X-ray Vision Picks Up Clues to Crimes

New technology will soon help detectives get computer images of fingerprints and let them know more about the person who left them

4 min read

8 June 2005--Television and the movies have always shown us technology's coming attractions--from the wireless communicators used by Captain Kirk and the crew on "Star Trek," to the endless array of toys that allowed James Bond to escape the clutches of the supervillain just in time to get the girl.

Continuing the tradition, in the episode of the TV crime drama "CSI: Miami" that aired on 16 May, crime scene investigators solved an old murder using X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy. The energy from an X-ray beam causes different elements to give off light in unique patterns. The conceit is that the equipment didn't exist years earlier when the crime was committed. But now the investigators are able to identify the perpetrator after a trace-element detector using X-ray fluorescence reveals small amounts of cobalt on a shirt found at the crime scene. This element-detection technique is not limited to the fictional world of television. It is used in real-life crime labs to detect the presence of chemicals that are, say, markers for explosives; at pharmaceutical companies to verify the breakdown and distribution of drugs in tablets; and by archaeologists to determine the origin of artifacts.

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Why Functional Programming Should Be the Future of Software Development

It’s hard to learn, but your code will produce fewer nasty surprises

11 min read
A plate of spaghetti made from code
Shira Inbar

You’d expectthe longest and most costly phase in the lifecycle of a software product to be the initial development of the system, when all those great features are first imagined and then created. In fact, the hardest part comes later, during the maintenance phase. That’s when programmers pay the price for the shortcuts they took during development.

So why did they take shortcuts? Maybe they didn’t realize that they were cutting any corners. Only when their code was deployed and exercised by a lot of users did its hidden flaws come to light. And maybe the developers were rushed. Time-to-market pressures would almost guarantee that their software will contain more bugs than it would otherwise.

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