ADVERTISEMENT
See Inside October 2011

How Skulls Speak

New 3-D software is helping scientists identify the sex and ancestral origins of human remains with greater speed and precision



Photographs by Floto + Warner

Like the detectives on the CBS drama Cold Case, anthropologist Ann H. Ross of North Carolina State University spends many of her days thinking about unsolved crimes. Her most recent work has aimed at developing software that helps forensic scientists determine the sex and ancestry of modern ­human skulls.

Typically forensic scientists measure remains with sliding rulers called calipers. Doing so results in two-dimensional measurements. Ross’s software, called 3D-ID and developed with a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice, relies on three-dimensional measurements that scientists take with a digitizer—a computer and stylus. “The stylus allows you to place the coordinates in real space, so you get a better idea of the actual biological form of whatever you’re measuring,” Ross says. 

This is only a preview. Get the rest of this article now!

Select an option below:

Customer Sign In

*You must have purchased this issue or have a qualifying subscription to access this content


It has been identified that the institution you are trying to access this article from has institutional site license access to Scientific American on nature.com.
Click here to access this article in its entirety through site license access.

Rights & Permissions
Share this Article:

Comments

You must sign in or register as a ScientificAmerican.com member to submit a comment.
Scientific American Special Universe

Get the latest Special Collector's edition

Secrets of the Universe: Past, Present, Future

Order Now >

X

Email this Article

X