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"There is no branch of detective science that is so important and so much neglected as the art of tracing footsteps," Holmes remarked in A Study in Scarlet

In this case, the the art is being taken to a science and the world's police - forces in 128 countries, to be exact - are teaming up to develop a comprehensive database of footprints.

Foster + Freeman, a forensic science company has developed a proprietary software called SICAR that essentially is a version of Sherlock Holmes's brain on steroids. The software studies the patterns, treads and shapes on shoe soles and adds them to the database of over 15,000 prints. When an image is searched, the process of scanning the database for a match takes only 1-2 minutes.

It's still amazing to think that Holmes to retain so much of this in his own brain without the aid of a computer - 140 varieties of cigar ash, 42 different impressions of bicycle tires, etc. While 15,000 prints would be impossible for any human to remember, it's encouraging to know that Holmes was the original crime computer and the inspiration for much more today.


Anonymous said... January 18, 2008 at 11:06 AM

So the game real is a foot.

Bobby the Bike

Gregson said... January 18, 2008 at 10:08 PM

Mention of bicycle tracks reminds me of how, in "The Solitary Cyclist", Holmes was able to tell from the tyre tracks, which way the bicycle was going. Conan Doyle later tested this and found that, in fact, you could not tell from tracks which way a bicycle was going. Obvously Holmes was smarter than his creator.

Julia Borsos said... January 22, 2008 at 7:46 PM

Hey Scott
I always thought about characters' great memories when reading not only books such with Sherlock Holmes, but Harry Potter or just about any crime or mystery-solving story. A lot of action stories have it too, the characters just remember everything.

While not entirely realistic, I think it helps develop the readers way of thinking as well.

Great post :)

Adam said... February 21, 2008 at 1:49 PM

When I sweep the snow off the sidewalk in front of my house, I often reveal wonderful footprints in ice, left by those who walked past the house before I had a chance to sweep/shovel. Can anyone point me toward footprints in ice in the manner described being used as a literary device in the canon or elsewhere in detective fiction? Just curious.

Rich Parr said... February 21, 2008 at 5:23 PM