Thursday, October 29, 2009

(empo-tymshft) (empo-tuulwey) Old tools can work with new - a biometric post

It never occurred to me that I could have a combined "empo-tymshft"/"empo-tuulwey" post.

For those of you who don't following my obscure labeling strategies, posts with the "empo-tymshft" label deal with the passage of time, and how things may change over time. Or how they don't change - in a recent post, I compared cloud initiatives with half-century old time-sharing services.

Posts with the "empo-tuulwey" label are dedicated to my oft-repeated maxim "a tool is not a way of life," which tries to distinguish between the specific tool, and the uses to which the tool (or an equal or better tool) is put. For example, using a carrier pigeon for communications.

And, as some of you know, I work in the biometrics industry, and while I don't specifically work with DNA, I maintain a professional interest in it, especially since the NAS report blessed it as scientific (although others claim that there is a qualtative human element to DNA analysis). So this Australian story about someone who was caught via DNA analysis wasn't in and of itself all that spectacular, except for the source of the DNA.

Crown prosecutor John Ransom told the Supreme Court that senior constable Nathan Slater had picked up a leech from near a safe at the scene of the crime.

A DNA sample was taken from the blood in the leech by Forensic Science Services Tasmania.

Yes - the DNA was taken from a leech.

Yup, a leech, that animal that was used for medical purposes a few centuries ago and was subsequently reviled as unscientific and barbaric. Two words: George Washington.

But the leech can be used for other purposes, it appears. While draining blood from an ex-President's body might not be the best use of a leech, the fact that the leech apparently stores the blood provides us with some scientific value.

But what if it was the leech, rather than Peter Alec Cannon, who actually committed the robbery? Perhaps the DNA test matched the leech.

(Picture source, license)
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