(Roughly) Daily

Actually, that’s not a new ring around Saturn; there’s a hair on the lens…

As the BBC has reported, German police have been searching for more than 15 years for a violent, erratic– and remarkably elusive– criminal who left traces of DNA at more than 40 crime scenes, including six murders. From the evidence, police knew the suspect was a woman of Eastern European descent, but nothing more. She became known as the “The Woman Without a Face” and “the Phantom of Heilbronn,” after the city in southern Germany where she allegedly killed a policewoman, and a $400,000 reward was posted for her capture.

But over time, some things didn’t add up. The variety of crimes, from execution-style shootings to petty thefts from garden sheds, defied profiling. A sketch drawn with the help of a witness at one scene looked distinctly masculine. Evidence that had shown traces of her DNA in one test showed none in another.

Now suspicion has shifted: authorities think they know where they’ll find their suspect: She’ll be working at one of the factories that make the cotton swabs that police use to gather DNA samples– a woman whose unknowing contamination during the manufacturing process turned her into the most hunted criminal in Germany. Police are now testing thousands of swabs and gathering DNA samples from workers. “It shouldn’t have happened,” said Ulrich Goll, justice minister for the state of Baden-Wuerttemberg. “The investigators are not to blame. They can’t tell if a cotton bud has DNA sticking to it.” Chagrined law enforcement officers believe they should have fingered their woman soon… But those open murder cases may take a while longer, thanks to the steady stream of red herrings.

(Danke, GMSV)

As we slip on our rubber gloves, we might tip the plumed birthday hat to Rene Descartes, the French philosopher and mathematician who thought and therefore was.  He was born on this date in 1596.

Many contemporaries (perhaps most notably, Pascal) rejected his famous conclusion, the dualist separation of mind and body; more (Voltaire, et al.), since.  But Descartes’ emphasis on method and analysis, his insistent integration of philosophy and physical science, his adamancy on the importance of consciousness in epistemology, and perhaps most fundamentally, his the questioning of tradition and authority had a transformative– and lasting– effect on Western thought (…though, perhaps, less obviously of late).

“In order to improve the mind, we ought less to learn than to contemplate.”
– Rene Descartes

Rene Descartes

Written by (Roughly) Daily

March 31, 2009 at 1:01 am

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