The Shroud of Turin and Technoscience
by FATHER DWIGHT LONGENECKER
Our train was speeding up the Italian peninsula at 100-plus miles an hour.
Equipped with PowerPoints, flat screens and Wi-Fi, it was the epitome of everything techno-scientific about the modern age.
The clash, therefore, with our vacation destination pushed the irony as fast and as far as the train itself, for we were going to venerate the Shroud of Turin.
We found our hotel, and over dinner with a young fellow pilgrim, we discussed the mystery of the shroud. I had researched the purported burial cloth of Christ for many years and continue to be intrigued at how every new techno-scientific discovery adds a new dimension to its mystery.
The shroud lay virtually unknown for 1,900 years and would have been dismissed as a grubby medieval forgery if it hadn’t been for the advances of modern technoscience.
The shroud’s first encounter with the technology of the modern age was when it was first photographed by Secondo Pia in 1898. Pia was astounded, when he developed his plates, to discover that his photographic negative was actually a positive image of a man’s face. That meant the image on the shroud was, in effect, a photographic negative.
However, it was not just a photographic negative. The unique qualities of the shroud image were confirmed in 1976, when a photograph of the image was put into a VP-8 Image Analyzer — a gadget that transforms the lights and darks in images to three-dimensional forms. An eerie 3-D image of a man’s face emerged — something that the gadget cannot produce from photographs or paintings.
“This spatial data encoded into the image actually eliminates photography and painting as the possible mechanism for its creation and allows us to conclude that the image was formed while the cloth was draped over an actual human body,” according to Barrie Schwortz, an internationally recognized authority on the shroud. “So the VP-8 Image Analyzer not only revealed a very important characteristic of the shroud image, but, historically, it also provided the actual motivation to form the team that would ultimately go and investigate it.”
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