Thursday, February 22, 2007

AAFS Annual Meeting - Thursday

by blogger jgl

I'm off to day 2 (for me) of the convention. Today will include some recruitment for the blog. If your a first time reader, thanks! Check out the entries below and add some comments (anyone can).

Today there will be posters and presentations. Maybe I'll get a chance to talk to the RFID people as well.

Some as of yet unreported highlights from yesterday...

- One member was prevented from attending the meeting due to his responsibility of guarding Anna Nicole's body. Duty calls.

- I heard (while eavesdropping) that the Criminalistics section had the best food last night (rack of lamb, cracked pecans with syrup over ice cream). Is this true? Anyone want to brag about their section's food-swag.

-I now know why San Antonio is not known for their mall-located Chinese food. Residents may remember the Alamo... I wish I could forget about my choice of meals last night.

AAFS Wednesday - Images

by blogger jgl

Wednesday was my first day here at the American Academy of Forensic Sciences annual meeting. After buying some new batteries at the end of the day, I snapped some pics of the empty convention center.

I think these picures may be large in MB size. I didn't have time to shrink them. I'll only post a couple.

Typical vendor and poster area

Typical employment board. Hey, maybe next year... 2 boards?

Typical out of focus cyber cafe. This place is usually packed and is the only place (i think) to use the virtual message boards (showmail). Maybe more kiosks next year? Can we access this stuff through the "normal" internet? Is there a way to get free wifi at the convention center?

Alright, that's enough of that.

Is this guy nuts?

by blogger jgl

This really isn't directly related to forensic science, but I've been wondering about this for a couple days. This morning, that top-notch news team at the Today Show hinted that the judge in the Anna Nicole case may be losing it.

My questions began when he refused (and still does, i think) to force a paternity test. Why wait? Should we tune in next season? Cripes.

My next doubt came when he let cameras into the courtroom. Is this really that important to the public? My vote is more harm than good.

Circuit Judge Larry Seidlin has set a self-imposed Friday morning deadline to issue a decision in the case, which boils down to a tug-of-war between Smith's estranged mother, Virgie Arthur, who wants to bring her daughter's body home to Texas, and her attorney-turned-boyfriend Howard K. Stern, who wants a burial in the Bahamas.

"I got a gun to my head," he said.



by blogger jgl

AAFS Annual Meeting (BYOS):

This was a neat one. Michael Rieders tells the story of his obsession (sort of) with Salvador Dali and how he really wanted to get his hands on Dali's DNA.

How did he do it? After many offers of materials lacking reliability ("I have his moustache!"), eventually a friend of Dali turned up with a nasogastric tube that Dali used when recovering from a house fire incident during his later years. It had some blood and goop on it and resulted in a single male profile.

Why do it? For fun, mainly. But it does open up the chance to authenticate some works of art that may have Dali's "fluids" on them. Or test his DNA for a genius gene. Cloning was mentioned.

Two camments for any of my students or amateur forensic scientists... the nasogastric tube was stored for years in paper. Good news, right... air dry, no moisture, no bacteria to degrade the DNA. Also, it was mentioned they used the Takayama test to determine there was, in fact, blood on the tube. Takayama!? Who does crystal tests these days? Why not TMB? Is there a sensitivity issue I'm not aware of, or are just dealing with show-offs?

BYOS - Vampires!

by blogger jgl

AAFS Annual Meeting (BYOS):

Mark Benecke is entertaining. Click the title to go to his website (

Tonight he told the story of his work exploring the existence of vampires. Told in an enthusiastic manner, Mark described how many of the traits assigned to vampires are actually just natural (albeit somewhat rare) traits of decomposition.

A vampire doesn't die or decompose. Some bodies will mummify or have their flesh turn to adipocere, lacking the appearance of normal decomposition.

A vampire sucks blood or bleeds from the mouth or eyes. Some bodies will leak decomposition fluid out of the mouth or nose, which can run back into the eyes.

A vampire has long fingernails. Some dead bodies will have the skin on the fingers "shrink" back, giving the appearance of fingernail growth after death.

There were some other cases and vampire theories thrown in (including something about a bloated penis, pic included). Entertaining stuff.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

BYOS - Katrina

by blogger jgl

AAFS Annual Meeting (Bring Your Own Slides - BYOS):

Anyone see that movie Magnolia? It begins with a scene where a forensic scientist is describing a case where a person jumps out a window and gets shot on the way plummeting to his death. If I have my facts straight, that was a real case described in one of these BYOS events. It is occasionally heralded as the best part of the AAFS meeting. It is a 2 hour informal session of forensic scientists talking about unique cases.

