Sunday, June 8, 2014

My theory that the radiocarbon dating laboratories were duped by a computer hacker #4

Copyright ©, Stephen E. Jones[1]

This is part #4 of my series, "My theory that the radiocarbon dating laboratories were duped by a computer hacker." The previous posts

[Above (enlarge): Schematic of the Accelerator Mass Spectrometry (AMS) radiocarbon dating system at the University of Arizona in 2005[2]. Note the "Control Console" at bottom left next to the photograph of a computer. While this is presumably not the actual system used to radiocarbon date the Shroud of Turin in 1988[3], both then and now it is the control console computer which actually reports a sample's radiocarbon date.]

in this series were part #1, part #2 and part #3.

[Index #1] [#2] [#3][#5][#6][#7][#8][#9][#10(1)][#10(2)][#10(3)][#10(4)][#10(5)][#10(6)][#10(7)][#10(8)][#10(9)][#10(10)].]

In those previous posts we saw:

  1. the evidence is overwhelming that the Shroud of Turin is authentic;
  2. therefore, the 1988 radiocarbon dating of the Shroud as "1260-1390" was wrong;
  3. the midpoint of 1260-1390 is 1325 ±65 years, which `just happens' to be ~25-30 years before the Shroud first appeared in undisputed history at Lirey, France in the 1350s;
  4. the improbability that the 1st century Shroud has a radiocarbon date of 1290-1360 is "astronomical", about "a thousand trillion," indeed "totally impossible."
  5. Pro-authenticist explanations of how the 1st century Shroud samples had a radiocarbon date of 1325 ±65 years (e.g. contamination by newer carbon, invisible repairs by 15th century cotton, neutron flux caused by Christ's resurrection) all fail;
  6. therefore the radiocarbon date of 1290-1360 must be the result of fraud.
  7. However conventional fraud allegations such as sample switching are implausible.
  8. But there is a type of fraud that was prevalent in the 1980s, particularly at universities, with their poor computer and physical security, namely computer hacking.
  9. And there is evidence (but not yet proof) that Arizona radiocarbon laboratory physicist Timothy W. Linick (1946-4 June 1989)[4] was allegedly the hacker, aided by with self-confessed KGB hacker Karl Koch (1965–3 June 1989[but see 17May15])[5], who both died by suspected suicide with a day of each other and possibly on the same day.

4. ARIZONA LABORATORY'S DATING OF THE SHROUD TO "AD 1350" Here again is the eyewitness account of Rochester University physicist Prof. Harry Gove (1922-2009), of Arizona Laboratory's very first (of all the laboratories) radiocarbon dating of the Shroud on 6 May 1988:

The first sample run was OX1. Then followed one of the controls. Each run consisted of a 10 second measurement of the carbon-13 current and a 50 second measurement of the carbon-14 counts. This is repeated nine more times and an average carbon-14/carbon-13 ratio calculated. All this was under computer control and the calculations produced by the computer were displayed on a cathode ray screen. The age of the control sample could have been calculated on a small pocket calculator but was not-everyone was waiting for the next sample-the Shroud of Turin! At 9:50 am 6 May 1988, Arizona time, the first of the ten measurements appeared on the screen. We all waited breathlessly. The ratio was compared with the OX sample and the radiocarbon time scale calibration was applied by Doug Donahue. His face became instantly drawn and pale. At the end of that one minute we knew the age of the Turin Shroud! The next nine numbers confirmed the first. It had taken me eleven years to arrange for a measurement that took only ten minutes to accomplish! Based on these 10 one minute runs, with the calibration correction applied, the year the flax had been harvested that formed its linen threads was 1350 AD-the shroud was only 640 years old! It was certainly not Christ's burial cloth but dated from the time its historic record began" (my emphasis)[6].

