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WOO IN REVIEW: CSI - One to Go PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Alison Smith   

WOO IN REVIEW: CSI – One to Go
(CBS)


I have held off on berating CSI: Crime Scene Investigation for quite some time, mostly because it, at the very least, promotes science and the evidence obtained from scientific practices as the best way to solve crimes. Whether or not they were totally accurate in their views on science was inconsequential – the CSI writers went forth armed with fingerprintingcsiopentitle kits and computer displays that for some reason show an image of every single fingerprint in the entire database when matching a comparison, running the CPU so hard that the computer itself would, quite possibly, burst into flames, leading the CSIs to wonder if they had a case of arson on their hands and take fingerprints and feed them into a computer and... well, you see what I'm saying here. It's weird that every computer in CSI has not already been reduced to charred rubble.

And CSI has taken a few hard hits in the past couple of seasons. Sara Sidle, my least favorite character, did not die horribly at the hands of The Miniature Killer, who turned out to be incredibly lame. Gary Dourdan, who played Warrick Brown, was caught with a veritable pharmacy of illegal drugs leading to his character's untimely death. They introduced the character Riley Adams to re-up the annoyance gap that Sara Sidle's departure left. 

But there was one remaining part in CSI that was good – the character Gil Grissom, played by William Petersen

Unfortunately, Petersen can recognize a sinking ship when he sees one. Rather than go down with the Titanic, Petersen opted to request a contractual release and end his part in the show.

The final episode he appeared in, One to Go, aired last night. It was the second in a two-part Who-Is-The-Serial-Killer's-Accomplice CSI spree. This review concerns only the second part, though I have seen both. (The first is titled 19 Down.) It only contains the second because the science in that particular portion was so shockingly abysmal that I think my eyebrow might permanently be raised. 

My sister and I sat down to watch One to Go with a box of Kleenex, assuming that this would be the most awesomely tear-jerking, freaky episode of CSI since Tarantino's two-parter Grave Danger, where CSI Nick Stokes was stuck in a Plexiglas coffin and covered in ants.

It was not. Not a tear was shed for Grissom. 

Was it David Hodges' fault? Well, partly. Hodges, who used to be a background character that you loved to hate, has obviously recently been noticed by a CSI writer who said to themselves, “You know, this guy needs to be deeper,” and then went about trying to give him heartfelt lines while maintaining the dickishness that had come to define him.

Hodges had the pleasure of being the last CSI Grissom spoke to before leaving for good. And, in what I can only describe as 'cliché diarrhea,' said lines like “We are the thin blue line between order and chaos,” apparently forgetting that less than four minutes previously Grissom had pointed out to another character that CSIs are not the police.

He added that “you take yourself out of the equation, it's the butterfly effect!”

I cannot even fathom what he meant by that. A butterfly flaps its wings and... Grissom quits CSI. Grissom quitting CSI is like a butterfly flapping its wings? I think the editors made a minor misjudgment in letting that line slip through and that what he really meant was the domino effect, but hey, whatever. He might've meant the Ashton Kutcher movie.

But the part of this episode that bugged me the most wasn't the fact that the writers spent about as much time on it as they might spend on, say, ordering a latte at Starbucks. It wasn't the fact that, at the end of the episode, Grissom is seen reuniting with Sara Sidle after following his GPS, which simply says “Costa Rica.”

I think we were supposed to feel sad at that part, but, as my sister pointed out, “I have Google Maps on my phone, and it's never like... 'Hey, you're in America. Just so you know.'”

It was the science. The ridiculous science that still has me looking like Spock because my eyebrows are now affixed permanently in 'questioning' mode.csispock

And in this, there were a few things in particular that seemed completely impossible to me. I have spoken with other individuals who I believe are more knowledgeable than I am to make sure I'm not the one who's an idiot and cannot follow the genius that is CSI. If any of us are wrong about the science, though, and if it can really be done, please send information on how the feats discussed below could be accomplished to alison@randi.org, and your response will be posted in the next Woo in Review. 

As I said, One to Go is devoted to attempting to find the accomplice of an imprisoned serial killer. If CSI simply approaches the killer, Nate Haskell (The Dick and Jane Murderer), he will balk and refuse to give any information. However, like any good serial killer, he loves the limelight, and was recently invited to speak at a class on serial killers via webcam. 

The class, conducted by Dr. Raymond Langston (played by Laurence Fishburne, who it appears will become a part of the CSI team), is attended by Grissom, who pretends to be a visiting professor interested in the subject.

