It goes and puts those first impressions onto the internet, blocking any attempt to question or correct the record, except to their own inner circle of faceless editors, operating behind their pseudonyms, erecting ludicrously complex and arcane barriers to anyone who wished to intrude on their magic circle.
Here's an item that appeared on the BBC, one where a small sample of wiki's people's army  of unpaid editors were interviewed.  Sure, they seem a pleasant enough bunch of people.
But, the big but.  What credentials or qualifications do each of those nine self-selected interviewees bring to the job? Why do they do what they do, without any visibility or financial reward? Would it be uncharitable to suggest that the thing that unites them would be a feeling of total anonymity were it not for the wiki editing. 
Here's my advice to each of them: chose a specialist topic you're REALLY interested in and start a blog.

One has to hand it to Jimmy Wales. He has this vast workforce that doesn't cost him a single penny (which doesn't prevent him producing the begging bowl at regular intervals). Discipline? Easy: simply issue an edict saying there's to be no intrusion of new ideas, merely selection and filtering  of what's already in the public domain, and no entering into discussion even under the Talk or Edit tabs.

Methinks there's something rotten in the estate of Wales. It strikes me as being too regimented and robotic, turning its voluntary helpers into apparatchiks. It's frankly weird, dare one say a little dehumanising. I guess it's an occupational hazard of compiling an encyclopaedia with no upper page limit or number of volumes. It's become a human treadmill, one that recruits real people and proceeds to turn them into near-invisible mice, notable mainly for nocturnal activity and sharp incisors.