The FBI Says Its Photo Analysis Is Scientific Evidence. Scientists Disagree.

At the FBI Laboratory in Quantico, Virginia, a team of about a half-dozen technicians analyzes pictures down to their pixels, trying to determine if the faces, hands, clothes or cars of suspects match images collected by investigators from cameras at crime scenes.

The unit specializes in visual evidence and facial identification, and its examiners can aid investigations by making images sharper, revealing key details in a crime or ruling out potential suspects.

But the work of image examiners has never had a strong scientific foundation, and the FBI’s endorsement of the unit’s findings as trial evidence troubles many experts and raises anew questions about the role of the FBI Laboratory as a standard-setter in forensic science.

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Source: ProPublica.org

Source: ProPublica.org


Recording of "sonic attacks" on U.S. diplomats in Cuba spectrally matches the echoing call of a Caribbean cricket

Beginning in late 2016, diplomats posted to the United States embassy in Cuba began to experience unexplained health problems including ear pain, tinnitus, vertigo, and cognitive difficulties which reportedly began after they heard strange noises in their homes or hotel rooms. In response, the U.S. government dramatically reduced the number of diplomats posted at the U.S. embassy in Havana. U.S. officials initially believed a sonic attack might be responsible for their ailments. The sound linked to these attacks, which has been described as a high-pitched beam of sound, was recorded by U.S. personnel in Cuba and released by the Associated Press (AP). Because these recordings are the only available non-medical evidence of the sonic attacks, much attention has focused on identifying health problems and the origin of the acoustic signal. As shown here, the calling song of the Indies short-tailed cricket (Anurogryllus celerinictus) matches, in nuanced detail, the AP recording in duration, pulse repetition rate, power spectrum, pulse rate stability, and oscillations per pulse. 

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Source: Biorxiv.org

Source: Biorxiv.org

In the Age of A.I., Is Seeing Still Believing?

In 2011, Hany Farid, a photo-forensics expert, received an e-mail from a bereaved father. Three years earlier, the man’s son had found himself on the side of the road with a car that wouldn’t start. When some strangers offered him a lift, he accepted. A few minutes later, for unknown reasons, they shot him. A surveillance camera had captured him as he walked toward their car, but the video was of such low quality that key details, such as faces, were impossible to make out. The other car’s license plate was visible only as an indecipherable jumble of pixels. The father could see the evidence that pointed to his son’s killers—just not clearly enough.

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Source: The New Yorker