Get Caught

Art-heavy personal blog of mostly Watchmen and Homestuck. Also bones, cats, the human body, SCIENCE!, politics, and Star Trek. Occasionally NSFW but everything's tagged.

Ancestry, Race, and Forensic Anthropology ›


The difficulty in forensic anthropology of using biological variation to figure out a social category is explained really well in this article, and it’s what I really try to drive home to my Intro to Bioanth students.

tl;dr read this and understand why I need to smack the shit out of something every time I hear “race is a social construct except in forensic anthropology.” IT’S A SOCIAL CONSTRUCT ALWAYS.




Timelapse for the two-faced calfs skull being cleaned by the beetles.

I just thought it was the coolest thing ever so I tried to make a gif.


nom noM NOM NOM NOM 

I got to see this.  So cool!





The backlog of rape kits has put justice on hold for a lot of people. Back in 2009, more than 11,000 untested kits were found in a Detroit Police Department storage facility. Some were more than 25 years old.

Mariska Hargitay speaks on some of the issues surrounding the rape kit backlog in Detroit, Michigan. #endthebacklog (x)

It costs between $1,000 – $1,500 to test every single rape kit. There are over 10,000 kits left in Detroit’s rape kit backlog. Your donation can go directly to testing them. Donate to the Detroit Crime Commission’s backlog initiative by clicking here.

I am pretty explicitly anti-police in every respect. But I support Wayne County prosecutor Kym Worthy and her push to catalogue the egregious backlog of unprocessed rape kits in Detroit. 

Her work has already identified countless serial rapists in southeast Michigan, and will continue to identify these rapist pieces of shit as she moves forward.

Who cares if this process leads to conviction or not. Just give us the list. We can take care of the rest.


Just as some semi-relevant detail:   Before she was known as the woman who made it her mission to test a backlog of rape kits, Kym Worthy was known for two things:  1) Successfully prosecuting the cops who killed Malice Green, one of the very few times you’ve seen white police officers convicted of killing a black man 2)successfully going after mayor Kwame Kilpatrick for….well…lots of things but importantly the corruption in his “personal” police force, the Executive Protection Unit,  who were involved in a cover-up of Tamara Greene’s murder and may, though this has never been proven, have had something to do with her murder.

She’s also been a huge supporter of the work to get Michigan’s same-sex marriage ban overturned, and has done so from the framework of being an advocate for children in foster care, and the mother of an adopted special needs child. 

This is a woman a long history of using her office to stand up to powerful people.  She’s such a hero.

(via angelicasylum)

Archaeology Humor


Cheeky session titles at the upcoming SAA conference in Austin:

"Those Dam Archaeologists"
Symposium on river basin surveys. Classic. Can’t wait for that one…

(via xiphoidprocess)


Read-more for those of y’all who don’t follow for academic articles about Forensics Stuff that Non-Forensic People Really Don’t Want to Think About. Take your cue from the very cleverly chosen comic above and decide if you’d like to know more.

Read More

A really excellent article. If anybody wants to learn more about the crash of American Airlines flight 587 and the rest of the investigation it’s covered very well in the Air Crash Investigation episode “Queens Catastrophe”.

In due fairness to the people who’ve devoted their lives to making air travel as safe as possible (and for those who want something slightly less morbid to dwell upon when buckling up for a flight), the seatbelts do have important safety functions in a variety of possible air disasters.  For example, they keep you in your seat (and thus not smashing into the walls or overhead compartments or even another passenger) in the event of sudden, extreme maneuvers like drops or banks or even sudden cabin depressurization (why you’re advised to keep the seat belt on unless you’re specifically getting up out of your seat).  Many planes that experience problems in the air do regain control and are able to land safely, and the seat belt helps minimize injuries incurred until the plane stabilizes.  Also, combined with the brace position they reduce injuries incurred during a crash or emergency landing, leaving survivors better equipped to evacuate the plane as quickly as possible in order to avoid succumbing to smoke and/or fire.



In the early half of the 20th century, forensic science was non-existent. Police coroners did not have to be medically trained and crime-scene investigation was minimal. All this would be changed, however, by an elderly Chicago socialite with a penchant for dollhouses and death.

Inspired by her brother’s classmate and future chief medical examiner of Suffolk County, George Burgess Magrath, Mrs. Frances Glessner Lee dedicated her life to the advancement of the forensic sciences and is allegedly the inspiration for Jessica Fletcher of “Murder, She Wrote.” With Lee’s help, the Harvard Department of Legal Medicine was created in 1931, and through donations of manuscripts and money, it became the Magrath Library of Legal Medicine in 1934, an unprecedented compendium in the field of forensics.

Lee’s greatest contribution, however, was her 18 perfectly proportioned dioramas based on real-life crime scenes which she donated to the department in the 1940s. These painstakingly crafted dioramas include functioning locks and lights and details such as overturned cups, bullet-holes, and boxes of chocolates as well as miniature corpses in a variety of macabre positions.

Twice a year, Lee would hold week-long seminars where participants would scour the scenes for 90 minutes with only the aid of a flashlight and a magnifying glass, trying to deduce the details of the murders through the details of the dioramas.

