Popular prime time TV like CSI (in all its variations) shows have imbued forensics labs with glamour and intrigue, but beyond the lights, camera, and action of the stories we see unfold on TV, the world of real-life forensics offers drama all its own. Advancements in forensics science in the last several years has transformed the way evidence is treated, evaluated, and taken into account during investigations.
As happened just this month with Paul House, there have been many trial verdicts reversed and people exonerated of crimes based on newly available methods of testing. House, who had been on death row for 22 years, was released this month and cleared of all charges. As reported by CNN, according to Peter Neufeld, co-director of The Innocence Project, in the last three years, "substantial additional DNA testing and further investigation" proved House's innocence.
Twenty years ago, DNA testing wasn't available. Today, it is often the turning point between proving guilt and innocence.
The following Science Buddies' Science Fair Project Ideas offer a look at what's involved and the chance to turn a local school lab into a forensics lab. Crank up a playlist of CSI theme songs, starting with the well-known "Who are You" by the Who, and bring on the intrigue.
- Who Done It? DNA Fingerprinting and Forensics (Science Buddies' Difficulty level: 8-10)
- Eeeeew! Maggot Mass Temperature (Science Buddies' Difficulty Level: 6)
- Forensics: How Does It Matter? Measure the Spatter! (Science Buddies' Difficulty Level: 6)