A bridge over a beautiful waterfall

A bridge over a beautiful waterfall
Nature brings magic

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Science (forensic style)

I don't like summer. Around here, once we get into July and August, it can get up to (and above) 100 F. It's the downside to living in a desert. You may remember my saying I hate winter too. I don't like the cold. My favorite seasons are spring and fall. We didn't get much of a spring here. We got two weeks of consistent spring temperatures, then we spiked up into the 80s. Since then, we've gotten down to the 60s and back up to 90. Our weather is very weird this year.

I've heard from friends that their weather is weird as well. It makes me wonder if finally people will recognize global warming as a real problem. It certainly is showing itself in a rather spectacular way.

Don't worry, I'm not going on a nature tear like I did on Monday. My concern today is the science behind things. There's a lot of scientific evidence behind global warming, evolution, and many other things. There are people in this world who don't believe in it and they are the most vocal.

But the one thing I discovered that doesn't have as much “science” behind it is forensic science. I've always loved forensic science. Not what you see in the CSI programs, though the technology behind that is fascinating. But the real forensic science. I got introduced to real forensics watching TV. There were a handful of shows that showed how forensics worked to convict criminals.

Well, Netflix has a show that talks about how forensics is on trial itself. A lot of forensic “science” is perception and in some cases guess work. Crime scenes can be contaminated to the point where proper evidence can't be gathered. Theories can be created and the wrong people convicted based on badly interpreted evidence.

There are some new developments that will bring science back to forensic science though. In Sweden they're using CT scans and MRIs to take a complete view of a victim's body. They can look at fine slices of the body without ever cutting into it, getting a more detailed view of what happened and how the victim died.

In North Carolina, they're working on a device that allows them to take pictures of a crime scene using lasers to create a complete view of the area. Even if evidence gets disturbed, they still have the original crime scene to work with. They're using the video game creation classes at the university to render the information from the scenes into the 3D images.

Another lab here in the States (I no longer remember which one) is working on getting more accurate fingerprints. Fingerprints on a non-porous substance are hard to get. Right now the common method is evaporating super glue to get the print. But that has problems and can lead to the conviction of the wrong person. This lab is using a new technology and an alternate substance that allows them to take a 3D image of the fingerprint.

Science is an amazing thing and perhaps one day we will be able to use science to pinpoint exactly who committed a crime. I don't think we'll ever get to the point where we can figure out who will commit a crime before they commit it (yes, I saw Minority Report and no I don't think we'll ever get there even if we don't have psychics). But I'd be interested to see how much more we'll advance in the next few years.

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