Fingerprint identification and lie detectors are well-known tools of law enforcement today, but both were quite revolutionary when they were introduced. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll describe the memorable cases where these innovations were first used.
We’ll also see some phantom ships and puzzle over a beer company’s second thoughts.
In 1892, Bostonians realized that the architects of their new library had hidden their name in the façade.
In 1918, a California businessman built a 7,900-ton steamer out of ferrocement.
Sources for our feature on fingerprints and polygraphs:
Ken Alder, The Lie Detectors, 2007.
Jack Fincher, “Lifting ‘Latents’ Is Now Very Much a High-Tech Matter,” Smithsonian, October 1989, 201.
James O’Brien, The Scientific Sherlock Holmes, 2013.
Ian Leslie, Born Liars, 2011.
William J. Tilstone, Kathleen A. Savage, and Leigh A. Clark, Forensic Science: An Encyclopedia of History, Methods, and Techniques, 2006.
Benjamin Netanyahu, Criminal Justice: New Technologies and the Constitution, 1989.
Kenneth R. Moses et al., “Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS),” in The Fingerprint Sourcebook, Scientific Working Group on Friction Ridge Analysis Study and Technology and National Institute of Justice, 2011, 1-33.
Raymond Dussault, “The Latent Potential of Latent Prints,” Government Technology, Dec. 31, 1998.
Barbara Bradley, “Fingered by the Police Computer,” Christian Science Monitor, June 9, 1988.
U.S. Office of Technology Assessment, “New Technology for Investigation, Identification, and Apprehension,” in Special Report: Criminal Justice, New Technologies, and the Constitution, May 1988.
Thanks to listener Pål Grønås Drange for suggesting the Ken Moses story.
Wikipedia, “Mirage” (accessed Feb. 17, 2017).
W.H. Lehn, “The Nova Zemlya Effect: An Arctic Mirage,” Journal of the Optical Society of America 69:5 (May 1979), 776-781.
Wikipedia, “Novaya Zemlya Effect” (accessed Feb. 17, 2017).
This week’s lateral thinking puzzle was contributed by listener Tommy Honton, who sent these corroborating links (warning — these spoil the puzzle).
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Many thanks to Doug Ross for the music in this episode.
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