This year was pretty decent. The following is my interpretation of some of the stories told. I try to be as accurate as possible.

There were a couple presentations concerning the identification of Katrina remains. New Orleans coroner Frank Minyard told the story of how FEMA wanted him to go to Houston after the storm; instead, he drove back into the city, then swam back to his flooded coroner's office. The morgue there was useless. A group was stranded there for the famous 4 days without food or water.

Dr. Minyard and some other noble forensic pathologists, along with DMORT (a federal group that did a GOOD job during the disaster), put forth quite an effort in the aftermath processing and identifying the dead in a make-shift morgue created north of the city. One of the highlights of his story included them having to use a tent to "hide" the transfer of bodies from the morgue to the hearse - This was in order to prevent the media from hovering in helicopters hoping to get a money shot. Also, apparently FEMA spent a good bit of money building a nice morgue that was finished just as the last body was identified in the "make-shift" morgue. When New Orleans wanted to use it to perform autopsies once normal crime picked up in January of '06, they were denied use because federal regulations do not allow the morgue to be used for "normal" state autopsies. Apparently it just sits there unused. Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job.

RFID for Everything!

by blogger jgl

AAFS Annual Meeting:

I didn’t get chance to talk to the people from Verichip since they always seemed to be surrounded by people in a debate mode. The one argument I overheard seemed to be about whether you could legally chip a dead body (I think it ended with body = no; body bag = yes, but natural disatsters may create an exception to the rule). Their display seems to be promoting chipping all types of evidence for tracking.

Their brochure didn't mention chipping criminals (which is what I was hoping for), but it did promote chipping you, old man! For safety reasons, of course. All your health information on a chip inside of you. See... you WANT a chip inside of you. Conspiracy theorists go wild.

Here's Lookin at You, Crook.

not your typical serial killers

by blogger jgl

AAFS Annual Meeting:

On Wednesday, there is not much going on other than some posters and the exhibits. I didn’t make it in time for the posters, but all the exhibits were out in full force.

One that was interesting to me was the Trace Genetics booth. Some other companies are doing this too. It seems most of their work is done for the public. They send you a swab, you send them your cheek cells, then they analyze your DNA and tell you about your ancestry (80% European, 20% Native American, etc.). Now you know if you can open that casino you always wanted.

Why not do it in casework? They can also analyze DNA from a crime scene and tell you about the ancestry of the perpetrator. Not a lot of police agencies are spending the money to do this, but in some circumstances they are. We’re getting closer to being able to produce a “picture” of an individual from DNA alone. Good thing or potential for abuse? What the heck, I say good thing. Maybe we can get a more accurate profile of serial killers beyond "white male, mid-30s, military background, loner".

More to come…

Welcome to the AAFS Annual Meeting

by blogger jgl

Every group has their annual convention. Forensic science is no different. In the states, every February forensic scientists gather at the American Academy of Forensic Sciences annual meeting. This year, we are storming the city of San Antonio.

Although the conference rages all week, I’ll be in town Wednesday through Saturday. I’ll be checking out the Exhibits, Bring Your Own Slides program, Poster Sessions, and Presentations. Maybe some pictures if I can find out where to buy some new rechargeable batteries.

There doesn’t appear to be any big celebrities in this year, with the exception of Bill Bass (founder of the Body Farm) who is in town to sign/sell a new book. But I think he’s always here anyway.

One complaint… no free wi-fi. Is it typical at conventions to try to milk 12.95 per day out of people?

More to come…

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Super Bullets

"the Bubba Bullet is just incredible"
submit by troym; comments by blogger jgl

This is kind of an interesting story, but the endorsement by Irlene Mandrell really makes it post worthy.

Harold "Bubba" Beal didn't think so. He has invented a bullet he has coined "The Bubba Bullet", a type of frangible ammunition. That means the bullet breaks apart on contact with a solid surface, and it can be calibrated to turn to metallic dust when it strikes the thinnest metal, or beefed up to pierce thick layers of steel and bulletproof glass.

"Imagine a round that could revolutionize airplane security as federal sky marshals can fire it without any fear of ricochet or pass through, or fear of hitting an innocent passenger or penetrating the aircraft's skin. Terrorists might think twice," Tyser said.

yser said it would also decrease the danger of hostage situations because a policeman could fire a Bubba Bullet, penetrate thick layers of glass or a metal car door, and deliver a hit on a criminal without the risk of hitting innocent bystanders. In recent tests at federal proving grounds in Virginia, a standard .223-caliber Bubba Bullet inflicted a wound cavity in a soap block that was equal to the size of a baseball.

"It's one of the most precise rounds I have ever fired," said country music star and famed women's outdoors activist Erlene Mandrell.