Researchers at the Ames Lab at Iowa State University are getting closer to nailing down a way to link tools to crimes. Researcher David Baldwin says they’re trying to provide scientific evidence that tools leave individual marks just like your fingerprints. He says, although experience of crime examiners shows that no two tools leave the same mark, they don’t have the statistics to say how often they are identical. He says their project is trying to establish an error rate for the premise that no two tools make the same mark. He says the F-B-I funded the research that including collecting a large library of tools that were manufactured in different ways.They then used a microscope that’s used by criminal examiners and took digital pictures. They used the pictures to come up with a computer algorithm to compare the tools. Baldwin is the director of the laboratory’s Midwest Forensics Resource Center, and says the system worked. He says the method was found to be able to discern unique surfaces on tools, and they now need to used the method on a larger number of tools. Baldwin says they want to give investigators some hard numbers to work with.He says the point is to get an upper limit of the likelihood that two marks would be identical. He says juries and press have gotten used to the idea in comparing D-N-A tests in which they it’s “less than one in a billion that this D-N-A would match.” Baldwin says they’ve shown the F-B-I the system is plausible, and not the future depends on more funding. He says they hope in the next couple of years to apply the system to a larger number of tools to get an idea of how well it will work. Ames Laboratory is operated for the Department of Energy by Iowa State University.
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