Thursday, January 22, 2015

Do mega-doses of Vitamin C risk damaging one's joints? Is finger joint-clicking or cracking an early warning sign?

Late last summer, sciencebod (that's me) on a new country walk tried to extricate himself from a dead end by ploughing his way through some brambles. Much skin on my shins was gashed in the process. Minor abrasions normally heal up quickly, but not the ones incurred all those months ago.

 I was toying with the idea of posting on the subject of  brambles - do they have some kind of toxin that delays wound-healing? Or there again, is it simply a case of advancing age - a slowing down of repair mechanisms?

So I did some reading on age v wound repair. Sure enough, those defensive mechanisms become less efficient as one gets older.  But there were reminders  about nutritional status that are relevant to younger folk too, notably the need for plenty of zinc and Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) in one's diet.

I mulled that over for a week or two, and then remembered something. I'd bought some mega-dose tablets of Vitamin C from a French pharmacist last summer for my experiments with modelling the Turin Shroud (linen becomes easier to scorch if impregnated with lemon juice ).

A French brand of Vitamin C as it happens, but from  looking at the ingredients label there are no grounds for thinking that similar dosage UK-purchased  Vitamin C  -  1000mg per tablet- would  have behaved any differently from what follows.

   Each had a whopping amount of Vitamin C (1000mg which is over 12 times the RDA of Vitamin C in the UK - 80 mg/day). So why not play safe, and take just one or two of those unused Vitamin C tablets, well spaced?

So I took one of them, and a second a few days later. Result - bramble scratches still highly visible, day after day, no instant curative action of Vitamin C. So I put  Vitamin C  right out of my mind - for a while.

Two weeks ago or so, maybe the same time interval approximately after taking the Vit C pills, I felt and heard  a joint crack in my finger, and thought "Hmmm, that's unusual.".

Then it happened again, and again, and it's been happening on and off for the last  few days. That was worrying (my grandmother had crippling arthritis and joint enlargement well before my present age). For days I racked my brain, trying to think what had changed as regards diet or lifestyle that might explain those clicking joints (one just an hour or so before posting this). Was it the re-decorating of rooms over Christmas, with much use of scrapers and paintbrushes?

So one went googling, and the initial results were not promising. Clicking joints can be an early sign of arthritis (rheumatoid? osteo-? sorry can't recall). Go and see your doctor it said if you have clicking joints.

Then, early this morning, a thought dawned. Might it be something to do with those two tablets of Vitamin C, despite having had them at least a couple of weeks ago.

So I went back to Google, and cut to the chase. Were there any reports of mega doses of Vitamin C causing joints to click. I immediately found a report that corroborated my first fears.

Now I know that internet searches can all too often lead to one confirming any old hunch, given the abilility of  Google etc to filter out all but the thing one is specifically looking for, instantly finding needles in haystacks. But in this instance the corroboration looked too good, too specific to be an accident. Vitamin C supplements do indeed affect one's finger joints (at least) causing them to 'click or 'crack''.

Incidentally, the advice on the above site from the resident health expert, along the lines that Vitamin C is good for one in several different ways, so don't worry, strikes me as as somewhat short-sighted,given there's no consideration of dose,  but never mind, let's try and stay constructive.

The question now is this: are clicking joints a sign of joint injury? Might continued consumption of those pills lead to progressive damage - acute arthritis in fact?

The answer right now is that I don't know. But I shall be researching the topic some more, collecting information on the precise role of Vitamin C and joints (it's thought to be due to synthesis of collagen, a component of the cartilage that allows the end of one joint to slide smoothly on another). I may also decide in the interests of science and medicine to take some more of those Vit C pills to see if the symptoms return, but first I must wait until the present clicking stops (assuming hopefully it does).

Does anyone reading this have had symptoms similar to those of mine and the commenter above as a result of taking large supplements of Vitamin C?  There might have been experience of that pre-dating the internet, given that Linus Pauling, Nobel Prize Winner in Chemistry, used to advocate back in the 70s and 80s mega-doses of Vit C as the cure-all for pretty well everything  (I kid thee not). Was there an epidemic of clicking joints - or knock-on effects like arthritis?