Note the following from Prof. Gove's account above:

• "All this was under computer control and the calculations produced by the computer were displayed on a cathode ray screen" (my emphasis). There was a computer (the AMS control console computer) between the Accelerator Mass Spectrometer which actually carbon-dated the Shroud sample and the humans in the laboratory reading the computer's screen. A computer is controlled by a program and a program is hackable. A hacker with access to the AMS control console computer(s) could run a program which would intercept the output of the radiocarbon dating program, en route to the control console computer's screen and replace the Shroud's first (or early because of contamination) century date with "1350 AD," for this very first run of carbon dating of the Shroud. Thereafter for Arizona and the other two laboratories the hacker's program could replace the Shroud's date with random dates within limits which, after calibration, displayed dates clustered around 1325 ± 65. Finally the hacker's program could automatically order its own deletion when the dating of the Shroud would have been completed (e.g. after 3 months), leaving no trace of its temorary existence[7].

• "The first sample run was OX1. Then followed one of the controls. ... the next sample-the Shroud of Turin" As with the "OX1" (oxalic acid 1-see below) sample, each sample, including each of the two Shroud samples (see below) evidently had a unique identifier, since those reading the results on the computer screen knew which sample each was from. Prof. Gove had earlier explained what the order of the samples dated were:

"Eight of the ten samples in this first historic load were OX1, OX2, blank, two shroud and three controls. I did not note what the remaining two were. There may have been some duplicate controls and/or another OX. The OX1 and OX2 are standard samples made from oxalic acid ..."[8].

Table 1 in the 1989 Nature paper[9] lists what appears to be the unique identifiers of each of the three laboratories' Shroud ("Sample 1") and the other samples:

[Above (click to enlarge): Table 1 in the 1989 Nature paper showing the Shroud's unique identifying code as the first letter of each laboratories' name, a dot, and then the numeral "1". A note below the table explained:

"* The identification code for each measurement shows, in order, the laboratory, sample, measurement run, pretreatment and any replication involved" [10].

This code was allocated to each laboratory (e.g. A1, O1, Z1 for Arizona, Oxford and Zurich's Shroud samples)

[Left: Oxford radiocarbon laboratories' Shroud sample identification code "O1," one of their control samples "O3," and their stainless steel cylinders and wax seal[11].]

respectively ) by the British Museum's Prof. Michael Tite who gave them their Shroud and control samples with those identification codes:

"The representatives from the three laboratories left with their nine steel cylinders and a letter. The one to Zurich, for instance, read: The containers labelled Z1, Z2, and Z3 to be delivered to representatives of ETH contain one sample of cloth taken in our presence from the Shroud of Turin at 9.45am, 21 April 1988, and two control samples from one or both of the following cloths supplied by the British Museum: First-century cloth; eleventh century. The identity of the samples put in the individual containers has been recorded by a special notebook that will be kept confidential until the measurements have been made. ETH is short for the Federal Institute of Technology. The Oxford samples were labelled O1, O2 and O3 and the Arizona samples T1, T2 and T3. The letter was signed by the Archbishop and Michael Tite"[12].
If this code had been agreed to by all three laboratories, which seems highly likely, given that Prof. Tite needed to collate the results[13], then a hacker would be able to include in his program a simple test of which sample was from the Shroud, so that it could run automatically at all three laboratories.

• "the year the flax had been harvested ... was 1350 AD ... the time its historic record began"

Note how uncritical Gove, and indeed all present were, even by those who believed the Shroud was authentic, like Doug Donahue, a Roman Catholic[14]:

"I remember Donahue saying that he did not care what results the other two laboratories got, this was the shroud's age. Although he was clearly disappointed in the result, he was justifiably confident that his AMS laboratory had produced the answer to the shroud's age" (my emphasis)[15].
Gove even wrote approvingly of Donahue, the co-founder of Arizona laboratory[16], changing his mind and believing on the basis of one dating, at one laboratory, that "this was the shroud's age!

But they all chose to ignore that, according to Prof. Jacques Evin, then Director of the Radiocarbon Laboratory at the University of Lyon, it is not possible for radiocarbon dating to be "closer than a span of 200 years"[17] (see part #1).