As the case unravels, the CSIs realize that the accomplice must have been in the classroom during the webcam conversations with Haskell. Haskell's end of the conversation was recorded on video, but the reactions of the classroom were not. There is only a transcript of questions that were asked, and no notes about who asked them.

After reviewing the transcripts, the CSIs feel that they can tell who the accomplice was from some of the questions asked, which were about methods of subduing victims. The CSIs then assume that, at this point, the serial killer (remember: imprisoned and being broadcast via webcam) probably looked at his accomplice when giving the answer.

The CSIs then line up the angle of the eyeline of the serial killer with the auditorium the interview was broadcast to and pinpoint the seat location of the individual who must have been the accomplice.

At this point you should have your eyebrows raised and say “Wait... what?”

Keeping in mind that this interview was conducted via webcam, imagine the setup it would take to figure out where the killer was looking in the auditorium. 

There isn't one. 

Webcams are not windows, and webcams are not virtual reality. On my computer, for instance, the webcam is located at the top of the monitor. If I am in a two-way conversation with someone and can see them on video and they can see me (which is stupid in and of itself, because why would you allow a serial killer to look at a room full of potential victims), and I am looking into the camera, I am not looking at anyone. I am looking at the camera. If I am looking at the camera, then I cannot see the video feed. If I am looking at the video feed, then I am not looking into the camera. csisightline

The angle of my sightline is irrelevant, because I am not actually looking into the room. At absolute best, you might be able to tell what side of the room I was trying to look at (the auditorium in the episode is huge). And even then, only if the webcam was pointing at me straight on. The killer and the accomplice could not make eye contact. A video feed is not the same thing as eyes. 

This wasn't some little side note that they threw in as a small part of the mystery, either. This was the piece of information that led them directly to the accomplice. Unfortunately, when they tried to go visit him, he wasn't home. They did, however, search the accomplice's home and find a stash of drugs they believed had been used to subdue the killer's victims. They ran the fingerprints on the jar (yes, the guy really kept his drugs in a glass jar) through their database and found a match to a drug dealer who they figured would probably know the secret killing location the accomplice was using.

Unfortunately, when police tried to confront the drug dealer, he ran. And for some reason – even though this chase was on foot, even though the police cars were going roughly thirty miles per hour and I assume the brakes and steering were still functioning – a patrol car hit the drug dealer, killing him instantly. 

It's almost comedic, isn't it?

Well, no bother. In addition to the drugs found at the accomplice's house, CSIs also discovered videotapes shot by the original Dick and Jane murderer of his crimes. Luckily, one contained a brief shot out the window where the videos were filmed. The shot was blurred, and showed only two mountain peaks (not the base) and the moon in between. It was timestamped at the bottom.

Grissom, after reviewing the video, asked for a still of the shot out the window. They then cleaned up the still photograph, which made about half the stars disappear but showed in more detail the two mountain peaks and the moon, which was waning gibbous

Unfortunately, no one could recognize the location. How could they? A blurry photo of two peaks and the moon could have been taken pretty much anywhere that has mountains.

But no worries – Grissom said, “You know, those peaks look like they're roughly the same height.” CSI Nick Stokes brought up a topographic map on the screen, and pinpointed a location with two mountain peaks that were the same height. Location found. Off to capture the killer!

“Wait... what?”

How could Grissom tell that the mountains were the same height? Is he magical? The shot is a still photograph, shows only the moon and two mountain peaks, and not the base of either. 

I spoke with Phil Plait regarding the content of the photo. At the time, I did not have the images from the episode, and he had not yet seen it. I gave him the information from the episode that I could remember. csicleaned

“If it were a super high quality photo, then you could magnify the Moon, look at exactly where the terminator was (the line between day and night) and know when the photo was taken pretty accurately, but that doesn't give you a location, just a time,” he said.

Within the episode, Grissom's reason for trying to determine the location this way did have to do with astronomy. Grissom cited photographer Ansel Adams, who died in 1984. Many of Ansel Adams' photographs did not have dates to say when they were taken – Adams often forgot to write that information down. 

In 2005 – and this is true – astronomers from Texas State University used information from lunar tables, topographic maps, weather records, and astronomical software to determine the date and time Ansel Adams took the photograph Autumn Moon. 

“We know when this was made,” Grissom said, speaking of the still from the DJK video, “maybe the moon can tell us where.”

