..... Stumper Index
Stumper #35.






How Good Is Your Science KQ?

[i.e. your Knowledge Quotient]

Exhibit A

Forensics uses techniques and methods of science for analysis of 'exhibits' associated with mysteries of one sort or another. Scientists from most disciplines are involved in forensic examinations.

Soil scientists can provide useful information in crime investigations. In a case in Michigan, soil found on the floor of the crime scene was found to match soil on the suspect's shoes.

There are many intriguing cases in which investigation by botanists has provided important information. Forensic botanists quite often use tree ring analysis to help resolve the authenticity of disputed masterworks such as paintings on wood, wooden art objects or musical instruments. While the total number of rings gives a tree's age, the variation in ring width is usually what is of importance in forensic investigation. In one case, two violins that were part of an inheritance were purported to have been made by Antonio Stradivari. X-ray analysis of the sounding boards to compare them with spruce from the Alpine region of northern Italy, where Stradivarius is known to have worked showed that the violins could not have been made much before 1900. Since Stradivarius died in 1737, they clearly were fakes.

In 1932, when the infant son of American aviator Charles Lindbergh was kidnapped, a critical piece of evidence was a crude homemade wooden ladder left at the scene. A US Forest Service xylotomist made a meticulous examination and description of the wood and when the case came to trial in 1936, offered the first botanical testimony ever to be heard and accepted in American courts.

In 1990, the detailed work of a palynologist identifying pollen in a mass of biological material blocking the fuel line of a wrecked plane was critical in showing that the blockage occurred after the crash while the plane was stored in an outdoor storage yard.

Our fictional Stumper: During the time of an international investigation into a robbery in the south of France, a very conscientious US customs officer was looking carefully through a traveler's hand luggage and came across a pair of muddy sneakers wrapped in newspaper. The traveler assured the officer that he had not visited that part of France but the officer took the sneakers for examination anyway.

Which of these forensic scientists would be especially helpful in examining the sneakers to see if the traveler was telling the truth?
  1. Toxicologist
  2. Xylotomist
  3. Palynologist
  4. Pedologist.
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