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How a Tiny Website Became the Police's Go-To Genealogy Database

June 3, 2018 FROM NEXTGOV arrow Ever since investigators revealed that a genealogy website led police to arrest a man as California’s notorious Golden State Killer, interest in using genealogy to solve crimes has exploded. DNA from more than 100 crime scenes has been uploaded to the same genealogy site. A second man, linked to a...

The Ease of the Postal Service Makes It a Vector for Violence

March 13, 2018 If the Postal Service did not already exist, if its reach had not grown organically as the United States grew, then the idea of building one from scratch today might seem absurd. How preposterous it is that anyone can scrawl an address on an envelope and expect it to arrive...

The 'Genome Hacker' Who Mapped a 13-Million-Person Family Tree

March 2, 2018 FROM NEXTGOV arrow Yaniv Erlich has been a white-hat hacker and a geneticist at Columbia University, and now he works for a genealogy company. This unusual career trajectory has led, most recently, to a 13-million-person family tree unveiled today in Science. The massive trove of data comes from public profiles on the crowdsourced...

1990s Law Limits CDC's Ability to Research Gun Violence As a Public Health Issue

February 16, 2018 After a deadly shooting, the debate always, it seems, breaks down like this: One side argues for gun control, and the other argues there is no research proving those measures work. There is, in fact, little research into gun violence at all—especially compared to other causes of death in the...

Google Taught an AI That Sorts Cat Photos to Analyze DNA

December 9, 2017 FROM NEXTGOV arrow When Mark DePristo and Ryan Poplin began their work, Google’s artificial intelligence did not know anything about genetics. In fact, it was a neural network created for image recognition—as in the neural network that identifies cats and dogs in photos uploaded to Google. It had a lot to learn. But...

What Happens When You Put 500,000 People's DNA Online

November 7, 2017 FROM NEXTGOV arrow Every big, ambitious project has to start somewhere, and for U.K. Biobank, it was at an office building south of Manchester, where the project convinced its very first volunteer to pee into a cup and donate a tube of blood in 2006. U.K. Biobank would go on to recruit 500,000...

The Genomic Revolution Reaches the City Crime Lab

September 25, 2017 FROM NEXTGOV arrow Lisa Ziegert disappeared from the gift shop where she worked on April 15, 1992, and her body was found four days later. From then until this past Monday, her murder remained unsolved. Then on Monday, the local district attorney’s office in Massachusetts announced the arrest of a 48-year-old man for...

The Genomic Revolution Reaches the City Crime Lab

September 24, 2017 Lisa Ziegert disappeared from the gift shop where she worked on April 15, 1992, and her body was found four days later. From then until this past Monday, her murder remained unsolved. Then on Monday, the local district attorney’s office in Massachusetts announced the arrest of a 48-year-old man for...

What 35 Inches of Rain Can Dredge Up

August 25, 2017 Hurricane Harvey is expected to hit Corpus Christi, Texas, late on Friday, and that will just be the start of it. Over the next four or five days, the slow-moving storm could dump up to 35 inches of rain over the hardest-hit areas of Texas. Looking at a NOAA forecast...

Grand Canyon National Park Gives In to Creationist Suing for Religious Discrimination

July 3, 2017 Back in May, Andrew Snelling sued Grand Canyon National Park officials after a failed, years-long attempt to get a research permit to collect rocks in the park. Snelling trained as geologist and he is young-Earth creationist who believes in a literal interpretation of the Bible. In his view, the Grand...