Let’s learn about forensic science

Crime scene investigators on TV aren’t quite like the real thing

a photo of vials of blood, an evidence bag, tweezers and lab glasses on a white background

Forensic science applies scientific techniques to analyze evidence of crimes. The forensics you see on TV, though, often bears little resemblance to the real thing.

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You’ve probably seen a forensic scientist on television. Maybe they were called a “crime scene investigator.” They took evidence from a crime scene and analyzed it with scientific techniques. Perhaps they tested a bit of hair for DNA. Or matched fingerprints with a computer program. Or analyzed the chemistry of a soil sample to see where a crime was committed. And they did this really fast.

In reality, forensic science takes more time, and the results are often not as clearcut as what is shown on TV. This field also changes, as scientists discover new ways to get information out of seemingly unimportant bits found through criminal investigations.

Want to know more? We’ve got some stories to get you started:

Shaking hands could transfer your DNA — leaving it on things you never touched: People can transfer DNA from others, potentially complicating a crime scene, new data show (4/17/2019) Readability: 7.1

New forensic technique may better gauge age at death: Used with skulls, the estimates should fall within three years of an adult’s actual age (5/21/2019) Readability: 8.1

Crime-solving camera: Quick-change trick allows a digital camera to photograph blood concealed by paint (8/31/2012) Readability: 8.7

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Learn more about forensic science with this exhibit from the Virtual Museum of Canada. Then use your knowledge to solve a virtual crime.

Sarah Zielinski is the Editor, Print at Science News Explores. She has degrees in biology and journalism and likes to write about ecology, plants and animals. She has three cats: Oscar, Saffir and Alani.

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