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Fingerprint Test Tells Much More Than Identity 166

Mike sends in the story of a new fingerprint technology with interesting potential for both crime detection and rights violations; there are also intriguing possibilities in fighting cancer. "Using a variation of mass spectrometry called 'desorption electrospray ionization' or 'Desi,' a fingerprint can identify what the person has been touching — drugs, explosives, or poisons, for example. Writing in the Friday issue of the journal Science, R. Graham Cooks, a professor of chemistry at Purdue University, and his colleagues describe how the technique could find a wider application in crime investigations. As it becomes cheaper and more widely available, the Desi technology has potential ethical implications, Cooks said. Instead of drug tests, a company could surreptitiously check for illegal drug use of its employees by analyzing computer keyboards after the employees have gone home, for instance."

Numeric stability is probably not all that important when you're guessing.