Week 6: Back to Forensic Science and Documentaries

May 06, 2019

This week I got back on track. I learned that I will make up the hours from last week during a rescheduled date in the next few weeks. I can’t wait to experience a film set for the first time! However for my senior project, I researched the reality of CSI, or criminal science investigation. I watched three different television documentaries on the subject which were Modern Marvels: Forensic Science, What’s That About? Forensic Science Lab, Frontline: The Real CSI. Each one had one thing in common: They all warned and informed their audience that forensic science depicted on television is not the reality of working in this line of work.

Modern Marvels took a different approach than the others. I learned about the history of forensic science and how it came to be. I had no idea Scotland Yard police officers got the idea of looking at evidence that was left behind from Arthur Conan Doyle, the author of the Sherlock Holmes series. This led to fingerprint identification, hair and fiber analysis, and now DNA typing. These techniques have solved cases like convicting the Atlanta child murderer, Wayne Williams. What’s That About? focused on the differences between televised science and realities of a lab. In this episode, the experts interviewed ranged from anthropologists on body farms to DNA analysts who use a machine called a excimer gas laser, which processes DNA trace evidence on a molecular level. However, in reality, the evidence collected by these specialists can take months to analyze in relation to television, where it can take one day. The CSI effect was also mentioned, which is a huge part of project. The Frontline episode surprised me the most. Journalist Lowell Bergman investigated the issues with forensic science. I had no idea it was so easy to be a certified expert in court. The National Academy of Sciences reported that many forensic sciences have never been exposed to stringent scientific scrutiny and “do not meet the fundamental requirements of science.” As someone who has watched and believed a lot of the information shown to me on crime shows, I never thought about the actual history or how young the science itself is. I will continue to use this research and explore different avenues on the subject.



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