Update 23 Jan

Later, I'll add a small section on possible mechanisms for the clicking joints, assuming there to be a cause-and-effect relationship with ascorbic acid. There are two main ones that spring to mind. The first, more obvious, is excessive synthesis of cartilage collagen, or maybe excess formation and accumulation of collagen degradation products later. But let's not forget another  well-known risk of excessive Vitamin C, one that gets a mention on the packaging of my French pills, namely metabolism to oxalic acid. The latter can produce renal stones (calcium oxalate) in the kidneys of susceptible individuals. Maybe it can precipitate out in joints too (reminiscent of uric acid crystallization in gout, where joints as well as kidneys are also a prime target).

Further update 28 Jan

On Sunday last (25 Jan) both my wife and I took a 1g ascorbic acid tablet from the same pack (above). The clicking in my finger joints, mainly right hand resumed within a day or so, with approx. 5 clicks a day, usually after a period of inactivity. Interestingly my wife too is experiencing clicks - and hers too are mainly in the fingers of the right hand. My ankle joints also seem 'clickier' too.

I shall wait till the renewed clicking subsides, which from experience with the first two tablets could take weeks rather than days, and then take another (4th tablet) to see if the cycle resumes.  In the meantime, I repeat my warning: there has to be a big question mark over the safety of mega doses of Vitamin C (10 times or more greater than the recommended daily intkae (80mg in the UK) given what can reasonably be described as a pharmaceutical side-effect, possibly adverse effect, that is not mentioned on the packaging and for which there seems scarcely any recognition. I shall continue to scour the internet for more reports, similar to the one with which I opened this posting.

Further reading: See wiki article on 'Vitamin C megadosage'

Why was the final enzyme on the biosynthesis pathway 'de-selected' in the evolution of primates (and guinea pigs) - see above article - while conserving the initial ones, requiring de-assembly? It can hardly be due to a need to delete all enzymes deemed less than vital.  Had that been the case then the entire sequence would have been deleted. Might there have been some new environmental challenge that was exacerbated by over-production of Vitamin C  (while recognizing the difficulty of finding a factor common to both primate and guinea pigs, while the omnivorous rats and mice retained their capacity to synthesise the vitamin)?

29 Jan

And we read in today's Mail that career women are paying upwards of £500 a session to have a cocktail of vitamins, minerals and even NAD+ (an intracellular redox intermediate) injected intravenously into their veins.

Talk about living dangerously? How many of these people (or the quacks who relieve them of their money) know or care about the efficacy or otherwise of the control mechanisms for each and every component in the cocktail? Homo sapiens?  Homo soppy 'uns more like it.

Further reading:

The mystery of Vitamin C

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Daily Telegraph's total lack of numeracy is an embarrassment and national disgrace.

Here's a screen grab of a headline in today's Telegraph:

The headline reads: "Pound drops as figures reveal 'unsustainable' current account  deficit.

Yes, that deficit is a national disgrace, given it's a Conservative Chancellor who  has failed abysmally at his task of reining it in. But this is not about the failure of our political class to get a grip on events.It's about our media and its failure to handle the most elementary numerical data, providing textbook examples day in, day out, of how NOT to present and interpret statistical data.

So how much has the pound dropped as a consequence of Chancellor Osborne's lax management of the nation's finances? How does it compare with the 50% drop in the value of the Russian rouble against the dollar this last year (yup, 50% no less)? Is it 5%? Or a mere 1%?  Read on, and prepare to be underwhelmed.

Here's the key sentence in the article under that headline:

The sentence (highlighted in my yellow) reads:   "The news sent the pound down to $1.555, having opened at $1.559".

Visual aid?  Just in case the reader is incapable of visualizing a decrease of 4 parts per 1559...  stand by for a truly cretinous graph (with  apologies  to cretins everywhere, most of whom are probably streets ahead in cognitive skills relative to the Telegraph's financial journalists and sub-editors):

Just look at the way that vertical y axis has been expanded, so as to run from 1.555 (minimum) to 1.561 (maximum) thereby magnifying tiny differences in exchange rate, fully within the range of day-to-day variation - being a change of just 0.257%.  I repeat: a mere 0.257%. That's about one quarter of one percent.

