Saturday, 12 December 2015

A Link To Holmes And Dreyfus

For the first time, the enemy possesses the dead body of a member of the Rostomily Brotherhood, Martin Donner, and will be able to apply:

Bertillon measurements; (Read this Wiki article!)

"'We can expect them to check that set of physical data against every ID office in the country. And when they find the same identification under different names and numbers in each and every file - all hell is going to let out for noon.'
"'It will take time, of course,' said Fourre. 'We have put in duplicate sets of non-Brother data too, as you know; that will give them extra work to do. Nor can they be sure which set corresponds to Donner's real identity.'"
-Poul Anderson, The Psychotechnic League (New York, 1981), p. 58.

I do not fully follow this. The Brothers are clones who live in different parts of the country with different names and occupations. Because they are clones, their physical data are identical. Trying to establish Donner's identity, the enemy will check the records, will find the same data under different names and therefore will not know which of these names is Donner's but will know that something strange is going on. But why and how has the UN Secret Service put in duplicate sets of other data and how will that give the enemy extra work?

When I read the reference to "Bertillon measurements," I took this to mean some kind of credible scientific system. However, according to Wikipedia, although Bertillon was commended by Sherlock Holmes, he was involved in the framing of Dreyfus, who is mentioned in the Time Patrol series. It is impossible to predict emergent links.


Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

I understood "duplicate sets of other data" to mean false information of the kind obtained from studying Martin Donnelly's body were also attributed to his clone brothers. To make the enemy unsure about the other data Donnelly shared with his fellow clones.


Sean M. Brooks said...

Correction, DONNER, not "Donnelly." Drat!

David Birr said...

Paul and Sean:
The "duplicate sets" might refer to sets of I.D. measurements and data without actual persons attached to them. So the researchers find that Donner's data points match Name A, Name B, Name C, Name D, Name E, etc. Only by further, time-consuming checks will they determine that there's no such real, physical people as Name A, B, or E. It's not perfect, but it'll slow down the investigation -- maybe giving enough time for Brother Name B to hide out, and Name D's wife and child to be whisked away to safety.

As for "Bertillon measurements," although largely discredited in favor of more exact systems such as fingerprints and (though PA didn't imagine this) now DNA ... well, checking body measurements is better than nothing. Roger Zelazny's *This Immortal* has a mention of "Bertillon scales" being used to look for the title character's earlier identities, because fingerprints and retinal records were missing for several of the older (200-years-plus) ones.

David Birr said...

Arrrrrggghh, I *MEANT* "Brother Name C to hide out," and I still missed it on preview!

Sean M. Brooks said...

Hi, David!

Yes, I believe your explanation of what "duplicate sets of non-Brother data" clearer and better than my own attempt commenting on what it meant in "UN-Man."

And I looked up the Wiki article (caveat emptor!) on Alphonse Bertillon. Interesting, despite false starts and dead ends, he was a pioneer in police forensics.