Forensic science: The next-generation "wanted" poster

By | May 6, 2013
While this artist still can call this very real and in-your-face feat art, one very obvious next-step would be to replace grainy, blurry mug shots of criminals with recreations based on DNA from crime scenes, guided by security cameras to determine if any potential DNA source is available in a crime scene. Of course, it wouldn't work for every criminal (depending on what precautions they might have taken), but it certainly could prove valuable in combination with already existing forensic tactics in terms of raising awareness and tracking down suspects and potential witnesses.

/via +Marshall Kirkpatrick 

Artist makes portraits from DNA found in chewing gum and cigarettes
Have you ever seen a wad of chewing gum on the sidewalk and wondered about the person who spat it out? Artist Heather Dewey-Hagborg has done more than wonder. She collects errant hairs, cigarette butt…

8 thoughts on “Forensic science: The next-generation "wanted" poster

  1. Addison Rennick

    +Ryan Matsudaira Garbage is public domain. If you throw out evidence the police are allowed to use it in court even if they didn't get a warrant because it's just sitting around on the sidewalk. Same deal here.

  2. Sophie Wrobel

    +dawn ahukanna agreed – biometrics are metrics that change over time (even iris scans are subject to change, ask any medic), but metrics are considered infallible. Apropos face recognition: Korea's latest beauty pageant demonstrates that facial features are far from unique:

    I do agree, +Valdis Kletnieks, that the artist completed and interpolated the guesses based on genetic traits – just like Jurassic Park's storyline completed DNA by interpolating with frog DNA – but if it is possible to enhance grainy mug shots, it may be worth a shot, in particular if the cost of DNA profiling continues to fall.

  3. Andrea Pavlovic

    I think this is impossible and kind of a fraud. She can't get info about persons face from mitochondrial DNA, it's inherited only from mother. And even if the genes determining the facial features were there, we still haven't decoded them fully in order to get even closely looking images of faces from them.

  4. Valdis Kletnieks

    +dawn ahukanna Exactly the point – my DNA will tell you that I look vaguely Polish/Russian/something, but we don't currently know how to get from DNA to :"shape of nose, ears, jawline" yet (except for some DNA abnormalities like Down's Syndrome that have known effects).

    Equally worrysome is when DNA evidence intersects what's known in statistics as "The Prosecutor's Fallacy":

    (tl;dr – When the DA claims "there's only a 1 in 10,000 chance of a match", it doesn't actually mean what you think it means….)

  5. dawn ahukanna

    How does DNA match what a living and breathing person actually looks like, at a specific point in time? It only indicates possibilities.

    It always makes me nervous, how much we rely on and take as infallible gospel technology that is basically man made. How does this happen that we accept that if the machine "said" it, it is absolutely correct/right without error? It is only a glorified calculator working out probabilities really fast.

  6. Valdis Kletnieks

    +Ryan Matsudaira A warrant is needed for what?  Drawing a picture of a suspect?  Analyzing evidence already collected at a crime scene?

    Yes, taking a swab of your DNA usually requires a warrant – but at that point they already know what you look like. 🙂

  7. Mike Elgan

    If only. By the time we're able to do this, we may have no crime, as such mastery of DNA could eliminate disease, enable the re-growth of limbs, and transform the economy. 

  8. Valdis Kletnieks

    I'd be amazed if from my DNA you get anything much more specific than "looks somewhere between Finnish and Russian, used to have dark hair, blue-green eyes".

    At that point, you may as well just morph together a picture of Linus Torvalds and Josef Stalin. 😉


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