Look too at the time scale, running from 22 December (yesterday!) to 23 December (today). What an abortion! What a total travesty of statistics.

Just a one-off? Just a momentary lapse on the part of the Telegraph?  Nope. A more egregious example certainly, but in no way atypical. This kind of mindless treatment of numerical data has been appearing on the Telegraph with ever-more growing frequency over the last year or so.  Why? Are its journalists and sub-editors really so innumerate?  Maybe, maybe not. What seems probable is that any kind of sloppiness is tolerated in the interests of click-bait journalism. That's despite the fact the the Telegraph is now behind a paywall, at least after the first 20 free clicks. That's not all. It's one of those sites that freezes one's laptop for a minute or more while it retrieves data on one's internet activity via its cookies. Shoddy and disreputable. They do it because it's technically possible. Never mind right and wrong.

2015 may well be the year when this blogger waves goodbye to the UK's more obnoxious MSM sites, the Telegraph especially, and returns to reading books.

Postscript: Here's a screen shot of tomorrow's Telegraph, courtesy of Sky News:

There's a new headline, lower left:

It reads: "Christmas holiday makers suffer as pound takes another dive."

Garbage. The pound has been in gentle decline against the US dollar for many months. Nothing exceptional or newsworthy has happened in the last 24 hours.

Here's the BBC's chart showing sterling's decline against the dollar over the last 3 months:

Repeat: nothing exceptional has happened recently.

Update, Wed, 24th December

Have just spotted this comment under the article - from a kindred spirit.

To be fair, it's just a badly researched article trying to make something out of nothing e.g. a large scaled graph showing nothing more than a daily exchange rate fluctuation (no different to any other day), a revision which is actually quite small and de-emphasising the growth forecast for the current period which remains unchanged. Only the DT can make a story out of pretty much nothing. It was a slow news day...
That said, Osborne is incompetent and a magnificent liar.

Update: Saturday 3rd January 2015

Despite stern admonitions from your blogger, the Telegraph continues to hype modest changes in currency exchange rates. This time it's sterling against the lame-duck euro, which is currently its lead story no less:

Yup, "Holiday Windfall" it reads, for we Brits as value of euro slides.

In fact, the exchange rate has improved over the last 12 months (as sterling has declined against the dollar over the same period), but only by 5%, hardly worth writing home about on one's holiday postcard from Spain (with its 50% youth unemployment rate) or Greece (an economic basket case if ever there was).

Click to ENLARGE

Cheap holiday? It's not 5% here or there that makes a holiday cheap. It's going to the budget airline sites, clicking on the cheapest destinations for one's chosen dates, availing oneself of any cut price deals on hotel accommodation and car hire, eating one's main meal at midday instead of evening etc etc.  But then everyone knows that, or should do, with the exception it seems of the DT's financial journalists who unwisely attempt to combine that role with self-appointed "consumer advisor".

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The definitive answer to the Shroud of Turin is plain for all to see in 400 year old paintings.

Here's a screen shot of a page from one of Dan Porter's lesser known but generally informative websites, dating back to 2009.

It confirms everything I have been saying for several months now, since February this year in fact.

The caption reads: In this 16th century painting, "The Holy Shroud" by Giovanni Battista  della Rovere, Jesus is depicted being wrapped in the burial shroud below. Above angels are shown displaying his image on the Shroud.

There's just one thing with which I would take issue, namely Dan's description "burial shroud". Who says it's a burial shroud? It's clearly the bolt of linen supplied by Joseph of Arimathea, used to receive the body from the cross as described in Matthew, Mark and Luke. But we cannot assume it was the same cloth that enveloped Jesus in the tomb, in which case it was not a burial shroud, and indeed may never have been intended as such (see the account in the Gospel of St. John that makes brief reference to Joseph of Arimathea, but none to his cloth, instead referring to Nicodemus wrapping the body in "windings").

So why my title: "The definitive answer"?

Answer: look carefully and one can see not only a fairly accurate representation of what we now call the Shroud of Turin (top half, held by angels) but a strong hint as to how the artist assumed the image to have been formed, i.e. as soon as the body was placed in the up-and-over linen at the foot of the cross, and not as we are usually led to assume, much later in the tomb.

