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I suppose the next thing you'll tell me is that the 3D hologram facial reconstructions on Bones aren't commonly used in forensics labs either.

More seriously, I think that the general ignorance about science coupled with the need for prosecutors and the Feds to look like they are actively doing something about criminals and terrorists (or "terrorists") has lead to some of the miscarriages of justice that you mention. I can understand being wary of bacterial cultures being grown in someone's kitchen, but I would think simple testing should be able to quickly determine whether confiscated bacteria or chemistry equipment or electronic gizmos are dangerous or not. But it seems like those tests are only done if law enforcement decides its in their best interest. And that's scary.

I also think it's outrageous that it's taking so long for the rape kits to be processed - crime labs clearly aren't being given the resources they need.

Some years ago I agreed to have my bathroom gone over by a team of police detectives; the previous tenant of the apartment was their prime suspect in a murder case, and the body had been dismembered, so they were looking for bloodstains.

The chemical test they used for this was very sensitive (as it needed to be, since the actual murder had happened some years ago) and it got false positives on any sort of iron oxide. So when they came to the rust stains on the ancient, crumbling sink, it lit up, and then the three of them all went into a little huddle -- "That looks like pipe rust to me. Do you agree?" "Yeah, that's rust." "Yup." and they marked it down on their chart as such.

It was very not-CSI.

With regards to this pressure from law enforcement, here is another one for you:

or also here:

Beyond Chemistry, one of the issue I find fascinating is the inability of a large part of the population (that includes engineers) to also misunderstand what image processing can do. In many CSI episodes, image processing tasks such as tracking, deblurring or face matching look like a simple photoshop session. The hard work of calibration and so forth is not even hinted on.

Here is an analysis of Numb3rs :


Freakonomics had a good post on DNA probabilities

The chemical test they used for this was very sensitive (as it needed to be, since the actual murder had happened some years ago) and it got false positives on any sort of iron oxide.

There actually was an episode of CSI where they dealt with the fact that you can get false positives on things like bleach with luminol.

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    Physics Cocktails

    • Heavy G
      The perfect pick-me-up when gravity gets you down.
      2 oz Tequila
      2 oz Triple sec
      2 oz Rose's sweetened lime juice
      7-Up or Sprite
      Mix tequila, triple sec and lime juice in a shaker and pour into a margarita glass. (Salted rim and ice are optional.) Top off with 7-Up/Sprite and let the weight of the world lift off your shoulders.
    • Listening to the Drums of Feynman
      The perfect nightcap after a long day struggling with QED equations.
      1 oz dark rum
      1/2 oz light rum
      1 oz Tia Maria
      2 oz light cream
      Crushed ice
      1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
      In a shaker half-filled with ice, combine the dark and light rum, Tia Maria, and cream. Shake well. Strain into an old fashioned glass almost filled with crushed ice. Dust with the nutmeg, and serve. Bongos optional.
    • Combustible Edison
      Electrify your friends with amazing pyrotechnics!
      2 oz brandy
      1 oz Campari
      1 oz fresh lemon juice
      Combine Campari and lemon juice in shaker filled with cracked ice. Shake and strain into chilled cocktail glass. Heat brandy in chafing dish, then ignite and pour into glass. Cocktail Go BOOM! Plus, Fire = Pretty!
    • Hiroshima Bomber
      Dr. Strangelove's drink of choice.
      3/4 Triple sec
      1/4 oz Bailey's Irish Cream
      2-3 drops Grenadine
      Fill shot glass 3/4 with Triple Sec. Layer Bailey's on top. Drop Grenadine in center of shot; it should billow up like a mushroom cloud. Remember to "duck and cover."
    • Mad Scientist
      Any mad scientist will tell you that flames make drinking more fun. What good is science if no one gets hurt?
      1 oz Midori melon liqueur
      1-1/2 oz sour mix
      1 splash soda water
      151 proof rum
      Mix melon liqueur, sour mix and soda water with ice in shaker. Shake and strain into martini glass. Top with rum and ignite. Try to take over the world.
    • Laser Beam
      Warning: may result in amplified stimulated emission.
      1 oz Southern Comfort
      1/2 oz Amaretto
      1/2 oz sloe gin
      1/2 oz vodka
      1/2 oz Triple sec
      7 oz orange juice
      Combine all liquor in a full glass of ice. Shake well. Garnish with orange and cherry. Serve to attractive target of choice.
    • Quantum Theory
      Guaranteed to collapse your wave function:
      3/4 oz Rum
      1/2 oz Strega
      1/4 oz Grand Marnier
      2 oz Pineapple juice
      Fill with Sweet and sour
      Pour rum, strega and Grand Marnier into a collins glass. Add pineapple and fill with sweet and sour. Sip until all the day's super-positioned states disappear.
    • The Black Hole
      So called because after one of these, you have already passed the event horizon of inebriation.
      1 oz. Kahlua
      1 oz. vodka
      .5 oz. Cointreau or Triple Sec
      .5 oz. dark rum
      .5 oz. Amaretto
      Pour into an old-fashioned glass over (scant) ice. Stir gently. Watch time slow.