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Just the facts, ma'amIn a study whose results could make a great deal of difference to criminal investigations around the world, New Scientist magazine has reported that maggot-dating of corpses could be substantially less accurate than previously supposed.

In the first multi-year controlled experiment on insect infestation of dead bodies, Melanie Archer of the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine in Melbourne, Australia, placed five pig carcasses in scavenger-proof wire cages and observed them for insect activity regularly for four months. She then repeated the experiment each season for two years.

Unexpectedly, the life cycles of several commonly observed carrion insects varied considerably from one year to the next, depending on variations in climate, local insect populations, and, potentially, a variety of other currently unknown factors. This could lead to significant margins of error in forensic estimates of time of death.

"The estimates are not as tight as some forensic scientists imply in court," Archer has concluded. "We need to introduce some rigour."




Yes, that's right — she's calling for more mortis rigor.

Originally posted to Ray Radlein on Fri Apr 30, 2004 at 05:01 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Be Kind To My Mistakes (4.00)
    There you have it, folks — my first ever diary entry. And the article is only a month old! Whoooo!
  •  She's right to bring it up (4.00)
    Science is about nothing if not reproducibility. If you can't get consistent results each and every time, it's not science, it's just slightly better-educated guesswork.
    •  Reproducibility (none)
      Yeah; hopefully this will lead to a better understanding of the various factors involved. From the article, it seems like she's getting a good handle on the role of temperature variations, at least, but I think her experiment points out the need for other people to run their own tests as well, in regions with different climates and insect activity.
  •  jeez (none)
    I wonder how many cases are gonna be overturned because of Grissom's incorrect conclusions based on maggot-dating.

    If you aren't completely appalled, then you haven't been paying attention.

    by Trix on Fri Apr 30, 2004 at 05:17:57 PM PDT

  •  Ray (none)
    OT but apparently you live in the same area I do. I remember you posting in one of my diaries. I just wanted to say Hi!

    Jr. has failed our country twice. Why should we give him a third chance?

    by Ga6thDem on Fri Apr 30, 2004 at 05:19:00 PM PDT

    •  GA 6 (none)
      Yeah, we're in southeast Cherokee county, in that little bite mark taken out of the upper corner of Fulton county, near Crabapple.

      I had thought that the 2000 redistricting had us in GA 7 coming in to the 2002 election, but I was denied my chance to vote against Bob Barr in the GOP primary by a mere couple of miles. On the other hand, the Libertarian candidate in GA 7 that year was actually named Ann Rand, which, entertainment-wise, is as good as it gets (okay, so Ann was only her middle name; but still).

      So instead of John Linder, I wound up with Johnny Isakson, who is actually the only Georgia Republican of note that I would ever vote for anyway; so I guess I lucked out there.

      •  Crabapple (none)
        I live about 20 minutes from Crabapple. Or at least that's about how long it takes me to get to the Kroger in Crabapple.

        I moved last summer and I think I might actually be in GA 7 now. I will have to check my voter registration card. I kept my sig as Ga6th because no one around here would know who I was otherwise.

        Jr. has failed our country twice. Why should we give him a third chance?

        by Ga6thDem on Sat May 01, 2004 at 04:57:26 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Grissom? Gus Grissom? (none)

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