There appear to be several variants of the above picture, presumably by the same artist , or, late addition,  his father, Gerolamo, see below) some clearer than others regarding crucial detail, and some probably restored (as Dan Porter believes to be the case in his recent posting , the latter being where I first spotted these two hugely important pictures.). Interestingly, one of those variants shows the imprinting from body onto shroud more clearly than the above  picture.

The mechanism of imprinting of the body image? Can there be any doubt that the artist wanted us to know that the image was a SWEAT IMPRINT.

Enlarged detail of the above. Note the soiling of the top surface of the linen. Soak- through of bodily sweat?
...and here it is seen vertically:

It's maybe a pity (from this blogger's non-authenticity standpoint ) that there is not closer correspondence between image and underlying body. Still, one cannot expect to have all one's Christmases arrive at once. Indeed, where scientific research is concerned, it's not unusual to have one's Christmases postponed indefinitely, or replaced by April Fools' days.

His contemporaries would have been thoroughly familiar with that idea, given the existence in Rome of the venerated "Veil of Veronica", it too being (according to legend) an image left on a bystander's veil when she stepped forward to wipe SWEAT and blood from the face of Jesus as he passed, bearing his cross. In short, the image on the TS was seen some 400 or so years ago as a post-mortem equivalent to the Veronica, with the difference that it was depicted less as a painting, more as a genuine imprint, one that today we term a "negative". Indeed, one can crop out the TS image in the upper half of those pictures and show that even a modern photograph of a painting of an imprint (!) responds to tone inversion and 3D-rendering in ImageJ as well if not better than modern photographs of the TS. (See my comments and graphics on Dan Porter's site*  ones that I have to say were not well received!).

What I haven't mentioned yet is that this blogger/retired scientist does not regard the TS as authentic 1st century, as the artist above does, and as Dan Porter and most folk on his site do. I accept the radiocarbon dating (1260-1390) though would like to see it confirmed with samples from more sites.

I consider it to be an elaborate and indeed ingenious medieval hoax. Why those adjectives? Answer: because our artisans realized they could not create an artificial sweat imprint using liquids to mimic dried yellowed sweat. they had to find an alternative methodology that produced what could be claimed to be an ancient sweat image. Likely technology? Thermal imprinting, aka contact scorching, off a heated metal template - probably. But my 'pseudo-sweat imprint' hypothesis does not stand or fall on whether the TS image really is a  simple thermal contact scorch. It is almost certainly the result of breaking chemical bonds on the most superficial of the linen fibres, and reforming in a new configuration that selectively abstract blue visible light , reflecting back filtered  light to the observers' eyes that looks yellow instead of white.  But while that chemical change may have been achieved by thermal modification alone, one cannot exclude alternative mechanisms that are entirely chemical, or maybe a combination of chemical and thermal. However, thermal imprinting explains neatly the 3D properties of the TS image. They were not intended, needless to say, anymore than the startling (and pleasing) result of Secondo Pia's tone-inversion were intended. Both those 19th/20th century findings were the result of a medieval artisan deploying an imprinting technique that generates those effects automatically - much better than would be the case of the TS image had simply been painted (Charles Freeman please note).

Back to the title:  Is this the definitive answer to the Shroud of Turin  visible in old paintings?

Answer: YES - almost certainly, as the above paintings demonstrate, but I don't suppose Dan Porter will be overjoyed at the use I've made of his website graphics.

Postscript: are the works of Giovanni Battista the only ones to show an up-and-over TS-like length of linen right next to the cross? Possibly. But a search through image files is beginning to turn up long sheets of linen appearing at the cross or the entrance to the tomb that might qualify for the description "TS-like".

