Friday, March 10, 2017

Another form of fraud - computer hacking: Steps in the development of my radiocarbon dating of the Turin Shroud hacker theory #5

Copyright © Stephen E. Jones[1]

This is part #5, "Another form of fraud - computer hacking," in my "Steps in the development of my radiocarbon dating of the Turin Shroud hacker theory" series. For more information about this series see part #1, "Hacking an explanation & Index." References "[A]", etc., will be to that part of my previous post. Emphases are mine unless otherwise indicated.

[Index] [Previous: Odds "one in a thousand trillion" against the radiocarbon dating! #4] [Next: My first embryonic statement of my hacker theory #6]

Another form of fraud - computer hacking Continuing with tracing the steps in the development of my hacker theory in my early 2014 posts: "Were the radiocarbon dating laboratories duped by a computer hacker? (1)," "(2)" and now "(3)."

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

■ As we saw in part #4, it is easier to believe that a fraud was committed in the radiocarbon dating of the first century or earlier Shroud as "mediaeval ... AD 1260-1390" than to believe that by a "one in a thousand trillion" chance the three radiocarbon dating laboratories `just happened' to converge on that 1325 ±65 years date, which `just happens' to be a mere ~30 years before the Shroud first appeared in the undisputed historical record at Lirey, France in c. 1355[B].

■ But leading Shroud pro-authenticist Ian Wilson knew some of the radiocarbon laboratory leaders and he considers it "as absurd and far-fetched as it is unworthy" that "these men may have `rigged' the radiocarbon dating." Accepting that at face value, there is another form of fraud that does not seem to have occurred to anyone, namely that the laboratories may have been duped by a computer hacker[C]!

■ In June 2007 I read David Sox's "The Shroud Unmasked" (1988) in which he described the results of the very first radiocarbon dating of the Shroud on 6 May 1988 at Arizona laboratory when the date (which Sox didn't give because he wasn't there) of the Shroud's flax appeared on the laboratory's computer screen and indicated that the Shroud age was closer to "1000 years" than "2000 years," which meant the Shroud was not authentic[D].

■ Later in 2007 I read Gove's own eyewitness account, in which he gave the date of the Shroud as "1350 AD":

"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. ... 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 ... I had a bet with Shirley [Brignall] on the shroud's age-she bet 2000 ±100 years old and I bet 1000 ±100 years. Whoever won bought the other a pair of cowboy boots. Although my guess was wrong, it was closer than Shirley's. She bought me the cowboy boots"[E].
But I left out of the Gove's above quote what immediately preceded it, that, "All this was under computer control and the calculations produced by the computer were displayed on a ... screen":
"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"[2]
Which indicates that I had not then fully appreciated the significance of Gove's words, which confirmed that between the AMS system actually dating the Shroud sample and the humans reading the numbers on the screen in the laboratory, was a computer and a computer is controlled by a program and a program is hackable[F]!

■ My original proposal (it was too early to call it a theory) was that "a hacker had logged in to each of the three radiocarbon [dating ] laboratories' AMS machine's computer while the Shroud's test was being run and had substituted the Shroud's actual dates coming from the AMS machine for bogus dates which agreed with the ~1350 date when the Shroud first appeared in the undisputed historical record at Lirey, France"[F]. And "The same presumably happened at the other two laboratories, Zurich and Oxford when they later ran their tests in May and August, respectively"[G].

But this reasonable assumption that the AMS computers would have been online turned out to be wrong, as Arizona's Prof. Jull and Oxford's Prof. Ramsey later stated that their AMS computers had never been online. So I modified my proposal to include that "the hacker, or hackers, would have had to insert a program, or modify the existing program, manually and locally in each of the three laboratories"[I].