After Lee’s death in 1962, the models were acquired by the Maryland Medical Examiner’s office and underwent $50,000 in restorations in the 1990s. They are still used as training tools.

Images 1-4 Source : Image 5 Source

(via batsbrains)


Friend: My mom is a fan of your tumblr lol we died over the crystal skull vodka face!!

Me: Are you serious? Hahaha!

Friend: Haha I always go through your posts with her. My mom loves archaeology.

Me: I plan on trying to convince my supervisors to let me put it (Crystal Head Vodka Skull) into the forensic FORDISC program to see what race/ethnicity it spews out.


1) This made my day.
2) I think I need to make this happen. Cross your fingers my supervisors let me do it! 

The post:

FORDISCFORDISC 3.0 is an interactive computer program, running under Windows, for classifying adults by ancestry and sex using any combination of standard measurements. New features of FORDISC 3.0 are: larger number of variables, including postcranial variables; larger numbers of groups, including Howells’ world wide cranial data; improved pictorial guide to measurements, and improved file management and printer control.

Using ForDisc, a decedent’s biological profile can be created based on measurements from various areas of bones, along with information about the person’s age, height, race, and illnesses. ForDisc uses standard anthropometric measurements including maximum length, maximum breadth, bi-zygomatic breadth, orbital breadth and height, maximum alveolar breadth and width, minimum frontal breadth, basion-bregma, basion-prosthion, cranial base length, bi-auricular breadth, upper facial height and breadth, foramen magnum breadth and length, frontal chord, parietal chord, occipital chord, nasal height and breadth, bi-orbital breadth, interorbital breadth, and mastoid length.


I love stuff like this because as useful a tool as FORDISC can be, it’s super-important when using it to take it in its full social context and to emphasize how the program is just as subject to human foibles and misuses as any other program and not to just blindly accept whatever results it spits out. 

See also:  the time they asked FORDISC to assign a likely racial identity to a soccer ball and it happily complied. 

Freid DL, Jantz RL, Ousley SD (2005) The truth is out there: how NOT to use FORDISC. Poster presented at the 74th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists,Milwaukee, WI April 6

(via xiphoidprocess)




Yeah, that’s kinda what I figured? I mean, I know the certified labs have tons of backlog, and that there is significant paperwork involved in analyzing DNA for a crime, but there really aren’t more basic molecular techniques than extraction/PCR/gel electrophoresis. They’re very cheap, very fast, and very easy as is. This article — the little of it I can read — makes it sound like that part literally takes two or three weeks! There’s absolutely no scientific reason to imply that we don’t already have a rapid DNA test. We do. As you pointed out, it’s not the test itself that holds up the analysis.

Ah the joys of newspaper reporting when it comes to distilling scientific concepts and realities for a lay audience and accurately reporting advances in the field.  And by joys, I obviously mean head-smacking despair. 

(Not that newspaper reporting doesn’t have areas where it excels, but man, science.  Historically so not it’s strong suit.)

(via tilthendoftheline)



Right from the pages of my 2012 novel NOCTURNAL. Very cool to see it become real. #Book #Books #NoFilter

…who the fuck takes three weeks to analyze DNA? I mean, government labs, I get that, but it already doesn’t take that long. Thirty minutes for a DNA extraction, two hours tops for a PCR and maybe another hour for restriction digestion and/or electrophoresis, and even sequencing only takes a couple hours (we get next day turnover here at Vandy). And a lot of those times are estimates in my lab and we have super old thermocyclers and stuff, newer ones could cut that time in half, and you can run gel electrophoresis in like fifteen minutes if you use lithium borate as a buffer instead of TBE…most NEB enzymes for digestion take just five minutes, too.

Basically, I don’t understand why this is news?

Of course, I could go look it up, but that would be work and research, psh.

It’s not the test itself but the backlog and the bureaucratic steps that need to be taken before the decision can be made to actually test any individual sample that causes the 2-3 week wait (especially if the test might wholly consume the sample or otherwise compromise its forensic value in other ways), if I remember my forensic genetics course correctly (disclaimer: not my specialty).  Like there aren’t even half as many certified labs (need the certification in order for the results to be valid in court) in place as it is to process all of the samples that ARE submitted for a quick turn-around, let alone those that get shelved without any further investigation for a variety of reasons (mainly funding or lack of priority given to the investigation, as is the horrible case in many #rapes).

Don’t know about the specific test featured in the article, but if it’s cheaper than the current system, easier for labs to perform to the certification levels needed for court (meaning more labs could do the tests), less destructive, and as reliable in terms of the accuracy of the results while complying with the Daubert ruling, then that’d be a significant advancement for the forensic application of genetics.  

(via tilthendoftheline)

On the other hand “Lemonade from Lemons:  The Taphonomic Effect of Lawn Mowers on Skeletal Remains” is pretty fantastic, both from a title and actual experiment standpoint.

Kudos to Martin et al for getting a paper in JFS all about how they drove back and forth over (pig) skeletons on a riding lawnmower lowering the blade with every pass and then charting where all of the pieces went.