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Out of CSIght, Out of Mind

was specifically designed to keep the wood blocks from deteriorating, with a higher altitude with ample ventilation. 

In 1995, the temple has become a UNESCO Heritage Site. in 2000, after painstaking work, the Tripitaka went digital! And, the monks are making a copper version as back-up. Lesson learned from history!  We have heard of several cases where AI is used to help preserve and analyze ancient religious documents, which previously required monks an entire lifetime and could be lost if the specialists died.


This section of WSC takes us into the exciting world of criminology! "In the opening episodes of Star Trek: Picard, two characters need to solve a murder in an apartment— but someone has scrubbed the floors, replaced the windows, and wiped all the alpaca spit from the walls. (The only eyewitness also exploded.) Undeterred, they resort to an alien device that can project a blurry hologram of the recent past. Discuss with your team: if investigators could use such a technology to observe what had happened in a crime or accident scene, would there be any need for judges or juries to determine guilt or innocence? Assuming it can only show you events from the last 24 hours or so, for what other purposes might such a technology be useful?"

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I think such a technology would be useful in a courtroom as evidence, but it can't take the place of judges, juries, and most importantly the defense, because there is always a story behind the video image. Was it self-defense? Was it premeditated murder? Were there other co-conspirators involved?  It doesn't answer the greater question of why. It never gives the full story!

"Forensic scientist Angela Gallop has helped to crack many of the UK’s most notorious murder cases. But today she fears the whole field – and justice itself – is at risk."

Wow! This is a super interesting article about one of the greatest crime solvers - a real-life Sherlock Holmes - Angela Gallop from the United Kingdom, who has been instrumental in solving some of the most high-profile crimes of the last several decades. Whenever the police can't find leads, they phone her to consult. 

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Unlike what we would imagine of a typical forensic scientist in a white lab coat, all serious and boring, Gallop is sociable, stylish, and 'a human dynamo'. Nevertheless, with new technology, younger peers, and less government funding, it seems she is one of the few veterans left in this technical and demanding field.  She started out in the FSS (Forensic Science Service - government owned CSI), and then in the 1990s, she started her own company to rival FSS and took down their monopoly (giant organization with guaranteed jobs = huge sloppiness). Besides being a leading forensic scientist, she is also a successful businesswoman with a team of specialists, and also author with books detailing her dynamic cases. (When the Dogs Don't Bark & How to Solve a Crime: Stories from the Cutting Edge of Forensics).

Forensics started in the early 1900s, and one of the leading pioneers was Edmond Locard, who proposed the Locard principle, meaning that a contact between two objects always leaves a trace, no matter how tiny (fingerprints, fiber, hair, tiny radioactive isotopes).  Now the discipline has many specializations, such as in fiber, fire, mucus and etc, each with its own methods.  


Key cases in the article: 

1) God’s Banker, Robert Calvi (1982) - He was chairman of an Italian bank with close ties to the Vatican. He was found hanging beneath Blackfriars Bridge with 2 Patek Philippe (super expensive) and 5kg of bricks in his pants. The police declared it a suicide, after simple DNA tests, but after 10 years, Gallop painstakingly re-staged and reenacted the crime and discovered it was definitely not a suicide.  "The key to her work, Gallop believes, is imagination. 'People always hate when scientists use the word ‘imaginative’. They think you’ve been inventing your results. But it is critical.' "

2) Alice Rye (1997) - Hired by the British police, Gallop uncovered the murderer to this grisly case. Old woman discovered dead and tied up in her home with knives stuck in her eyes.


3) Lynette White (1988) - Lynette White was a prostitute found dead , stabbed 50 times. The police arrested and tried 3 men, sentenced them to life in prison. Later they found out one of the men was too aggressively interrogated by the police and the three men were released. 11 years after the case, Gallop was hired to solve it. After reconstructing the blood patterns, she was able to find microscope bits of blood in the wallpaper, which has been painted twice over already. Using new DNA database, she found a 14-year-old relative of the murderer and nail the real criminal!

4) Princess Diana (2004) - Gallop confirmed that there was "no grounds to support allegations by Mohamed Al-Fayed of a murder conspiracy involving the Royal Family".

