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Forensics on TV

Many of you guys may be fans of shows like CSI or Law and Order. I know I am! I love watching shows like this, I also love Criminal Minds. Millions of people, including myself, tune in to watch these dramatic shows involving science on TV. If you watch these shows you know that the mortician has to make an educated guess on how long a person has been dead. It turns out that it is actually harder to make an accurate guess then portrayed on these shows. There are many factors that go into estimating death, weather, temperature and other variables.

While staying updated in my recent science discoveries I stumbled upon an article about how new research shows that the cilia in your nose may be a better indicator of death than rigor. Apparently after you die nasal cilia continue to function until 20 hours after death. Cilia are responsible for moving the mucus and dust out of your nose and into your lungs, gross! The cilia decrease in function at a steady continuous rate until dying off completely, no matter the temperature or environment. This has the potential to allow for more accurate time of deaths.  I think this is almost as good as scientist counting Panda poop.

My Question to you guys is do you think shows like CSI, NCIS, Criminal Minds, or Law and Order correctly portray forensic science? Secondly do you think people base their views on forensic science off of these shows? Do you?

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. October 6, 2011 at 3:55 am

    We learned how to estimate time of death based on calculations of temperature at death, temperature of surrounding area and all of that last year in my math class. This seems like a cooler way to go about it.
    I don’t think these shows accurately represent these jobs. I was talking to a man who works in the real life equivalent of a CSI lab and he was saying how while on TV everything looks super high tech and all the results come back really fast, that is nothing like reality. Apparently if you took the nicest, most expensive piece of equipment from each lab and put it together that is how CSI looks. While their lab has everything they could ever need, real labs are lucky to get one of the fancy machines to make their work much easier.
    However, I think these shows bring attention to the people that are doing this work. Without these shows most of the general population would not know how to apply forensics or understand what forensic anthropology is without Bones. I think that while these shows are inaccurate they do bring attention to the important lab work that occurs behind the cop shows.
    People however should not base their scientific knowledge off of the stuff they lean on TV, though I know I have been guilty of it. Who doesn’t know miranda rights from watching shows like CSI?

  2. October 7, 2011 at 5:01 pm

    The media plays a big role in the way we sway our opinions and develop views on things. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy those shows, especially Criminal Minds but don’t think they accurately represent the job. Television always makes everything look so simple but in reality it isn’t. Those TV shows are equipped with everything a forensic lab needs. If it was cops would always know the time of death and there’d be no question of how they died. Cops would know everything quickly but they obviously don’t. I can just imagine how many case files were deemed closed because they didn’t have the right equipment to investigate further. People have problem of relying on what they see and hear, not on what they know. Just like you shouldn’t trust every scientific article that is published you shouldn’t trust everything you see on TV.

  3. October 7, 2011 at 10:55 pm

    Now I have no idea if this is right at all, but I’m a big fan of Bones partially for the reason that it seems the most “scientific” of all of these shows; I never would have known that bone dust in toxic to the human body without it after all. But I’m sure to the trained forensics expert Bones must be about as infuriating as House is doctors or Castle is to detectives. Unfortunately for us, the world just isn’t quite as exciting as what we see on TV. What I’m wondering now is will these shows, specifically those that pride themselves on that extra modicum of accuracy, will adopt this new technique of examining nasal cilia to determine time of death. Do the writers stay up to date on new scientific developments, or do they just rely upon what their scientific consultants tell them? Either way, I know I’ll be very excited if I see this new methodology pop up on TV.

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