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Scientists Learn To Fabricate DNA Evidence 256

Hugh Pickens writes "The NY Times reports that it is possible to fabricate blood and saliva samples containing DNA from a person other than the donor, and even to construct a sample of DNA to match someone's profile without obtaining any tissue from that person — if you have access to their DNA profile in a database. This undermines the credibility of what has been considered the gold standard of proof in criminal cases. 'You can just engineer a crime scene,' said Dan Frumkin, lead author of the paper. 'Any biology undergraduate could perform this.' The scientists fabricated DNA samples in two ways. One requires a real, if tiny, DNA sample, perhaps from a strand of hair or a drinking cup. They amplified the tiny sample into a large quantity of DNA using a standard technique called whole genome amplification. The other technique relies on DNA profiles, stored in law enforcement databases as a series of numbers and letters corresponding to variations at 13 spots in a person's genome. The scientists cloned tiny DNA snippets representing the common variants at each spot, creating a library of such snippets. To prepare a phony DNA sample matching any profile, they just mixed the proper snippets together. Tania Simoncelli, science adviser to the American Civil Liberties Union, says the findings were worrisome. 'DNA is a lot easier to plant at a crime scene than fingerprints,' says Simoncelli. 'We're creating a criminal justice system that is increasingly relying on this technology.'"

A Hypothesis On Segway Hate 487

theodp writes "Admit it, IT is ingenious. Also, IT is surprisingly effective for certain uses, including real cops and mall cops. And if you tried IT, you probably smiled to yourself. So why all the Segway hate? Paul Graham looks into The Trouble with the Segway and offers a hypothesis about what prompts people to shout abuse at Segway riders: 'You look smug. You don't seem to be working hard enough.' Not that someone riding a motorcycle is working any harder, adds Graham, but because he's sitting astride it, he appears to be making an effort. When you're riding a Segway you're just standing there. Make a version that doesn't look so easy for the rider — perhaps resembling skateboards or bicycles — and Segway just might capture more of the market they hoped to reach."
Sun Microsystems

Sun's JRuby Team Jumps Ship To Engine Yard 77

itwbennett writes "'To be honest, we had no evidence that Oracle wouldn't support JRuby, but we also didn't have any evidence that they would,' said Charles Nutter, explaining why Sun's entire 3-member JRuby team will be leaving the company to work for application hosting company Engine Yard. Nutter called getting hired by Sun about two-and-a-half years ago and being given the chance to work full time on JRuby a 'dream come true.' And said that the decision to leave Sun came down to making sure 'JRuby will get to the next level.'"

Computers Key To Air France Crash 911

Michael_Curator writes "It's no secret that commercial airplanes are heavily computerized, but as the mystery of Air France Flight 447 unfolds, we need to come to grips with the fact that in many cases, airline pilots' hands are tied when it comes to responding effectively to an emergency situation. Boeing planes allow pilots to take over from computers during emergency situations, Airbus planes do not. It's not a design flaw — it's a philosophical divide. It's essentially a question of what do you trust most: a human being's ingenuity or a computer's infinitely faster access and reaction to information. It's not surprising that an American company errs on the side of individual freedom while a European company is more inclined to favor an approach that relies on systems. As passengers, we should have the right to ask whether we're putting our lives in the hands of a computer rather than the battle-tested pilot sitting up front, and we should have right to deplane if we don't like the answer."

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He keeps differentiating, flying off on a tangent.