NIST digital bullets that killed John F. Kennedy International Airport


Courtesy of the National Institute of standards and technology.

Already more than 50 years since the assassination of President John F. Kennedy shocked the nation, but the situation still generate considerable public interest, particularly the film a bomb, kill the President, it is stored in a temperature and humidity controlled vault in the National Archives and Records Administration in Washington, DC, for several decades. Scientists at the National Institute of standards and technology(NIST)recently with a forensic expert at the National Archives digitized the bullets, the better to maintain their own characteristics of conspiracy theorists of tomorrow. All the data should be available in the National Archives online catalog, sometime in the early 2020.

There are two fragments of bullet killed JFK and hit him in the neck and another hit him in the head as well as the so-called”stretcher bullet.” This is the bullet struck the President and also Texas Governor John Connally, found lying in the vicinity of the latter’s stretcher at the hospital. Also in the archives: the two bullets used in a test firing of the Assassin’s marksmanship medical matching purposes.

The people from the National Archives is on the scene although all the analysis is being carried out, locked up the precious relics in a safe every night to ensure their safety. The biggest challenge, according to NIST, Thomas Brian Renegar, research how to make the measurement in sufficient detail to create the kind of 3D models they need. For example,”how do we keep the artifacts safe?” He told Ars. “We don’t want to let them move at the same time, we’re doing scanning, but we need to remain cautious, so as not to damage artifacts.” Debris, in particular, is also heavily distorted and twisted, so that the surface of the scan difficult.

A typical ballistic analysis may focus primarily on the stripe or mark to connect to the firearms production. The NIST team is more thorough for their digital scanning, measuring billions of points on the surface, and produce some of the 360GB of data in the process. “Our task is a digital way of protecting the entire object as best we can,”Renegar told Ars. “Therefore, we tried to scan the entire purpose, as far as possible protect every corner of bullets.”

There are two separate sets of measurements. First, the team used confocal microscopy to take high-resolution images of selected areas of the piece. Next, they use a focus variation microscope to create a series of images from the surface of the bullet fragments in the different focal length away. Finally, they use specially designed software to merge all the data together into a 3D model for each project. Renegar it than”solve ultra-complex 3D puzzles.”

The result: a”virtual artifacts are as close as possible to the real thing,”said Martha Murphy, the Deputy Director of the Government Information Service in the National Archives. “In some ways, they are better than the originals, in that you can zoom in to see tiny details.”

It is part of the ongoing work at NIST introduced an open access online database for ballistic tool mark in 2016. The organization is developing a 3D surface drawing method, for future forensic analysis, using a more objective statistical method, so that a forensic analysis to quantify how similar two bullets could, instead of trying to make some matches. The standard method is based on the slug side of a split-screen microscope to see the stripe line.

Although it is mainly used to protect historical artifacts, and can not be analyzed, the processing of the digitized Kennedy assassination bullets to test and validate these new methods for ballistic analysis, in the extreme distortions of the samples, by far the most difficult analysis.

“A lot of work(Renegar)is not important to the future, because these are very difficult and a single type of sample,”NIST firearms forensic expert Robert Thompson told Ars. “He was able to develop the way, will be able to help the forensic scientist and firearms examiner in the future, today’s technology becomes more embedded in the crime laboratory. These are the actual evidence of specimens is typical of what the crime lab take a look at all the time and need to be analyzed.”

Listing Image by Bettmann/contribution via Getty Images

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