And because they were all nuclear physicists[18] they did not realise how unlikely that date of 1350 was. Because the Shroud is known to have existed from at least 1355[19]

[Right (click to enlarge): Pilgrim's badge from the Shroud's historical debut at Lirey, France in c.1355[20].]

the flax would have to have been harvested in 1350, spun into fibre, woven into linen, and the image imprinted on the Shroud, all within 5 years!

And it would mean that the Arizona laboratory's pretreatment of their Shroud sample would have had to have been perfect, removing all non-original carbon. But that is unlikely because in the 1532 fire at least, some younger carbon would probably have been absorbed "into the flax fibres' very lumen and molecular structure" and "have become part of the chemistry of the flax fibres themselves and would be impossible to remove ... by surface actants and ultrasonic cleaning" (my emphasis):

"In the wake of all the rumours of a mediaeval date, the Society's textile specialist John Tyrer has been making some enquiries whether, in the wake of the 1532 fire, it may have been impossible for the carbon dating laboratories' pre-treatment procedures to have removed all potentially misleading forms of contamination. This is his report:

`In 1532 the Shroud was being kept inside a silver casket stored in the Sainte Chapelle, Chambéry, when a fire nearly destroyed the building. The intense heat melted a corner of the casket, scorching the folded linen within, and producing the now familiar scorch marks on the Shroud. Since silver melts only at 960 degrees centigrade, the heat inside the casket must have been intense. In these circumstances moisture in the Shroud would turn to steam, probably at superheat, trapped in the folds and layers of the Shroud. Any contaminants on the cloth would be dissolved by the steam and forced not only into the weave and yarn, but also into the flax fibres' very lumen and molecular structure. The Shroud is now known to contain all kinds of contaminants, including microscopical fungi and insect debris as well as pollens and dust of all kinds. Furthermore the carbon test sampling appears to have been taken from an area where the Shroud would be handled and held during displays by hands soiled with perspiration and grease. Under the circumstances, contaminants would have become part of the chemistry of the flax fibres themselves and would be impossible to remove satisfactorily by surface actants and ultrasonic cleaning. More drastic treatments to destroy the contaminants would inevitably damage the flax fibres themselves.'"[21].

And being nuclear physicists they would probably be unaware that in 1350 the Shroud was was owned by the most honourable knight in France, Geoffrey I de Charny (c. 1300-1356):

"Geoffrey I was well-recorded historically, and virtually entirely favourably, as the very epitome of Chaucer's `verray, parfit gentil knyght'. He wore on his epaulettes the motto `honour conquers all'. He wrote deeply religious poetry ... He was chosen by France's king to carry into battle his country's most sacred banner, the Oriflamme of St Denis, an honour accorded only to the very worthiest of individuals. Not least, he died a hero, defending his king with his own body in the closing moments of the battle of Poitiers, and fourteen years after his death he was duly accorded a hero's tomb, at royal expense, in the Paris Church of the Celestines. It is extremely difficult to understand how such a man would have lent his name, still less the authority of his armorial shield, to the sort of fraud claimed by Pierre d'Arcis ["the dean of a certain collegiate church ... of Lirey, falsely and deceitfully, being consumed with the passion of avarice ... procured for his church a certain cloth, cunningly painted"[22].

So the 1350 date must be wrong. But if a hacker wanted to break down pro-authenticity psychological resistance then 1350 was the date he would have used for that very first dating.

