Is FARO’s ScanArm the future of forensic 3D imaging?

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FARO.com

FARO is the leading brand in 3D measurement technology used in factory work, public safety and now forensic anthropology. The FARO® Forensic ScanArm solution was designed specifically for criminal investigations.

When used with 3D Systems Geomagic® software, the ScanArm allows scientists a noncontact way to scan items of forensic interest in high resolution. It is armed with blue laser technology, which boasts noise-free scanning in high detail at high speeds.

According to the website, it is easily portable. So, it isn’t just some piece of expensive sitting equipment. Theoretically, you could get the scan done before you even take the remains or whatever items to the laboratory.

Despite those claims, it might not be the ideal field equipment the company hoped it would be:

However, this doesn’t take away from all the good things about the equipment.

The interface is designed so that people without 3D imaging experience should be able to navigate it. With 3D imaging being a newer discipline and with its rapid technological advancement, this is important. One day, scientists will probably be able to use 3D scanning devices as easily as they can use a laptop. For now, the transition is still underway, and easy-to-use interfaces will be very helpful for both the people making the scans and the ones making the scanners.

We talked about 3D copies of skulls for facial recognition in another post. The ScanArm bears the same significance as it means to enable scientists to make these copies with the newest technology and be able to work with sturdy evidence. That is, to make identifications without damaging fragile human remains or other evidence.

“By listening to our rapidly growing base of Public Safety – Forensics customers, we have learned that thoroughly measuring and analyzing forensic evidence is of paramount importance. Our non-contact measurement tools allow forensic labs to meet this requirement while minimizing the risk of damaging the evidence. It is now possible to produce accurate and permanent 3D digital documentation of evidence from which measurements can be taken and analysis can be performed days or even decades later…” –Joe Arezone, Chief Commercial Officer of FARO

The key here is “noncontact.” According to this statement, it is no longer necessary to handle the remains or risk damaging them. Further, there are no sprays necessary for the laser to scan, so there is no apparent risk for contamination.

The ScanArm isn’t only to aid forensic anthropologists, however. It is designed for crime labs to create a digital archive of evidence to store for years to come as well as to use in court presentations. Medical examiners can use the ScanArm to digitally collect traumatic injuries quickly.

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FARO.com

Another key is the speed with which these operations can be handled. Officials desire forensic investigations to be handled with care, but mostly with speed. And it is even worse when forensic anthropology and archaeology is a component of the investigation. It is hard work. If the ScanArm hopes to be successful, it will need to do the work accurately without taking away time from an already quickly ticking clock.

I can’t wait to see how else scientists will think to use the ScanArm and if it will live up to the high claims made by FARO.

Click here to learn more about the ScanArm and to schedule a personalized web demonstration.

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FARO.com

 

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READ WARNING: Lessons From Forensic Anthropology Camp

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When I was in high school, I was obsessed with forensic science. There was something sexy about scientifically investigating death, especially since my firsthand knowledge was episodes of CSI and online modules at school like “The Murder at the Pizza Party” (no joke!).

Then, the more I researched murders and dead bodies, the less I thought I would be able to handle it. So, I figured since forensic anthropologists study bones, I could do that. I could work with skeletal remains. Forensic anthropologists don’t work with flesh, right? RIGHT?

Wrong. This is something I learned the hard way.

If you are thinking about being a forensic anthropologist, I recommend getting an internship or field experience before committing to graduate school. Besides the fact that it’s an extremely tough business to get into, you have to deal with intensely pressured situations, inadequate lab equipment (it’s not like what you see on Bones), and grisly scenes that include flesh.

Most of my field school experience was spent digging up unidentified human remains. That part was fine. It was the day at the morgue that changed everything.

First, we saw the area of the morgue where the freshly dead lay, naked and vulnerable. I’m afraid of death as it is (isn’t it ironic, don’t ya think?) and seeing the reality of what happens when you die truly scarred me.

Everything just felt so impersonal – which is how it has to be for the medical examiners to keep their sanity.They even had screens with puppies and cute stuff on it to help with that.

The first dead body I saw was especially gruesome. It was a suicide. And it was hit by a train. And it wasn’t recognizable as the man it used to be. I keep saying it, but I have a good reason.

I looked straight into the person’s eyes. It hurt me to do this. I should never have looked. Because there was nothing there. It felt so empty. That’s what terrified me. No soul, no semblance of what makes us what we are. The visual was bad, yes, but our meat suits aren’t our essence. He didn’t have an essence – and that shook me to my core.