See for example these passages from the biblearchaeology site:

11th century ivory - within a hundred years of the arrival of the Edessa Icon Byzantine art suddenly produces Lamentation art forms showing Jesus laid out on a large shroud in a manner resembling the Turin Shroud. Why? Gertrud Schiller, Iconography of Christian Art, Vol. 2 (Passion), lower  panel of no. 595

 ...and later in the same posting:

The Christ figure depicted on threnoi and epitaphioi sometimes included special, unusual characteristics unmistakably specific to the Turin Shroud.  Wilson noticed an ivory in the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, a Byzantine Lamentation depiction from the early 12th century, that showed Jesus with his hands crossed over the wrists and lying on a shroud resembling a mattress (Wilson 1991: 151), all details also to be seen on the Turin Shroud but not seen anywhere else before the middle of the 10th century.  Additionally, the observer will note that the shroud’s length continues above Christ’s head, obviously meant to envelop the front as well as back of the body.  While the other figures have thumbs, Jesus’ hands have only four fingers. Finally, the diagonal lines giving the burial cloth a mattress-like appearance might be better understood as the artist’s na├»ve attempt to capture a zigzag, herringbone weave, a strong Turin Shroud feature.  There is good reason to believe that the naivete often shown in these arts is likely due to the artist not being privileged to see the actual shroud in the Emperor’s relic trove, but instead working from descriptions from those who did.

Some on the new Lamentation artwork like this early 12th century ivory carving shows numerous similarities to the Shroud of Turin – how many characteristics can you find? 5-1872 from Victoria and Albert Museum online (off site link).

Note the two ladders and supported feet in the above carving, indicative of the crucifixion that preceded the transfer to Joseph's linen en route to the tomb (though if that door in the arch represents the entrance to the tomb, it's somewhat problematical.

One shall continue searching for more images that gel with the Battista interpretation. Is it too much topo hope that one or more can be found showing the TS-like image in proximity to cross and Joseph's linen AND a bodily  imprint on the latter. What an extraordinary conjunction we have on those two Battista images!

Update: 22:40  Yes! Here's another, presumably from the same Italian school that was dedicated to depicting Joseph's linen in TS-like up-and-over mode:

Update: Wed 17th December

Oops. Have just discovered this picture an yet another site that adds an entirely new possibility where medieval or early Renaissance perceptions of image-imprinting were concerned.

Notice anything unusual? Jesus has only just been taken down from the cross, but is already being anointed it would seem by the two Marys. While there's no direct evidence of prior washing in this picture, though notice the paucity of blood, it opens the possibility that the imprint on Joseph's linen and by implication on the TS was perceived not as one of sweat, or of sweat exclusively, but as anointing oil. That's admittedly requires a stretch of the imagination, but then artists are not unknown for allowing imagination to stretch credulity.

Wednesday 12:40 pm

Have just discovered this additional graphic and information on  Giovanni Battista della Rovere on a Spanish language website:

Click to ENLARGE

Here's a Google translation of the accompanying text:

Click to ENLARGE

Am beginning to wonder if the Battista pictures showing both Shroud and Joseph's linen separately were commissioned by the House of Savoy as promotional material, so to speak. It might explain why there are so few in that genre, given I've been unable to find new ones not already shown.

Am still searching, and will add any further discoveries here.

  1. December 13, 2014 at 5:07 am
    Should anyone here still be in any doubt as to the power of modern 3D-rending programs to generate apparent 3D from entirely 2D imprints OR even centuries old artwork, here’s what happens when one takes the TS image from that painting above, gives it some additional contrast, and then uploads it into ImageJ.. (Charles: please note that the man’s imprint on the shroud has exactly the same monochrome colour as the1532 burn marks – hardly what one would expect of an artistic depiction of the TS from late16th/early 17th century if the latter had been the work of an earlier artist).

  2. Stan Walker MD
    December 13, 2014 at 8:39 am
    Colin, Thanks for pointing this out. The painting is a facsimile of the shroud. Of course it will have some 3D qualities. You are inadvertently supporting the authenticity argument.
    • December 14, 2014 at 6:28 am
      “Inadvertently” you say Stan Walker MD?
      If you think that, then you’ve clearly lost the plot, and/or have not been following its twists and turns these last few months.