5) Damilola Taylor (2000) - Gallop found blood that had been missed by FSS and uncovered the real murderers, local 12 and 13 year old boys and they were sentenced to 8 years in youth jail.

6) Pembrokshire Coastal Murders (1985, 1996) - In 2006, Gallop was commissioned to find the murderer of the two double murders. However, because of limited budget, they were only allowed to look for DNA evidence. After 18 months of nothing, Gallop convinced the police to agree to the more expensive fabric analysis via taping. Of course! she was right, and they put the criminal away for life.  

The biggest problems faced by the forensic industry:

1) Pressure to solve cases fast. FSS had to cut down from 1 year to 6 weeks and this leads to mistakes.

2) Budget cuts leading to giving up on expensive methods such as fabric analysis/taping (pressing tape to the fabric surface and checking it under the microscope millimeter by millimeter) Taping is not often used, but sometimes it is necessary.

3) Pressure to cut costs leads to many untrained experts analyzing forensic data, and the result is more unsolved crimes. 


This Oxford research paper is about how the CSI effect due to the popularity of TV shows do affect the jury's perception in the courtroom and may alter the results of important cases. The CSI effect started with the launch of several hot TV shows about the topic, most well-known being CSI: New York, Miami and Las Vegas. Specifically, these widely popular TV shows make forensics out to be cooler and easier than it actually is. While in real-life, rarely are there such conclusive evidence to pinpoint the culprit, but audiences after watching CSI expects forensics to perform miracles and provide absolute proof. 

This is not the first time that television has been an influence in the courtroom. There used to be a popular show called Perry Mason about a cool detective able to get last minute confession or witness and as a result, jury members were disappointed when reality is not as "dramatic". There are actually a few different CSI effects:

1) The strong prosecutor effect: This is when jury members have unrealistic high expectation of the evidence that the prosecutor should be presenting, after watching idealized versions of CSI. This produces more false acquittals, due to lack of evidence.

2) The weak prosecutor effect: When prosecutors try to exclude jurors that watch CSI or have signs of CSI effect, "For example, 50% of district attorneys surveyed in the state of New York believed that the CSI effect existed in the courtroom" 

3) The defendant effect: This is when the prosecution benefits from the CSI effect and the jury believes forensic evidence is more persuasive than other forms of evidence.

4) The police chief's effect: This is when potential criminals watch CSI shows learn how to cheat the system. 

5) The producer and educator's effect: The public becomes more aware of this field and believe it is cool and even sexy. However, real-life work places are not like that. This adds unnecessary pressure on real forensic professionals. It makes people believe that forensic is perfectly accurate, when in fact, there are flaws and mistakes too. 

This article by the Esfandi Law Group provides a simple summary of forensic science.  The very first documentation of forensic science was by Chinese in the 7th century, using fingerprints to identify documents and sculptures. In 1247 AD, Chinese book Xi Yuan Ji Lu describes the difference of a dead body from natural causes versus unnatural causes.  

Forensic evidence is often critical in cases with murder, drugs, and even fraud and cybercrimes. The CSI effect  

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has both positively and negatively impacted the defense. It has definitely added the burden of increase workload for crime labs to come up with evidence and analysis. 

"When forensic evidence is presented at trial, they might overestimate its importance—discounting other evidence, such as eyewitness testimony or a robust alibi, that could exonerate (set free) the accused."

Expert police interrogator/trainer John Bowden explains the art of breaking the alibi. An alibi is proof that the suspect was not at the scene of the crime. It could be eyewitnesses, video footage, or other evidence. What happens when there is no solid alibi - the suspect was alone at home? A person with an alibi may be also telling a lie. So, it is the prosecution's job to break the alibi - making the liar slip up and reveal the truth. First the prosecution clarifies the exact details of the alibi. Then the prosecution can also challenge the evidence with other evidence from the crime scene and from the alibi location.  Every lie naturally leads to more lies, and it just take a certain amount of strategy to catch the liar.

In summary: The CSI Effect is definitely a phenomenon, and it will take a lot of awareness and education to avoid its biases in the courtroom. People selected for jury duty should know that a real court case is not entertainment and that real-life crime forensics is challenging and are not solved so easily. 