After trying to get that out of my head, we stopped for a group photo. Almost everyone’s smiling in it…but I’m just looking ahead, trying not to cry.


 

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Then, it was time for maceration. Yay.

Maceration is part of the forensic anthropologist’s listed duties in America. (In the UK, this isn’t the case.) Maceration, for those of you who don’t know, is when you soften and break down skin and flesh to get to the bones.

It’s a very important step in a lot of cases where an individual is unknown. Once the flesh is out of the way, the bones can speak to us, revealing secrets that can lead to identification, cause of death, age, sex, ancestry and more. It can be done using flesh-eating insects, emulsifying agents and more traditional methods.

In our case, we had boiling pots of water, cases of unidentified body part samples and sophisticated tools like toothbrushes. The part I had to work on was a femur – which was one of the least grisly parts present. Around me, people worked on skulls and other parts that were already mostly fleshless – to start off with.

I put my femur into the pot of boiling water. The first thing I noticed was the smell. It was like rotten Thanksgiving turkey…or like pork ribs that were left to mold on your stove for weeks. It was the smell of a decaying human being cooking.

I didn’t even make it to the point where I was going to scrape the flesh off with our “sophisticated” array of tools. I couldn’t do it. I was so nauseous. Also, I was totally freaked out because I sat in the middle of the outdoor area we were in, and as I looked around, my fellow students were sitting with buckets of water, brushes and people parts, just going at it, getting down to the bone.

This isn’t to say this wasn’t traumatizing for them, either. Somehow, though, they were stronger than me. They were able to compartmentalize what they were doing and tuck it away (mostly) as science. But, make no mistake, we all needed a drink at the end of that day.

I’m happy I didn’t stick around for more, even though I desperately wanted to be cut out for this job. I heard from others that they worked on a fully fleshed foot. They described the sound of the breaking toes and defleshing the section. Even what I imagined scarred me. Screw actually being around for it!

I beat myself up about “chickening out” on this for a while. I wished I was stronger. I wished I could look at it medically. But, for me, it was dehumanizing. And, at the end of the day, I decided if I had to lose some of my humanity, some of what makes me who I am, that it wasn’t worth it.

My mentor also helped me get over myself and made me realize I was courageous and that now I wouldn’t be wasting time and money furthering my education in a field I wasn’t cut out for.

These were all valuable, necessary lessons. Necessary pain.

Working in the field and digging up skeletons was great. There are so many other things I learned, but they aren’t necessary for the point of this entry. Honestly, I’ve never had as much fun in my life than when I was sweating under the hot California sun digging up John and Jane Does. It’s truly fascinating, and it revealed to me what I want to do in the future.

I want to work with bonesjust bones.

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Metastasizing numbers in the modern world

Most people describe cancer as a modern disease. This isn’t entirely true. While cases of cancer are certainly more common now than ever, cancer has existed since humans have.

Bioarchaeologists haven’t discovered too much physical evidence of cancer, but this is because the technology hasn’t been around long enough. Paleopathology, or the study of disease in ancient human remains, has made bounds since the development of medical technologies like multidetector computed tomography (MDCT) and x-rays. These along with a standardized technique for visual analysis will help scientists make discoveries about cancer from already known remains.

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Even with the major changes in technology, there haven’t been too many discovered cases to date. It’s between 200-300 cases. This is where the argument for cancer as a man-made disease comes in.

Some scientists argue that cancer is a modern disease because of several factors, including but not limited to:

  1. the low number of ancient finds
  2. the Industrial Revolution
  3. the obesity epidemic
  4. tobacco use
  5. increased exposure to carcinogens

These factors have one thing in common – civilization. However, what they fail to consider is the expanded lifespan of the modern individual compared with an ancient human and the advancement of medical diagnoses.

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The Siberian Ukok princess died from cancer about 2,500 years ago.

In ancient times, many people went through life without being diagnosed or treated, and they didn’t live long enough for it to have such intense effects. After all, cancer is more likely to develop the older you get. Another flaw with that argument is ancient people were exposed to plenty of carcinogens.

Some radical views suggest cancer is entirely man-made, asserting “there is nothing in the natural world that can cause cancer.” Obviously, this is simply scientifically false. You can be born with cancer. The sun causes cancer, genetics cause cancer and so do chemicals.

