Crime Dramas: Fact & Fiction

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Jesse L. graduated from a small business school in Indiana in May 2010. He blogs all across the internet and has a keen interest in social media, data visualization, and gadgets.

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Crime dramas are everywhere on TV.

It’s now possible to watch every version of Law and Order every day on one network or another-even BBC has gotten in on the crime drama action with Law and Order: UK. Other crime-inspired shows like NCIS and the CSI franchise have made crime-solving sexy: attractive young men and women in lab coats use what seems like scientific wizardry to tease clues out of footprints and peeling paint. Audiences love it-in fact, three of the top five broadcast TV shows are crime dramas. But while murder and test tubes make for great television, crime dramas don’t give viewers a realistic view of forensic science.

The science angle

There’s more to crime scene investigation than fingerprints and street chases: forensic science is a diverse and wide-ranging field. Studying the sciences is a must for students interested in forensics, but there are many options: toxicology requires testing human samples for contaminants, drugs, alcohol and other toxins. Engineering students might consider forensic engineering, which mixes science and law: people working in this field investigate accidents, fires and wrongful injury claims to determine their veracity. And forensic biology, the closest science to what viewers

might see on television, breaks down into several subsets that include anthropology, botany and DNA testing.

Whether it’s the TV shows or the love of the field, the number of students interested in law-related majors has grown exponentially in the last forty years. Forensic science degrees, and criminal justice degree programs have gained popularity in response to the success.

Beyond that technology has advanced several areas of forensic science: for instance, DNA testing as we know it is less than thirty years old, but it’s been refined significantly since then. And the use of scientific evidence in court cases has also grown as technology has improved. So while CSI may have inspired a generation of young scientists, advances in forensic sciences made TV shows like CSI possible.

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