Science, Art, Litt, Science based Art & Science Communication
I came across an artist's work recently . This artist is trying to help forensic science! You can see her work here: http://deweyhagborg.com/
Here you can read an interview based on her work here: http://www.smartplanet.com/blog/pure-genius/q-a-heather-dewey-hagbo...
(Heather Dewey-Hagborg, information artist, on the intersection of art and science)
At the intersection of art and science, Heather Dewey-Hagborg creates forensic portraits based on the DNA found in stray items, such as chewing gum and cigarette butts. Her work, Stranger Visions, will be on display at the Cyber In Securities exhibition in Washington, D.C., from August 30 to September 27, 2013.
A Ph.D. student in Electronic Arts Heather Dewey-Hagborg, who makes 3-D "masks," or "portraits," of the faces of unknown individuals using the DNA they unwittingly discard on such things as cigarette butts and chewing gum.In short, Dewey-Hagborg extracts DNA from these samples of trash and turns that information from code into life-sized 3-D facial portraits resembling the person who left the sample behind. She can code for eye color, eye and nose width, skin tone, hair color and more.
She starts by cutting up her sample, sometimes the end of a cigarette, thin slices of a chewed wad of gum, sometimes hair, and incubates the sample with chemicals to distill it into pure DNA.
She then takes that DNA, and matches the code with different traits on the genome related to the way human faces look. Next, she sends the DNA to a sequencing company that sends her back a text file full of A, C, Ts and Gs — remember those from biology class? Those are the four nucleic acid bases that DNA is made out of.
She then reads that information in a program she designed herself, translating the code into traits, then using those traits to build a 3-D model of a face. Dewey-Hagborg can determine ethnicity, gender, even a tendency to be overweight according to this article: http://www.npr.org/2013/05/12/183363361/litterbugs-beware-turning-f....
But even all of that can't give her the whole picture. Much of the information is still missing, and Dewey-Hagborg has to fill in the gaps. She compares that part of the work to a sketch artist. "This person is more likely to be overweight, to have pale skin, to have freckles, blue eyes, how do I interpret this?"
People often ask her how accurate the portraits are. Of course, she has no way of knowing. After all, she collects these items from anonymous sources. But she did start off with her own portrait based on her own DNA.
The portraits are subjective in a big way, she acknowledges, but says much of the information is solidly based in data.
Though she started this project in part to "open up the conversation about genetic surveillance," she says, it's taken on another purpose. Right now she's working with the Delaware medical examiner's office to try to identify a woman in a 20-year-old unsolved case by using some of the victim's remains to build a 3-D portrait of her. She's six weeks away from finishing the process, when investigators will, for the first time, have some idea of what the victim looked like before her death.
Now read the comments below this article:
Yes, people are very worried! People are saying this is just a publicity stunt. They are highly skeptical too! And why shouldn't they be!?
The artist herself apparently shares these concerns! She says: http://www.smartplanet.com/blog/pure-genius/q-a-heather-dewey-hagbo...">The artist herself says when the scientists pointed this is imporssible: I wasn’t sure at all it would work.My science background was minimal. I had a computer science background. I’d taken the standard biology courses in high school and a little in college. I was coming into it from a pretty ignorant perspective. I knew about evolution, of course. But I had no idea about molecular biology or the lab techniques involved. A lot of the learning process for me on that end was simply mechanical. I was learning to do things like pipetting properly. I’ve been taking the scientific research and interpreting it in a speculative direction. http://www.smartplanet.com/blog/pure-genius/q-a-heather-dewey-hagbo...">I’ve been taking the scientific research and interpreting it in a speculative direction. ( http://www.smartplanet.com/blog/pure-genius/q-a-heather-dewey-hagbo... ).
She herself concedes these works “might look more like a possible cousin than a spitting image. In addition to her upcoming exihibit, Stranger Visions, she will be leading policy discussions on the implications of her art.
There is a big problem here? The works based on DNA obtained do not allow her to predict someone's face with anything but the crudest of guesses.
Read a blog based on the aritists' work , especially the comments here: http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/billofhealth/2013/05/27/dna-art/
Now you will know how fault-ridden her work can be. Actual scientists, it seems, are saying this is a scam!
cautions you about DIY Bioart
Now read this article: Artist Creates Portraits From People's DNA. Scientists Say 'That's Impossible'