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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Radiocarbon Dating the Shroud of Turin, Take 2

John Jackson, a physics professor at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs and a devout Catholic, has received permission to retest the age and authenticity of the Shroud of Turin. Twenty years ago, a group of scientists determined that the shroud, believed by some to be Christ's burial cloth, was a medieval forgery, but Jackson theorizes that carbon monoxide contamination could have skewed the dating by as many as 1,300 years (which would account for the difference between an origin date in the Middle Ages and one in the time of Jesus). Jackson will now test his theory with the help of a team of scientists from the Oxford University Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit. Given the experiment's complexity and limited funding, it may be months or even years before final results emerge. Meanwhile, the public will have a chance to view the shroud, normally kept under lock and key in a special chamber of inert gases in an Italian cathedral, when it goes on public display at the Vatican in 2010. —Stephen Mapes