      This painting above is, as eagle-eyed Hugh has confirmed, by one Giovanni Battista Della Rovere (1560 -1621)
      or, contradictory dates elsewhere, see:,+Giovan+Battista+della
      It fits EITHER a pro-authenticity OR an anti-authenticity narrative.
      It all depends whether that TS image is an imprint of the body in question undergoing deposition from cross onto Joseph of Arimathea’s linen (lower half of picture)
      a pseudo-sweat imprint created by a medieval forger to invoke the above scene.
      It’s the serendipity thing – to log on to this site as I did yesterday to find 16th/17th century paintings displaying the origin of the present TS as a blood AND (probably) sweat imprint too onto Joseph’s linen, whether a real historical event OR, as likely as not, a fanciful one (maybe a post-mortem echo of the legendary imprinting of the Veronica face-only image?). Christmas for me has come early this year, especially as Dan withheld the crucial top half of the first of the current crop of ‘Deposition’ pictures initially. (why Dan?).
      Am I not correct in thinking from the above picture that the double body image is being captured and imprinted BEFORE final preparations for interment, indeed even before arrival at the tomb, and that it is incorrect therefore to refer to Joseph’s bolt of linen as a burial shroud if it was intended merely as a temporary expedient, i.e. to assist with deposition from cross and transport to tomb? Sorry to have to repeat myself (see earlier ‘body bag’ posting).
      The scene in the above painting was in my considered opinion the chosen narrative that inspired, 350 or so years earlier, a highly elaborate but ultimately successful medieval HOAX.
      However that would not preclude pro-authenticity 1st century narratives, if one’s prepared, as so many here are, to dismiss out of hand the radiocarbon dating (which incidentally this blogger provisionally accepts, but would like to see confirmed, and indeed is appalled was never immediately extended beyond the corner chosen for initial testing).
      As I say, there was nothing “inadvertent” in what I wrote. I try not to do inadvertent, despite 2014 being the year I reached three score years and ten.

See also the posting "Only the Shadow Knows" on shroudstory for further debate on what is responsible for 3D properties of the TS via-vis model systems (scorch imprints, 2D graphics etc).

Update: Thursday 18th December 2014

In commenting on this posting, Dan Porter takes issue with my claim that the top half of Joseph of Arimathea's linen already shows a sweat imprint, despite just having been lowered, or re-lifted from the corpse. He thinks the dark discoloration could be something else, perhaps shadows of the people in attendance, and claims the light is coming from more than one direction.

Nope. I say that the artist was particularly keen to disabuse the viewer of that possibility. How? Look at the picture again, especially the faces, and the buildings in the distance, to deduce the direction from which most of the light is coming. It's diagonally from top left, as shown by my white arrows.In fact it may be coming in from behind the viewer as well, judging by the illumination of the corpse despite being under the sheet.

Now look at the nine figures. Which of them are capable of casting a shadow onto the linen? Answer: only the fellow with the cupcake head-dress on the extreme left. What's more, he and his hat HAVE cast a shadow, circled in yellow. No one else has,  obvious from the fact that the discoloration is nothing like as dark as that single shadow. Ipso facto, the discoloration is due something else.I say it represents the causative agent - bodily sweat- that the artist imagined/supposed  had finally produced the image of the TS in the top half of the picture.

PS: Why does Dan Porter describe this as a "bloody post"? Why the pejorative adjective? Is it the length that is the issue? Well, I've just spotted something else in the picture, that's about to make this posting even longer, so there.

Right at the bottom ones sees crucifxion-related hardware, shown by yellow arrows. They are (left to right): nails, claw-hammer and pincers.

Where have we seen at least one, or maybe two of those in another TS-related image? Answer: the Lirey Pilgrim's badge.

That helps cement the link between the TS and the cross (and immediate aftermath of removal from cloth to linen) NOT to the rock tomb and final preparations for burial. Put another way, it's a Matthew/Mark/Luke narrative, involving the first appearance of Joseph of Arimathea's linen, not a John-related narrative.

 For posting  elsewhere...

3D enhancement of TS image (Shroud Scope) works as well if not better on the 1532 burn marks as the body image (something I pointed out some 3 years ago in January 2012).

Also for posting elsewhere:

AFM or CFM set-up (Atomic/Chemical Force Microscopy).
Also for posting elsewhere:

and this (the Lier copy of the Shroud, 1516):

and this, the loss of calcium and magnesium that accompanies retting (microbial digestion of pectins etc):

Arrival of the Mothership, Close Encounters

Haltadefinizione images, after adjustment if contrast and brightness: