Issue 18 - Feb 2006
An investigation into the maths involved with the crime fighting techniques employed by the boys in blue.
The police use maths all the time. Its use is vital to help them solve many different aspects of a crime - from number plate and accident reconstruction to fingerprinting.
The Mathematics of an investigation can also include the interpretation of data using statistics, probability and even wavelets (the representation of a signal in terms of a finite length or fast decaying oscillating waveform.) The data which is processed can then be securely transmitted over internal police networks, using prime numbers and cryptography.
But before the stages above, of course the police must obtain or uncover the actual information containing the possible data. Officers and investigators must look at all the evidence left at the crime scene and then begining to work backwards to deduce what happened and who is most likely to have committed the crime. The evidence is most often a result of a physical process like a speeding car that skids and leaves marks on the road surface that can be analysed. So to find out the exact cause of the evidence — the speed of the car — the maths that describes the physics needs to be run backwards. This is called solving an inverse problem.
Read about how the maths of crime fighting inspired a new TV show in or story 'Maths Causes A Drama'.
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