Short Science, June 8, 2014

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 08 June, 2014, 5:32am
UPDATED : Sunday, 08 June, 2014, 5:32am

Forensic experts date old fingerprints

Criminals' days may be numbered after Dutch forensic experts discovered how to accurately date fingerprints, a breakthrough that could one day let police date crime scene prints from years ago. "It's not quite the Holy Grail of fingerprinting, but it's a very important discovery," said Marcel de Puit, fingerprint researcher at the Dutch Forensic Institute. "Police regularly ask us if we can date crime scene fingerprints. Being able to date the prints means you can determine when a potential suspect was at the crime scene or which fingerprints are relevant for the investigation." Fingerprints leave nearly unique marks on a surface that can be copied and compared to a database to identify a suspect, a police technique that rose to prominence in the early 1900s. The prints themselves are made up of sweat and grease, including a complex mix of cholesterol, amino acids and proteins. AFP


New app developed to count road kill

The dirty business of counting road kill has gone hi-tech, courtesy of a Utah State University team that developed a smartphone application to chart collisions between motor vehicles and animals. The system could help reduce collisions that cause an estimated 200 human deaths and US$8.4 billion in property damage annually throughout the United States, not to mention a whopping one million animal deaths per day, according to Daniel Olson, a Utah State wildlife biologist and lead author of a study released last week in the online publication PLOS One. New York Times


Antarctic partners set up protected site

Antarctica pact partners have set up a new protected geological site on the frozen continent in a bid to preserve rare minerals that could shed light on the region's history and evolution over millions of years. The signatories to the Antarctic Treaty have designated the Larsemann Hills region of the continent as an Antarctic specially protected area. Geological analysis shows that one billion years ago, the nearby Stornes peninsula was a shallow inland basin, rich in boron and phosphorus, the key chemical constituents of the rare minerals. At the time of their discovery, four of the minerals - boralsilite, stornesite, chopinite and tassieite - were new to science, while the rest were extremely rare elsewhere. Signatories include Australia, China, India and Russia. Reuters


Scientists map entire sheep genome

Scientists have mapped the entire sheep genome, paving the way to improve the health of the humble farm animal for better meat and wool. After eight years of work on the genetic make-up of the species, the researchers also found the secrets of the sheep's digestive system and unique fat metabolism process that allows it to produce and maintain its thick coat. AFP