Locating dead people through photography

Now this is cutting-edge technology. Called hyperspectral imaging, Discovery News notes that,

Using hyperspectral imaging, scientists from McGill University have found unmarked animal graves with special cameras that measure changes in the light coming from soil and plants.

Hyperspectral imaging collects and processes light from across the electromagnetic spectrum, including visible light, as well as ultraviolet and infrared light. The research could help police solve missing persons cases or reveal new mass graves from hundreds, if not thousands, of years ago.

Reminiscent of one of Walter Bishop’s experiments in Fringe, the applications of this technology in the domain of human rights is obvious, and deeply resonant in Sri Lanka as well. One caveat seems to be that this technology is not, as yet, satellite based. Fly-overs over any contested terrain would be impossible without the acquiesce of aviation authorities, who in countries where the government itself is suspected of war crimes, aren’t going to be terribly helpful.

And yet, advancements in forensics such as this can hold accountable perpetrators of gross human rights violations long after their acts have been committed. As the Discovery article avers,

Ian Hanson, a scientist at the University of Bournemouth in Britain, is “very impressed,” with the McGill research. Hanson uses infrared cameras to help local police find missing persons and also investigates international human rights abuses and mass graves in Bosnia and elsewhere.

“This has a wide range of applications,” for local police and international human rights investigators. “If the perpetrators know that what they do will leave long term traces that can be detected, that might have a deterrent effect on them,” said Hanson.

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