• That the Shroud first appeared in undisputed history in the 1350s was well-known Indeed the 1989 Nature paper stated that the Shroud "was first displayed at Lirey in France in the 1350s" (my emphasis):

"The Shroud of Turin, which many people believe was used to wrap Christ's body, bears detailed front and back images of a man who appears to have suffered whipping and crucifixion. It was first displayed at Lirey in France in the 1350s ..."[23]

Leading Shroud sceptic Denis Dutton (1944-2010) had in 1986 publicly "predicted that if the cloth ever were to be carbon-dated it would come in at A.D. 1335, plus or minus 30 years" (my emphasis):

"In 1986, reviewing Ian Wilson's Evidence of the Shroud for the Christchurch Press, I predicted that if the cloth ever were to be carbon-dated it would come in at A.D. 1335, plus or minus 30 years. When the Shroud was finally dated and the results came back from the participating laboratories, the collated result was A.D. 1325, plus or minus 65 years. I was ten years off"[24]
Another leading Shroud sceptic, microscopist Walter McCrone (1916-2002) predicted of the Shroud in 1981 that "the image ... was painted on the cloth .. about 1355" (my emphasis):
"My conclusions published in October 1980-March 1981 (McCrone and Skirius 1980) (McCrone 1981) were as follows: `Our work now supports the two Bishops and it seems reasonable that the image, now visible, was painted on the cloth shortly before the first exhibition, or about 1355. Only a carbon-dating test can now resolve the question of authenticity of the 'Shroud' of Turin. A date significantly later than the first century would be conclusive evidence the `Shroud' is not genuine. A date placing the linen cloth in the first century, though not conclusive in proving the cloth to be the Shroud of Christ, would, no doubt, be so accepted by nearly everyone.'"[25].

So a hacker would know what date to `give' the Shroud for maximum effect: shortly before 1335-1355! And, as we shall see, there is evidence that Linick was at least familiar with McCrone's prediction.

• When Gove found out the number of laboratories had been cut fron 7 to 3 he wanted to cancel the dating Before the 1988 dating, Gove, the co-inventor of the Accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) method[26] used to date the Shroud, when he found out that the number of laboratories had been cut by Turin from seven to three, and the number of methods from two to one, he was so worried that at least one of the three laboratories would produce an outlier date, making it impossible to determine which (if any) laboratory's date was correct, that he drafted a letter to the Pope, calling on him "not to date the Shroud at all":

"The draft letter to the pope read as follows: ... The procedure that the Cardinal of Turin is suggesting is bound to produce a result that will be questioned in strictly scientific terms by many scientists around the world who will be very skeptical of the arbitrarily small statistical basis when it is well known that a better procedure was recommended. Since there is great world expectation for the date of the Shroud, the publicity resulting from a scientifically dubious result will do great harm to the Church. ... Rather than following an ill advised procedure that will not generate a reliable date but will rather give rise to world controversy, we suggest that it would be better not to date the Shroud at all'" (my emphasis)[27].

Gove had good reason to be worried. Two years years before the Shroud tests, in 1986, three British radiocarbon laboratories, including Oxford, dated Lindow man a range of 800 years apart:

"Although radiocarbon-dating laboratory scientists are notoriously chary of admitting it, carbon dating can produce results with errors considerably wider than their quoted margins, a fact well known to archaeologists. A prime example of this was Lindow Man, the well-preserved body of a sacrificial victim unearthed from a peatbog in Cheshire, England in 1984. Samples from this body were sent to three different British radiocarbon-dating laboratories: Harwell, which dated him to around the fifth century AD; Oxford, which dated him to around the first century AD, and the British Museum, which dated him to the third century BC. Although each laboratory claimed its dating to be accurate to within a hundred years, in actuality their datings varied between each other by as much as 800 years, the discrepancy remaining unresolved to this day, with each institution insisting that its estimate is the most accurate" (my emphasis)[28].

