Please note: this is not my major “Shroudie” site. See also this one, more scientific, less argumentative…
I was reviewing some work of the sadly now deceased Dr. Alan D Adler recently, with a highly dubious take on some of his claims. The focus was on that explanation he devised for the “blood” on the Shroud still being bright red, after centuries, the one that has trauma-induced bilirubin forming a complex with trauma-induced methaemoglobin (an oxidised iron(III) form of normal iron(II) haemoglobin , the combination of which is … right, bright red (or so he claimed, on the basis of some shift in the spectrum). But right at the end of that, and other highly improbable scenario, he then said that segregation of serum from red blood cells as consequence of clot retraction and exudation (still more involved theorising) could explain why there is no potassium residue on the linen as might be expected.
Well, that final throwaway comment has been at the back of my mind for days. How can one “lose” an alkali metal ion, unless the Shroud has been to the cleaners, but then one would lose most of the “blood” too. Next thought: why has there been so much attention given to the sophisticated biomolecules of blood – the haemoglobin, the serum albumin and other proteins, the blood group substances – the ones that are hardly likely to survive intact for centuries, providing solid nutrition for microorganisms like bacteria and fungi, and so little given to the markers that will still be there when all the carbon-containing molecules have been converted to CO2? Yup, alkali metal ions like potassium (K+) are non-biodegradable, indeed non-chemically degradable without an atom-smasher to hand.
All of a sudden, the penny dropped. Never mind the potassium for now. WHAT ABOUT THE SODIUM? Blood is salty. It’s loaded with sodium chloride, NaCl, or Na+Cl-. Why have I never seen mentions of sodium in connection with the Shroud and those “blood stains”? Now here’s something curious. Enter… shroud turin blood sodium… into your favourite search engine, and look at the returns. You will find at best a few passing mentions of sodium, but nothing to suggest that it has been systematically investigated as a stable marker for old blood or serum stains. How weird is that?
(ed: this post now tops the list returns!)
But on that first page of returns is a link to the “Silly Beliefs” site, one to which I have contributed a few comments, stating that the “blood” on the Shroud cannot be real because, wait for it, the stains do not have the expected metal ions like potassium, sodium, magnesium etc. Elsewhere I have read that the only metal that might be said to be present in any quantity on the Shroud is calcium – which if unaccompanied by the others could have numerous origins apart from blood. What’s more, those parts of a body that have made direct contact with a Shroud, should be enriched in ions that are prevalent in sweat, an extracellular fluid, notably sodium.
So what’s going on here, or rather NOT been going on? Why has the absence – or at any rate near-absence of sodium – not been reported and commented upon by that group presently assembled in Valencia as we speak, the ones who were given privileged access to the Shroud for a week in 1978, the ones who effectively now operate as an old boy network?
Here’s a few jottings (italics) I made earlier, which I’ll tidy up later, but note the large figure for blood or serum sodium, which dwarfs potassium. Millimoles (mmoles) of sodium can be converted to milligrams of sodium if one wishes, simply by multiplying by 23, or, if wishing to convert to sodium chloride (NaCl), by (23 + 35.5) , i.e. 58.5. The figures in brackets are the respective molar masses of sodium (23) and chlorine (35.5).
Start of jottings (most of it unedited cut-and-paste)
A normal blood sodium level is 135 – 145 milliEquivalents/liter (mEq/L), or in international units, 135 – 145 millimoles/liter (mmol/L).
The normal blood potassium level is 3.5 – 5.0 milliEquivalents/liter (mEq/L), or in international units, 3.5 – 5.0 millimoles/liter (mmol/L).
Serum potassium values range from 3.5 to 5.0 mmol/L while the concentration inside the red blood cell is at least 15 to 20 times this amount.
Normal serum sodium levels are between 135 and 145 mEq/L ie 135 to 145 mmol/litre
That is the same as whole blood level. In other words there is little sodium inside red cells, OR the sodium in red cells is extruded in clotting.
