“I was amazed when I saw CSI. “I was surprised when I saw ‘CSI,’ because there were all these wonderful machines.
This is Akira Yamazaki, president of the Forensic Science Laboratory, one of Japan’s leading private scientific appraisal organizations. His laboratory has organized former members of the Forensic Scienctific Laboratory (Forensic Scienctific Laboratory) and the National Research Institute of Police Science (National Research Institute of Police Science*), as well as scientific experts from various fields, and conducts more than 800 cases a year at the request of courts, prosecutors, and police, as well as companies and individuals. He also provides guidance and supervision for many TV dramas.
Do you say “wonderful” because there are things that are not real but you wish were?
“No, no, no. No, everything used in “CSI” and “CSI” are real things.
So why were you surprised?
“Because they were all the latest equipment. The machines used for DNA analysis cost at least 5 million yen each, and when I bought an American-made machine for DNA analysis 10 years ago, it cost 30 million yen. New machines are developed every year, but in reality, we can’t afford to buy only new machines.
The statute of limitations for murder has been abolished thanks to advances in forensic science.
Appraisal instruments are advancing year by year. In the past, handwriting analysis was done by visually examining the shape of the letters, but now computers are used to quantify more than 150 characteristics of handwriting, including writing pressure and writing speed. There are also devices that can visualize the slightest trace of handwriting on documents. If the document is printed out by a printer, they can identify the traces unique to the printer machine, and even identify the type and manufacturer of the printer machine. It seems that it is no longer possible to create a forged document.
“Some of them are very cleverly made. Some of them are so cleverly made that they seem to be genuine, but they don’t feel right. In such a case, you should keep your fingers crossed and inspect the document anyway. When I find out that the document is a forgery, I feel like, ‘I did it! That’s how I feel. I find it rewarding to find the truth through forensic investigation.
In TV dramas, fingerprints are collected by powdering them with a brush-like object, but now there are devices that shine a light on them to make them appear. The reality may be much more advanced than the TV drama.
“With the development of computers and other devices, it is now possible to clearly see fingerprints that could not be analyzed in the past. There have been cases where criminals have been arrested by reexamining old fingerprints.
In 2010, the statute of limitations for murder and other crimes was abolished, thanks to the progress of DNA analysis.
“Until then, the statute of limitations for murder was 15 years, but this was because it was difficult to arrest a murderer even after 15 years of investigation if no arrest was made. However, with the advancement of science, it has become possible to uncover past crimes. That’s why the Forensic Scienctific Laboratory and the National Research Inst. of Police Science are now working hard to create a database of DNA as well as fingerprints.
If you smell almonds, the person who smelled them is also dead at that point.
Such a reality cannot be understood from TV dramas. In the drama, various forensic work is shown, but there are several scenes that are not realistic.
There is a case where a suicide note is left on a computer.
“Anyone can type on a computer. Anyone can type on a computer, and that’s not evidence.
If you check the fingerprints on the keyboard, you can find out who typed it.
“If the keyboard is used a lot or touched by a lot of people, the fingerprints will be rubbed off and cannot be collected. There is a scene where they are checking fingerprints on a doorknob, but you can’t collect fingerprints from that kind of place. You can’t get fingerprints from a computer mouse, and you almost can’t get fingerprints from a keyboard.
I often put my face close to a corpse and say, “It smells like almonds. The cause of death is cyanide poisoning.
“Cyanide reacts with stomach acid to produce a gas that smells like almonds, and inhaling that gas is the cause of death. Even after death, it continues to react with stomach acid in the stomach. If you smell almonds, it means that you inhaled that gas. That person will also die. This is not possible in reality. Just by looking at one scene like that, you can see how much study the creators put into their work.
The Future of DNA-based Face Recognition is Just Around the Corner
Security cameras are very effective in chasing criminals in dramas and in real life. In addition to the security cameras on streetlights, the Metropolitan Police Department is now installing “super security lights” in parks and streets, which allow people to talk to police officers over the intercom when they press the call button in case of an incident or accident.
The technology to process unclear images into clear ones is also advancing.
“In reality, however, there is no unified standard for security cameras, and there are currently about 100 types of security cameras. It is necessary to change the analysis software and methods for each of them, so it takes an analyst with sufficient experience and skills to make the image clear enough to identify the person of the criminal.
Once the image is clear, a 3D image is created based on it. Once the image is clear, a 3D image can be created based on it. There are 256 feature points on a human face, and the skeletal features remain the same even after plastic surgery or changes in body shape, so no matter how superficial the changes are, it is possible to identify them.
Furthermore, in the U.S. and other countries, research is now underway to recreate the face of a criminal from DNA. In the near future, wanted photographs may be made from cigarette butts and used chopsticks. Japan has not yet started research, but they are beginning to take measures to prevent crime using AI.
“We are looking at past crime data to get statistics on what time of day, what season, and what kind of weather conditions are most likely to cause crimes, and having the AI learn from that to focus on patrols. This is actually helping to deter crime.
Forensics is evolving rapidly. Mariko, the main character in “Forensic Scienctific Laboratory Woman,” says, “Science does not lie.
In “Forensic Woman,” the main character Mariko says, “Science doesn’t lie,” but “Science doesn’t lie, but it’s not a panacea. Science does not lie, but it is not a panacea, and it can be used to tell lies. That’s why it’s important to verify the results humbly and without prejudice.
Forensic Science Laboratory is affiliated with the prefectural police department. Forensic Sci. The Forensic Sci. Lab. is an agency of the National Police Agency. It conducts forensic examinations of large-scale cases that cannot be handled by the Forensic Sci. Lab. and examinations that require advanced techniques.
Akira Yamazaki founded the Forensic Science Appraisal Laboratory in 2001. He is a regular member of the Japanese Society for Forensic Science and Technology. He has conducted more than 800 cases per year in a wide range of fields such as DNA analysis, toxicological analysis, foreign object inspection, forgery/falsification analysis, image analysis, handwriting analysis, fingerprint analysis, traffic accident analysis, fire analysis, blood analysis, voice/voice print analysis, etc. He has also developed software and published academic papers.
Interview and writing： Izumi Nakagawa