Then a year after the Shroud's dating, in 1989, an intercomparison test of 38 radiocarbon dating laboratories (with Oxford abstaining), only 7 of the 38 dated the artifacts of known date correctly, with the AMS laboratories being among the furthest out:

"Nor are such examples isolated and anecdotal. In the same year of 1989 Britain's Science and Engineering Research Council commissioned a special inter-comparison trial for radiocarbon-dating laboratories in which altogether thirty-eight different laboratories took part, collectively representing both the conventional Libby method and the accelerator mass spectrometer one. Each laboratory was given artefacts of dates known to the organisers, but unknown to them. The shock finding of this totally scientific trial was that the laboratories' actual margins of error were on average two or three times greater than those that they quoted. Of the thirty-eight who participated, only seven produced results that the organisers of the trial considered totally satisfactory, with the laboratories using the new accelerator mass spectrometer technique faring particularly badly. It is also a matter of record that the Oxford laboratory, inevitably the highest profile of any, actually declined to take part. Yet this is the method that we are supposed to believe `conclusively' proved the Shroud a mediaeval fake" (my emphasis)[29].

After the 1988 tests, when the three AMS laboratories claimed to have reached agreement that the Shroud was dated 1260-1390, Gove admitted that before the tests he thought the "new [AMS] procedures seemed to me to be fraught with peril" but he was relieved that the "three laboratories performed their measurements flawlessly":

"My main concern was that this highly public application of the AMS technique, which I had played a major role in inventing and developing, be successful. The new procedures seemed to me to be fraught with peril. If one of the three laboratories obtained an outlier result as one did in the British Museum inter-laboratory comparisons [that was in 1985 when Zurich laboratory was 1000 years out] it would be impossible statistically to identify it and the three measurements would all have to be included in the average thereby producing an incorrect result. The inclusion of the other laboratories would have obviated this potential risk. As it turned out my fears were not realized. The three laboratories performed their measurements flawlessly and the final result is a public triumph for AMS if not for the `true believers'" (my emphasis)[30].

Continued in part #5.

1. This post is copyright. No one may copy from this post or any of my posts on this my The Shroud of Turin blog without them first asking and receiving my written permission. Except that I grant permission, without having to ask me, for anyone to copy the title and one paragraph only (including one associated graphic) of any of my posts, provided that if they repost it on the Internet a link to my post from which it came is included. See my post of May 8, 2014. [return]
2. "Basic Principles of AMS," NSF-Arizona AMS Facility, University of Arizona, 2005. [return]
3. Damon, P.E., et al., 1989, "Radiocarbon Dating of the Shroud of Turin," Nature, Vol. 337, 16 February, pp.611-615, p.611. [return]
4. Jull, A.J.T. & Suess, H.E. , 1989, "Timothy W. Linick," Radiocarbon, Vol 31, No 2. [return]
5. "WikiFreaks, Pt. 4 `The Nerds Who Played With Fire'," The Psychedelic Dungeon, 15 September 2010. [return]
6. Gove, H.E., 1996, "Relic, Icon or Hoax?: Carbon Dating the Turin Shroud," Institute of Physics Publishing: Bristol UK, p.264. [return]
7. Stoll, C., 1989, "The Cuckoo's Egg Tracking a Spy through the Maze of Computer Espionage," Pan: London, reprinted, 1991, p.9. [return]
8. Gove, 1996, p.263. [return]
9. Damon, 1989, p.612. [return]
10. Damon, 1989, p.611. [return]
11. de Castella, T., 2010, "Unshrouding the science of the Shroud," BBC News, 12 April. [return]
12, Hoare, R., 1995, "The Turin Shroud Is Genuine: The Irrefutable Evidence," [1984], Souvenir Press: London, p.11. [return]
13. Wilson, I., 1986, "Trondheim Radiocarbon Dating Conference," British Society for the Turin Shroud Newsletter, No. 13, April, pp.5-6. [return]
14. Wilson, I., 1998, "The Blood and the Shroud: New Evidence that the World's Most Sacred Relic is Real," Simon & Schuster: New York NY, p.188. [return]
15. Gove, 1996, p.264. [return]
16. "Accelerator Mass Spectrometer Group: Our Team: Douglas J. Donahue," NSF-Arizona AMS Laboratory, 17 August 2004. [return]
17. Evin, J., 1988, "In anticipation of carbon 14 dating of the Shroud of Turin," Shroud Spectrum International, No. 27, June. [return]
18. Wilson, I., 1990, "Recent Publications," BSTS Newsletter, No. 26, September/October, p.18; Wilson, I., 1991, "From Professor Harry Gove," BSTS Newsletter, No. 27, December 1990/January 1991, p.14. [return]
19. Wilson, I., 2010, "The Shroud: The 2000-Year-Old Mystery Solved," Bantam Press: London, pp.221-222. [return]
20. Latendresse, M., 2012, "A Souvenir from Lirey," [return]
21. Wilson, I., 1988, "So How Could the Carbon Dating Be Wrong?," BSTS Newsletter, No. 20, October, pp.10-12. [return]
22. Wilson, I., 1991, "Holy Faces, Secret Places: The Quest for Jesus' True Likeness," Doubleday: London, pp.21,14. [return]
23. Damon, 1989, p.611. [return]
24. Dutton, D., 1984, "Requiem for the Shroud of Turin," Michigan Quarterly Review 23, pp.243-255. [return]
25. McCrone, W.C., 1999, "Judgment Day for the Shroud of Turin," Prometheus Books: Amherst NY, p.138. [return]
26. Wilson, 1998, p.230. [return]
27. Gove, 1996, pp.218-219. [return]
28. Wilson, 1998, p.192. [return]
29. Wilson, 1998, p.193. [return]
30. Gove, H.E., 1989, "Letter To The Editor: The Turin Shroud," Archaeometry, Vol. 31, No. 2, August, pp.235-237, p.237. [return]