Below is a list of common forensic terminology that you should learn. 

1) alternative light sources - Also called ALS, it is used to collect evidence such as fingerprints, bruising, body fluids, fibers and hairs that is not visible to the naked eye.  ALS emits a specific wavelength of light usually between 200 and 700 nm. 

2) toxicology - This the analysis of biological samples to find any toxins (poisons) or drugs.

3) ballistics - Ballistics is the analysis of firearms and bullets and their effects on the crime. Each bullet leaves the gun causes unique, minor scratches on the bullet, which are like fingerprints for the gun. Ballistics also examines the path of the bullet at the crime scene.

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4) bloodstain pattern analysis - This is when forensic scientists study the blood samples at the crime scene to reconstruct the event.

5) patent versus latent print analysis - Patent prints are impressions usually of a fluid or chemical. Latent prints are prints formed from natural oils and left on a surface.  

6) forensic entomology - This is the study of dead bodies as insects or decomposers take over (gross!) This can be helpful to estimate the time of death.

7) forensic ecology - This is a broader discipline that brings together anthropology, archeology, botany, sedimentology, and palynology (study of pollen). It is about finding clues in the natural environment.

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8) forensic genetics - This is the study of DNA as it is involved in a crime case. DNA has been used very widely since the 1980s.


9) DNA phenotyping -  DNA phenotyping uses DNA material to predict the appearance of a person to help solve a crime. Think missing persons and kidnapping cases. 

10) geolocating with stable isotopes - This is a new method that uses isotopes to track the migration of a large group of people or herd for anthropology.


11) cloud forensic - Cloud forensic deals with the science of finding evidence in a cloud environment, like finding a digital fingerprint. 


Before photography and surveillance videos, artists captured the crime scene and shared it with the media. Consider how the artist interpretation distorts our understanding of history.   "On the morning of April 14, 1865, Booth learned of President Lincoln’s intention to visit Ford’s Theatre that evening. He and his co-conspirators planned to attack not only Lincoln, but also Vice President Andrew Johnson and Secretary of State William H. Seward. Familiar with the theatre’s layout, Booth entered the Presidential Box at 10:00 p.m. and fired one shot into the back of Lincoln’s head. He also stabbed the Lincolns’ guest, Major Henry Rathbone, before escaping into the night."

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Another form of news has been introduced and distorting the lines of fact and fiction - animated news. This means if news stations can't find the evidence or have footage, they can make their own. Taiwan's Next Media has a YouTube channel full of 1000 videos just like that. From killer whales attacking the trainer in the San Diego Zoo, to Prime Minister Gordon Brown getting furious with staff, to Tiger Wood's accident, to stupid videos comparing female celebrities, these animated news videos have become a part of our pop culture. (think silly memes) 

Do you think the news media has a right to do that? Do they need the person's consent? I think so, because these media companies are making money off of their image as entertainment. How does that influence their authenticity of these news channels? Obviously, it also discredits the news media. Do you think the audience knows it is meant to be entertainment and not news? Some people will believe them unfortunately and those public opinions matter.

Tiger Woods was one of the most famous and the wealthiest athlete in the world during his heyday. Then it all came crashing down (literally!). In 2009, November 27th, Tiger was found injured in a car crash near his mega mansion in Florida.  Supposedly, he hit a tree and a fire hydrant and passed out. His beautiful supermodel wife Elin Nordegren used a 9-iron golf club to break the windows and free him. Because there were not any real-life footage and so many questions (was he drunk? why didn't the airbags deploy? were they arguing?) it became instantly the hottest news topic. Many media wanted in on the story and began making their own versions of the truth. Later it became known that Tiger had many extra-marital 


 affairs. It was a scandal! He got a divorce and had to go through counseling. He became the poster boy for young athletes under too much pressure to perform and make money.

In a twist of fate, on February 23, 2021, Woods got in another car accident in Los Angeles where he hit the median in the road. This time a real one. It shattered his ankle and fractured his leg. The accident made him out to be a hero, with many golfers wearing red and black in a show of support for his recovery. He is still playing, and now most of the spotlight is on his young prodigy son. History repeats itself, again!

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