Forensic science as a modern-day hobby

Nowadays, with all the crime shows we see on TV, it is no surprise that forensic science has captured my imagination and studying it has become one of my favorite pastimes. Forensic science in this context includes all scientific methods of gathering and analyzing information in connection with a crime investigation. It consists of finding evidence, talking to witnesses, building theories as to how and why a murder was committed etc. My interest in the field was sparked by the increasing amount of crime TV shows I watch. I started watching TV shows because I enjoyed seeing people use their brains. Some of my favorite shows include: BBC Sherlock, Criminal minds, Elementary, Perception, and The Mentalist. They all have a different take on crime but share the same basic themes. As I got used to those themes and the bloody graphics, I got more interested in the details of the procedures and techniques these investigators use to identify and catch the offenders. In crime shows, there are things that look highly unlikely. Take for example Sherlock Holmes’ ability to analyze the mud on someone’s soles and to say precisely where this person has been. Or consider CSI’s habit of taking images from a low-resolution camera and enhancing them to clearly read the license plate of a vehicle. One of the main reasons I started learning forensic science was to discover which of these seemingly magic tricks were actually possible and which were plain sci-fi. The more I watched, the more I kept asking myself the same two questions. One of them was of physiological nature: I was interested to know how deadly the different kinds of wounds were. Moreover, I wanted to know what the pain was like, how much blood I would lose and what would the long-term consequences be. The other one had more to do with the psychology of the offender; that is, I wondered why anyone would do such things to another human being. Forensic science gradually gives me answers to these questions. After learning the basics of the science behind crime TV shows, I don’t see detectives as magicians anymore. All in all, studying forensic science provided me with the tools to enjoy watching crime shows better and to feel as a qualified member of the investigating team.

For those of you interested in learning more, I could recommend taking these courses:

Introduction to Forensic Science

by the Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

on Coursera: https://www.coursera.org/course/ntufsc

Forensic psychology: witness investigation

by the Open University

on FutureLearn: https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/forensic-psychology

And for those of you who would like to learn more about all those serial killers that earn a mention on ‘Criminal Minds’, here’s a whole book on the topic:

Criminal Minds: Sociopaths, Serial Killers, and Other Deviants (Amazon.co.uk link)

by Jeff Mariotte

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