You might be thinking, chemicals you say? Aren’t those man-made? Some are, but 99% of the chemicals that get into our systems are naturally occurring.

Understanding this and studying how cancer evolved is essential to modern America. Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the US, the most common forms being breast and lung cancer. One death out of every four is due to this disease. By looking at its evolution, we can try to understand genetically what makes those genes expressed. Studying cancer from this perspective can help develop new treatments, creating a better future.

Medicine and treatments aren’t the only part of surviving cancer. It’s also about the patient’s mental state. Many cancer victims blame themselves. They wonder what they did to deserve it. I hope this information can put that critical voice to rest.

http://www.pinterest.com/adenardotheonly/cancer-stats/

Further Reading:

Read about the Ptolemaic period Egyptian mummy with prostate cancer.

Check out this slideshow of cancer in an Egyptian skeleton.

More about the evolution of cancer.

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Homosexuality isn’t ‘unnatural’; neither is your ignorance

During a conversation recently, someone turned to me and said, “There weren’t gays back then.” When I tried to correct this person’s ignorance by telling them there have been homosexuals since the beginning of human time, they simply said, “prove it.”

Well, I don’t need to prove it because others have already done that for me.

Homosexuality was commonplace in Rome. They didn’t identify as hetero- or homosexual. Instead, they identified as dominant and submissive. Engaging in homosexual behavior didn’t automatically strip away a man’s masculinity.

In Egypt homosexuality wasn’t very prevalent. However, Niankhkhnum and Khnumhotep’s tomb is considered by some to be the earliest evidence of a homosexual couple. The pair was found buried together surrounded by sensual scenes of the two canoodling. In life, they were manicurists of the king (2380 to 2320 B.C.).

A man of the late Stone Age was found buried facing east surrounded by domestic wares. This burial screams female, but the sex of the skeletal remains was male. Here we see a discrepancy between funerary ritual and biological sex. In this culture, males were usually buried with weapons and other “manly” goods. It was also posited that these remains could be of an unknown “third gender.”

‘Far more likely is that he was a man with a different sexual orientation, homosexual or transvestite. What we see here does not add up to traditional Corded Ware cultural norms,’ said researcher Kamila Remisova Vesinova in an article.

Besides these cases, homosexuality is now being studied as a naturally occurring behavior that has evolved genetically.

This is so important to understand because while marriage equality is a reality in the United States, the treatment of homosexual individuals is still lacking.

 

Fact: Employers in 22 states can still fire you for no reason other than your (homo)sexuality.

Fact: A survey found that 81.9% of students who identify as LGBTQ were bullied based on their sexual orientation.

Fact: About 40% of Americans still oppose same-sex marriage.

Facts (which we’ve already explored): Homosexuality is found in genetics, is natural and has always existed.

So, why is it still a debate among rational modern humans? Why can employers in the U.S. still fire people based on something inherited? Why are children still taught heterosexual superiority?

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You might want to stand up for this…

We briefly talked about sedentism in yesterday’s discussion about the Paleo diet. It’s important to understand how detrimental this lifestyle of inactivity really is to our health. It is correlated with heart disease, diabetes, cancer and obesity.

It has even affected the evolution of the human skeleton.

If you compared your bones with your ancestors’ and even a chimpanzee’s bones, you would notice a stark difference in the density of the bones. Our skeletons have become lighter and contain less spongy bone, which results in a higher risk of osteoporosis, a bone disease that makes your bones brittle and fragile, which ultimately leads to fractured bones.

If we think about the history of the modern human lifestyle, the changes in our bones are entwined with the effects of improvements in agricultural technology. Our hunting-and-gathering ancestors were extremely active when procuring suitable nutrition, and they were always looking for food. About 12,000 years ago, they made the switch to farming, which led to a surplus of food, which led to what elitists would call “civilized society.” This meant people could sit down a lot longer, and it’s only gotten worse since then.

The average American can spend up to 22 hours sitting or being inactive per day. This means we aren’t putting enough stress on our bones for them to grow stronger.

Bioarchaeological evidence shows the Neolithic Revolution brought with it a decline in oral health, a decrease in skull size and increases in both nutritional deficiencies and infectious diseases.

 

We’ve all seen the ‘Got Milk?’ ads, so we all know how important it is to drink our milk to allow for strong bones.(updated 5/11/16)

So why aren’t we also emphasizing providing our bones with necessary activity as well?

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