■ Based on that wrong assumption that the three laboratories' AMS computers were online, I attempted to deduce whether the hacker was an "insider" or an "outsider":

"The hacker could have been someone inside one of the three laboratories or an outsider. In favour of it being an insider is that the hacker would have to produce an uncalibrated date which would then be calibrated to `1350 AD.' But any one of Arizona University's archeology or geophysics students would know how radiocarbon dating calibration worked and an especially computer literate one could gain access to each of the computer at the end of the accelerated mass spectrometers, not only at Arizona but also its counterparts at Zurich and Oxford laboratories. All three laboratories had AMS systems, presumably with the same hardware and software. And all would have been online, as [Clifford] Stoll [see 23Jan17] explained that all university computers were, and only those in military establishments with the highest need for security were offline[H]."
■ I also wrongly assumed that the hacker would more likely have been someone outside the laboratories because of the lack of sophistication in the "too good to be true" first run "1350" calibrated date:
"In favour of it being an outsider, is that the 1325 +/- 65 years average of the three laboratories' dates for the Shroud is (again) too good to be true. If the hacker was one of the laboratories' radiocarbon dating staff or graduate students he/she would more likely substitute the Shroud's AMS dates with more sophisticated bogus dates, like Gove's `1000 ±100 years', which would still appear to refute the Shroud's first century date, but would not look too good to be true. And an outsider would more likely feel the need to start with the `1350 AD' date and then vary that date slightly on successive runs to avoid anyone becoming suspicious"[J].
But I latter realised that, "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"[08Jun14]. I also overlooked that the hacker "would have needed to create a climate of expectation that the Shroud was medieval, so his program's combined average 1325 ±65 calibrated date of the Shroud across the three laboratories would be unquestioned" and Linick did that by leaking to the media, through Sox, that Arizona's first date was "1350"[31Mar15].

■ Although I was wrong about the AMS computers being online, that early assumption enabled me to make the connection with the German hacker ring, whose member Markus Hess, Stoll had detected:

"The hacker whom Stoll detected, Markus Hess, was actually a German, living in Germany, and dialing in to a pre-Internet network in the USA, from where he could hop from one university and military network to another, due to their lax security in the 1980s"[K]
to which the alleged secondary hacker, Karl Koch (whom I would later first mention in my post of 31Mar14) belonged.

■ Hess was "a freelance spy who sold any secret information he discovered to the KGB"[L], from which I made the connection, which in my next post I will call, "My first embryonic statement of my hacker theory," that "the atheistic Soviet regime of the 1980s ... to discredit ... Christianity," was behind the 1988 hacking of the Shroud's radiocarbon dating:

"So it would not be surprising if the atheistic Soviet regime of the 1980s would see it as a legitimate target to discredit the Shroud, and through that Christianity, by one its agents hacking into each of the three radiocarbon dating laboratories' computers, and replacing the actual radiocarbon dates of the Shroud that the laboratories' accelerated mass spectrometers were determining, with bogus dates which when calibrated would cluster around 1325 +/- 65 years"[M]
■ At that early stage I could not see how I could provide any further evidence to answer my question, "Were the radiocarbon dating laboratories duped by a computer hacker?" So I did not call my question a "theory" but merely a "proposal":
"I have presented this proposal as a question, `Were the radiocarbon dating laboratories duped by a computer hacker?' because in the nature of the case, barring a belated confession, my proposal is unlikely ever to be confirmed as correct, even if it is correct. The hacker would be unlikely to admit it because he would be prosecuted ... for breaking into government computers, as Hess was. And the laboratories would be unlikely to admit they had been duped by a hacker, even if they realised they had been. Whatever evidence there was in the laboratories' computers, the hacker would almost certainly have deleted it, and even if he didn't, it is most unlikely that it would still exist in the laboratories' 1988 computers"[N].
■ However, so as not to finish on that pessimistic note, I concluded with de Wesselow's point:
"... in the final analysis it is the Shroud anti-authenticists' problem to find a explanation for what went wrong with their carbon dating of the first-century Shroud to the 13th-14th centuries. As Thomas de Wesselow pointed out, we Shroud pro-authenticists don't need to find an explanation of what went wrong with the 1988 radiocarbon date of the Shroud. We can just dismiss it out of hand as a "'rogue' radiocarbon date" as archaeologists routinely do when a radiocarbon date is contradicted by the majority of the other evidence."[O]
Besides, as we shall see, my pessimism was unjustified as I was later to find, unexpectedly, a lot of evidence that the 1260-1390 radiocarbon date of the Turin Shroud was the result of a computer hacking!

To be continued in part #6 of this series.

1. This post is copyright. Permission is granted to quote from any part of it (but not the whole post), provided it includes a reference citing my name, its subject heading, its date and a hyperlink back to this post. [return]
2. Gove, H.E., 1996, "Relic, Icon or Hoax?: Carbon Dating the Turin Shroud," Institute of Physics Publishing: Bristol UK, p.264. [return]

Posted: 10 March 2017. Updated: 23 March 2017.


Anonymous said...

If the computers were hacked then the scientists who did the testing must have discovered this soon afterwards. How do you explain than none of them ever talked about this? I am also not aware of any of the three laboratories requesting to test the unused sample.

Stephen E. Jones said...


>If the computers were hacked then the scientists who did the testing must have discovered this soon afterwards.

Not necessarily. As I have previously stated, and supported with a quote from Stoll's book, it is possible to write a program that self-destructs after it has done its job.

Hacking was illegal so the alleged hacker, Timothy Linick, would almost certainly have included that provision in his program because he would not want to leave evidence of his crime for a prosecution to use against him.

I have previously stated that after Linick's suicide the laboratory leaders may have suspected that he had hacked Arizona's dating, but they may have had no hard evidence of it. And unless they knew about Karl Koch, which seems unlikely, they would not have been able to understand how he could have hacked Zurich and Oxford's dating.

In which case they would have thought that the 1325 +/- 65 years date of the Shroud was about right anyway. As I pointed out in one of my posts, Gove must have known that Linick was the leaker of Arizona's first "1350" date, but dismissed it as "a guess" because it "corresponds very closely to the shroud's known historic date":

"I must say I wondered about Luckett's date of 1350 because it was the date Donahue announced to me when I was present at the first radiocarbon measurement on the shroud in 6 May 1988. Of course, it also corresponds very closely to the shroud's known historic date. However, I still assumed Luckett had said he got the number from Oxford. When I read that he claimed he got it from one of the other two labs I worried that it might have come from someone who was present at Arizona during the first measurement. However, it did not really matter now since all three labs had submitted their results to the British Museum and so none of them could be influenced by this real or imagined leak. Shirley convinced me that it was, in fact, a guess as Hall had stated. After all, the historic date for the shroud was circa 1353 when de Charny founded the church in Lirey, France purportedly to house the shroud." (Gove, H.E., 1996, "Relic, Icon or Hoax?: Carbon Dating the Turin Shroud," pp.279-280).

>How do you explain than none of them ever talked about this?

See above on lack of evidence. But as I have stated in various posts, I am still hopeful that at least one of the scientists involved in the dating might break ranks and air their suspicions that Linick had hacked Arizona's dating. But the problem then is that he/she and his/her colleagues who also had their suspicions, would have then been involved in a cover-up for the last ~29 years.

Which reminds me that next year, 2018, is the 30th anniversary of the 1988 radiocarbon dating of the Shroud, so I am hopeful that may prompt some inside information about the hacking to come out.

>I am also not aware of any of the three laboratories requesting to test the unused sample.

They don't need to request anyone that they radiocarbon date that unused sample held by Arizona. The Vatican had already approved that part of the sample cut from the Shroud in 1988 be radiocarbon dated. So Arizona could date it anytime, to prove that the 1260-1390 radiocarbon date was approximately correct. That they have not done so is evidence that they now know, or suspect, that it was not correct. See my post of 13Jun14.

Stephen E. Jones
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