Posted 8 June 2014. Updated 18 September 2023.


Nabber said...

Not to mention the One Million Pound award to Hall and Tite, which stunk to high heaven. Think of the ramifications if they had been aware of the impending award, before the samples were even tagged...

Stephen E. Jones said...


>Not to mention the One Million Pound award to Hall and Tite, which stunk to high heaven.

It wasn't an "award," but Hall was able to raise £1M in donations to fund an Oxford Chair, based on his then largely personally funded "laboratory's 'success' in its work on the Shroud":

"Hall ... from his founding of the laboratory in 1953, through to 1988, when at 64 he was looking to retirement, ... had funded the venture largely through his own personal private wealth, made possible by a substantial inheritance. ... When it came to the famous '1260-1390!' press announcement of the radiocarbon dating result, he was substantially more upbeat, hence his now often-quoted and brutally simplistic remark: 'There was a multi-million-pound business in making forgeries during the fourteenth century. Someone just got a bit of linen, faked it up and flogged it.' He was quite unabashed in using his status as a trustee of the British Museum to give a public lecture, hosted by the British Museum Society, for further ramming home this message ... Nor did he shy from exploiting his laboratory's 'success' in its work on the Shroud in order to raise £1 million pounds to found the Edward Hall Chair in Archaeological Science, a post shortly after taken up by the British Museum's Dr. Michael Tite. This directly secured the laboratory's future." (Wilson, I., 2001, "Obituary: Professor Edward Hall, CBE, FBA," BSTS Newsletter, No. 54, November, p.59).

See above that Hall was also a trustee of the British Museum, and so was Tite's boss.

Based on Table 2 in the 1989 Nature paper, Oxford's result was a statistical outlier (which was Prof. Harry Gove's worst fear with the number of labs reduced from 7 to 3 and the methods from 2 to 1), and Tite should have returned a finding of "failed".

But because Hall was Tite's boss on the British Museum's Board of Trustees, Tite wasn't going to do that. Not if he wanted Hall's job when he retired, which he got!

>Think of the ramifications if they had been aware of the impending award, before the samples were even tagged...

It wasn't an award (see above). And Hall would have been aware that if his laboratory achieved 'success' in dating the Shroud as medieval, then he would be able to raise the needed £1M in donations to "found the Edward Hall Chair in Archaeological Science, a post shortly after taken up by the British Museum's Dr. Michael Tite"!

Stephen E. Jones
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