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kottke.org posts about forensic science

The limits of forensic science, and beyond

posted by Tim Carmody   Jun 16, 2016

Veronique Greenwood’s story on a new method to infer someone’s physical appearance from DNA evidence doubles as a skeptical mini-history of forensic science:

In 2009 the National Academy of Sciences released a blistering report calling into question the scientific validity of the analysis of fingerprints, bite marks, blood spatters, clothing fiber, handwriting, bullet markings, and many other mainstays of forensic investigation. It concluded that with one exception [DNA evidence], no forensic method could be relied on with a high degree of certainty to “demonstrate a connection between evidence and a specific individual or source.”

And even with DNA, it’s tricky. The common theme: academics doing pure research have a better track record than criminal investigators trying to prove or crack a case, or companies trying to develop a product. (See also: everything.)