Archive for September 6th, 2017

Random jumbled notes: August 6, 2017.

Wednesday, September 6th, 2017

I had no idea Tillman Fertitta could command that kind of money. (Also: the Rockets are worth more than the Clippers? And $85 million to $2.2 billion over 24 years? That’s an APR of about 14.5%, if I ran the numbers right. Anyone want to check me? ETA: Actually, I think I left a “0” off when I was doing the calculation the first time: it looks more like a 26% APR. ETA again: No, I was right the first time. I haven’t had enough coffee this morning.)

Speaking of return on investment, here’s a stock tip from WCD: sell this one short.

Over the past decade, the DNA laboratory in the office of […] chief medical examiner emerged as a pioneer in analyzing the most complicated evidence from crime scenes. It developed two techniques, which went beyond standard practice at the F.B.I. and other public labs, for making identifications from DNA samples that were tiny or that contained a mix of more than one person’s genetic material.

Now these DNA analysis methods are under the microscope, with scientists questioning their validity. In court testimony, a former lab official said she was fired for criticizing one method, and a former member of the […] Commission on Forensic Science said he had been wrong when he approved their use. The first expert witness allowed by a judge to examine the software source code behind one technique recently concluded that its accuracy “should be seriously questioned.”

A coalition of defense lawyers is asking the […] inspector general’s office — the designated watchdog for the state’s crime labs — to launch an inquiry into the use of the disputed analysis methods in thousands of criminal cases. While the inspector general has no jurisdiction over the court system, any finding of flaws with the DNA analysis could prompt an avalanche of litigation. Previous convictions could be revisited if the flawed evidence can be shown to have made a difference in the outcome.

“Oh, man, you’re not writing about the APD crime lab again, are you?” Actually, I’m not: this time, it’s the New York City DNA lab.

I still really would like to read an “explain like I’m five” piece from someone who really knows DNA and DNA testing. On the one hand, nobody (myself included) wants innocent people to go to jail. On the other hand, it increasingly seems to me like a lot of these issues resolve around subtle and sometimes disputed interpretations of statistics and statistical data.

This also points up something that I keep thinking about, and deserves a longer essay: how do we, and how should we, validate scientific investigative techniques used in criminal prosecution? It isn’t just DNA: how did comparative bullet-lead analysis ever become accepted? Or bite-mark analysis?

And what do we currently think we know, that ain’t necessarily so? Is there statistical evidence that supports the use of drug dogs, or is it possible that this is a “Clever Hans” phenomena? Has anybody ever done a controlled study?

The great Cardinals scandal of 2015 was only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to high-tech sports cheating. (I know there’s a lot of biology and chemistry involved, but for some reason I don’t think of doping as “high-tech”.)

I’ve got a vague idea for a book series about a white hat computer security expert who specializes in investigating technological sports cheating: hacking other teams databases, abusing smart watches, maybe drone surveillance of practices, tapping into sideline radio communications…sort of a Myron Bolitar meets hacker riff. If anybody wants to take this idea, feel free.