If the blood is real, or all the blood stains are real, there is a simple and straightforward prediction that needs to be confirmed, namely that sodium will be higher in the blood stains that in surrounding areas. That would be true no matter how degraded the blood stain – since sodium is non-volatile . It would only be compromised if the fabric had been washed in some way that removed the soluble sodium while, improbably, leaving visible traces of blood. Splashing with water would disperse sodium, but not remove it.
End of jottings
It’s unlikely that any of Shroudology’s big cheeses will be reading this today, or perhaps ever, given the secret garden they have created for themselves with their endless series of conferences ( I see the present one in Valencia is amazingly billed as the ” First International Congress on the Shroud” would you believe it?)
To those of us no longer look to those Valencia attendees for a truly objective far less sceptical take on the Shroud (most appearing to be in the business of further promoting “an aura of mystery”, then here’s an idea for an experiment which, Vatican and Turin custodians willing, should have been done years ago. (ed: it should cause no visible damage to the Shroud if done carefully).
Get a long narrow strip of absorbent felt, or maybe a synthetic absorbent material, say one cm wide, and the width of the Shroud (approx 1metre), and crimp a three-sided section of aluminium around it to get something that then looks like a car windscreen wiper (with felt instead of rubber). It will be used for dabbing and soaking up metal ions from the Shroud.
Choose a part of the Shroud that is supposed to be heavily blood stained, but not too important from a display point of view. (I would suggest the small of the back on the dorsal side where blood is said to have accumulated from the “spear wound”.
Moisten the entire length of felt with deionised water, and leave a while for the water to distribute evenly. Then press the mounted strip down across the full width of the Shroud, passing across imaged/non-imaged areas. Apply equal pressure across the entire sampling strip. Remove the strip after a minute or so, then detach from its Al holder and leave the felt to dry. Then chop up the felt into small tablet-like sections, say half a cm wide, then analyse each for metal ions, e.g. by emission or atomic absorption spectrophotometry. Then display the data for each metal ion as a profile. Anything that looks like a blood or serum stain on the Shroud should show as a peak for the physiological metals, especially Na+, K+, Mg++, Ca++ etc. Let’s not forget the important counter-ions also – notably chloride (Cl-). As I said earlier, most of the sodium in blood is there as plain common salt (Na+Cl-), i.e. with chloride the major counteranion, although in fresh blood there are others (bicarbonate, carbonate, organic acid anions like lactate etc, but most if not all of these will have probably long disappeared as CO2 etc).
So why is there so little if anything in the Shroud literature on sodium and the other physiological metal ions? Does anyone know? I shall refrain from voicing my deep misgivings raised earlier about “objectivity” while waiting for an answer. Suffice it to say I have had close experience with ‘defensive’ science, know and recognize the mind set, and indeed spent a good many years resisting it, at some cost to promotion prospects, so will not be minded to back off any time soon. Defensive so-called science, combined with cherry picking of the right results, and playing down or holding back the wrong ones, is what presently undermines trust in both science and so-called “scientists”
Update: 15th March 2013: I have been looking back through my older postings to assist with assembling a “pseudoscience” dossier for the benefit of the Royal Society.
Look at my first response to Dr. Kelly Kearse. I was far too polite. Previously I have commended that individual for his clear accounts of ABO blood grouping. But that oh-so- obnoxious put-down of his is a prime example of the very thing I wish to draw to the RS’s attention – scientists who engage in pseudoscience behind a smokescreen of scientific terminology.
Reminder to Dr. Kearse: if needing to characterize something as real blood, its is not enough to confirm the presence of specific markers. One has to confirm the presence of non-specific markers too. Alan D.Adler noted the absence of potassium, which he tried to account for with his serum-exudate hypothesis. But the scanty literature re sodium, the major cation of blood, plasma and serum, suggests that too is largely absent. How can that be accounted for in terms of exudation. given the exudate is serum, or fibrinogen-depleted plasma?
Why have you dodged the question, Dr.Kearse? How do you explain the apparent deficit not just in potassium, one that no one in Shroudology disputes (handy circumstantial evidence for explaining how dried clots can mark linen) but of sodium too?. Please convince me you do not deserve to go on my hit list of Shroudie authenticity-proselytising pseudoscientists, or in your case, ex-(research) scientist.