The Turin Shroud

There was another TV programme last night about the Turin Shroud and investigations into its origins.

I saw a programme about ten or fifteen years ago which concentrated on the carbon 14 dating and the conclusion that it was a mediaeval fake after AD 1300. Then there were questions about this. The piece of cloth used for the test was taken from a corner which had been used many times by human hands for lifting the shroud and the piece was taken from an area of the shroud that was not a part of the original cloth so the sample was probably contaminated by mediaeval DNA or other substances as well as being of a different date. Then someone pointed out that the shroud was exactly the same type of cloth and weave used by Gallileans of the period and a mediaeval faker probably wouldn't have either known this or been able to recreate the correct cloth. Then the face cloth (napkin) was found to have the same blood group, a fairly rare AB, as the shroud and shroud and face cloth markings match up when placed together. How would a mediaeval faker have known this? Coincidence?

This face cloth, the Sudarium of Oviedo, is well attested to since the eighth century and in Spain since the seventh century, so the TV program last night was debating whether the shroud was a fake from this period, or even that both were fakes from the first century AD since documents from this early period show details of a shroud with holes in the same places, so a faker several centuries later would have had to make a careful survey to reproduce them but would he have had such an opportunity?

My preference is that the shroud and the face cloth were fakes from one of the first centuries AD when people would have known how crucifixions were carried out and the procedures for handling the body afterwards.

I have serious doubts that the items could be the real ones. Consider the sequence of events. First Jesus was killed by a Roman soldier piercing his side so that he was dead or dying when taken down from the cross. Lowering the cross to the ground would have taken a few minutes if it was well jammed into a hole. Removing the nails would have taken quite a long time. The TV program yesterday showed a piece of heel bone with a nail though it from a crucifixion in Jerusalem at about the same time. The nail was about six to eight inches long and very thick. Nails would have been hammered in hard so removing them would be difficult. No doubt someone would have to get a hammer and bang the nails sideways many times to loosen them, with possible damage to the body not apparent in the shroud image.

The body was then taken to a tomb and washed. Since Jesus was dead his body wouldn't be bleeding any more and blood would have been washed off. However, the shroud and face cloth both have stains from live and dead blood (there is a difference, apparently). I don't see how wrapping the body in a shroud can cause bleeding with "live" blood unless Jesus was still alive several hours after being stabbed by the soldier.

This raises the old question of whether Jesus was in fact dead. He spent a long time on the cross and would hardly have been fit enough to get up and walk about for the next forty days talking to people.

See wikipedia Shroud of Turin for further details.


Internet Explorer 8 beta 2 on Vista

I think Microsoft have released this beta for public testing a little too soon. It doesn't work well in several respects and I'm surprised that their staff haven't been able to fix some simple things before allowing the public to use it.

Page anchors don't work. A common one is a link at the bottom of a page which says "top" so that after you have scrolled down a long page you can get back to the page top. Another which doesn't work is the link on one page to a set position on another page; this just takes you to the top of the new page at present.

Scrollbar colors (only possible to edit with CSS in a simple way in IE) do not work yet but it is intended that all Microsoft CSS Vendor Extensions like scrollbar colors will require a prefix -ms- in future like -ms-scrollbar-face-color.

The current staus is not shown, so it's not reached Editor's Draft or Working Draft yet. The IEBlog at the present time does say "However, in order to ease the transition, the non-prefixed versions of properties that existed in Internet Explorer 7, though considered deprecated, will continue to function in Internet Explorer 8."

So it seems that we will still need the non-prefixed scrollbar code for IE6 and IE7 and (optionally) the prefixed code to be correct in IE8.

"Please note that if Internet Explorer 8 users are viewing your site in Compatibility View, they will see your page exactly as it would have been rendered in Internet Explorer 7, and in that case the prefix is neither needed nor acknowledged by the parser" but this is irrelevant to how IE6 and IE7 operate.

I assume that other browsers will ignore the whole code with a -ms- prefix.

It gets more confusing with overflow-x and overflow-y which are deprecated at present but will be CSS3 properties. They are supported by other browsers, but when the -ms- prefix is added I'm not sure whether other browsers and previous versions of IE will operate the code, so it may be necessary to have overflow-x for other browsers and previous versions of IE which will be deprecated until CSS3 and also -ms-overflow-x for IE8 which will not be deprecated. The comments on the IEBlog are also confused about this.

Opacity doesn't work. This is acknowledged by Microsoft as they are trying to make IE8 the most standards compliant browser and opacity and filters are not in CSS2 standards although the future CSS3 is expected to include opacity. This wrecks pages for many people and Opacity does work in IE6, IE7 and the latest versions of Firefox, Opera and Safari although you usually need two or more coding methods to get it to work in all of them. I hope that they bend the rules a bit to incorporate this before the final release.

Pure CSS dropdown menus (no javascript or ActiveX) work very well in all other browsers (although IE6 needs a behavior file which does need ActiveX) but not in IE8. The mouse shows the dropdown menu but loses contact when moving across to it and the sub-levels then disappear. This is sometimes a problem if margins, padding or borders on the boxes cause a space which the mouse will not span, but having got it all working in other browsers it should work in IE8; a lot of waving around of the mouse will usually find a way to connect eventually. I tried negative margins to place the dropdown level slightly over the top level boxes but that didn't work. There must be a fundamental change in the "engine" coding here. I also notice that sometimes the menu top level only partly shows until you refresh the page.

Edit 12/05/09 - IE8 RTM (final version Released To Market) has cured most of the problems I noted above but there are still problems with complicated websites like e-commerce sites, online banking, YouTube, Yahoo Mail and even Hotmail. The security coding is more strict and the Internet Settings like ActiveX need fine tuning sometimes when a page redirects you through various other urls and even through different domains during the course of your online purchase or online banking.


Google Chrome beta

Compared with IE8 beta 2 this browser works well. It does seem to load pages quicker than other browsers.

It operates JavaScript by default as it seems to be more totally integrated in the browser operation. I find that I often want JavaScript disabled as it causes irritating effects on some web pages and can make them slower to load. For instance, some forums use JavaScript to double underline and color green certain words and form them into links leading to adverts or other information. So the word "pension" in a post might lead to general inforation about pensions which is out of context with what the person writing the post intended. Some videos or Flash effects can be irritating and stopped when JavaScript is disabled.

Chrome's main feature is the "sandboxing" of windows so that if malware gets into one window and crashes the window or starts malware of some sort like sending data to another person or computer, it shouldn't affect the other windows and Chrome's basic operation. The problem should be stopped when the window is closed. I haven't seen any reports whether this works yet but it will be a very useful feature.

I've noticed that every time I open Google Chrome it makes my computer busy for at least five minutes, I can hear the hard drive working non-stop and the noise stops soon after I close Chrome.

Today I opened Task Manager and Netlimiter and opened only Chrome and watched.

Task Manager showed a steady 2% to 5% CPU with occasional bursts up to 26%.

Netlimiter showed nothing most of the time but at about one minute intervals Chrome was receiving and sending data for about one second.

It varied, 147KBps down and 1KBps up
600KBps down and 14KBps up
374KBps down and 5KBps up
2KBps down and 0.36KBps up

so it's sending data Home. I just hope it is only performance data and not my private data! Edit: it's just updating the program.


MP's expenses

There's been a lot of fuss about MPs abusing their expenses. They have been claiming allowances for second homes while not using them, or claiming allowances for a relative's home that they hardly ever use, claiming allowances for one second home to improve it then claiming expenses on another second home after selling the previous one, avoiding capital gains tax on second homes when they sell them, claiming for furniture, TV sets, gardening, repairs to tennis courts, maintenance of swimming pools and so on.

The media and general public have criticised all parties and all party leaders have apologised and promised to change the auditing by having it done by an independent body.

However, it does seem that MPs have not broken any rules, they have just milked the system and had expenses approved despite the rules saying that expenses should be appropriate or something to that effect. Everyone thinks that they have broken the spirit of the rules.

In my view the most important issue is to stop MPs profiting from second homes. Sometimes the criticism has gone too far, it's not the expenses themselves that are out of order, but the fact that MPs use the expenses to enrich themselves.

Consider an MP living in one town with a constituency a hundred miles away and both towns being one hundred miles from London. The MP has to stay somewhere in the constituency and in London. A hotel room would not be convenient as the MP would need to store clothes and files, would need a computer and a TV to watch the news and political programmes, etc. A rented or purchased flat is obviously needed and the MP needs to maintain it and also a garden if it has one, have the home cleaned, pay Council Tax and services and so on, but at the end of the MP's tenure the property should be handed on to the next MP or sold for the profit of the State and all equipment handed to a State depot for issue to another MP.

The biggest abuse seems to be where an MP designates a relative's or partner's house or even one of his own properties as a second home and then uses expenses to improve it. The property may not be anywhere near his constituency and he may only use it very occasionally. In this case expenses should be restricted to items purely for House of Commons use.