On television’s “CSI: Miami,” investigators used a polarized light microscope to identify gray dust found at a murder scene. After determining the dust was slate, the “CSI” crew concluded correctly that the murder suspect was someone who built billiard tables, says the Louisville Courier-Journal. “CSI” and similar programs rely on gadgets like acoustic reflectometry probes, electrostatic detection apparatus, and fluoroscopes, but how much of it based on reality? It depends on whom you ask.
“In most ways, I think shows like ‘CSI’ and ‘Forensic Files’ are 100 percent on target,” said high school science teacher Keri Meador. Even though some of the equipment — such as acoustic reflectometry probes and fluoroscopes — does exist, Louisville coroner Ronald Holmes says shows like “CSI” are “mostly fantasy.” “One of the main things that’s off-base is that they don’t show any of the legwork involved in talking to families and things like that,” said Holmes. Diane Vance of Eastern Kentucky University’s forensic sciences program says those TV shows are “a mix of realistic and unrealistic portrayals of the work of forensic science. “One pet peeve about “CSI,” Vance said, is that “a single person typically does not perform so many different aspects of the investigative and analytical process. In most cases, forensic scientists do not process crime scenes. Law enforcement personnel do that, and the evidence is then taken to the lab.” An article in the July Scientific American estimated that about 40 percent of the “science” shown on “CSI” does not exist.