The only unfortunate side is that it can't. It can't determine height, and it can't determine distance.

“One mountain could be twice as high and twice as far away. Shadows might work, maybe. I could probably dream up a way they could, but if they didn't mention shadows then I can't see how to do this,” Plait said, “Imagine it this way... you have a 12,000 foot mountain 12,000 feet away, and a 14,000 foot mountain 14,000 feet away. They would look pretty much the same height. Now put your friend in the photo 10 feet away. Does that help you determine the distance to the mountains? Nope.”

CSI didn't even attempt to dream up anything with shadows. The photograph could be comparable to forced perspective, an optical illusion wherein two objects appear to be vastly different sizes because one is further away than you think it is. The Lord of the Rings trilogy employed this method as one of the many ways to make hobbits look small. Check out a video of that here

I ran this information by Jeff Wagg as well.

“The only way that photo is going to help is if there's a sculpture of Washington, Roosevelt, Lincoln and Jefferson on one of the mountains,” Wagg said.

In CSI-land, though, investigators were able to identify the accomplice and his location AND kill him seconds before he murdered the woman he was holding captive.

Oh, and his death was filmed in bullet time, just to top off the nightmare.




CSI: Crime Scene Investigation – One to Go: 1 out of 5 stars.


RECOMMENDED READING: 

Forensic Science: The Basics by Jay A. Siegel

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Comments (55)Add Comment
a little lunacy
written by MadScientist, January 15, 2009
I must have been forced to watch - oh, maybe 2 shows of CSI and was since banned (which I don't mind at all) because I can't keep my mouth shut and just have to ridicule all the wrong things I spot on the show (which is quite a bit, so I might provide more dialog than the show at times).

If you have a recorded time and a good shot of the moon in sight, some sort of reference to the horizon, and you know the camera's field of view, then you can get the moon's elevation as well and from the local time and elevation you can work out a track on the planet where the shot may have been filmed from. That should quickly reduce the area you need to search to some relatively small region that you probably couldn't check out in a single lifetime. Having a planet in the shot with the moon should help because then you can estimate the azimuthal angle of the moon as well. Of course CSI could have enhanced the image to reveal a nebula in the sky (choke) and thus determine azimuth - knowing azimuth, elevation, local time, and the moon's location CSI could now pin down the location to within half a hair's width using their fingerprint computer (rofl).
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a little more lunacy
written by MadScientist, January 15, 2009
It just occurred to me that you don't need to know the camera's field of view because the disk of the moon itself would provide a means of measuring angles.
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R.I.P.
written by advancedGIR, January 15, 2009
What I liked in that show, beside the illarous science, whas the humane approach to totally improbable situations and the extremely limited pollution by character personal problems (E.R. I'm looking at you). Now, like any ageing serie, things are going down the drain (and, being french, I'm one season late), illustrating as always that producers never know when to end a show.
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written by Klimax, January 15, 2009
Webcam and determination of position of suspect.
If they recalculated vector used for determination (from POV of webcam to POV of monitor) then they could get correct person.

Simple transformation of coordinates.He might look for him,but nit for eye contact.

I think they imagined it this way:CSI will determine vector from POV of webcam,then uses coordinates of center of monitor and coordinates of webcam to get transformation matrix,then do and finally they multiply matrix with vector.
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written by Careyp74, January 16, 2009
Klimax, that is a good method, but you need the location of the Killer's webcam in relation to the monitor he was looking at - not mentioned.

Instead stokes walked up a couple of rows, looked back at the screen, then walked over a little and said "this is it" - What? Me and my fiancee looked at each other and shook our heads. Ever notice how eyes looking into a camera follow you around the room? So what was Stokes trying to adjust for?
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written by K. Söse, January 16, 2009
Remember. What is between the commercials is just filler. For you it's entertaining and fun to talk about your "stories". For the rest of us it's pathetic.
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CSI computers
written by nelson650, January 16, 2009
Where did they download those cool "bleeps" and "bloops" that their computers make when the open all rhose files? You know, the files they have on every motor vehicle record, birth certificate, and employment file for every man, woman, and child on earth? Also, please explain why every police photograph of any suspect looks like a glamour shot?
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written by MoistenedBint, January 16, 2009
I think your review is exceptionally nitpicky.

I had no problem with the method used to determine where the bad guy was. They already knew that the killer was on the north shore of Lake Mead somewhere, based on other evidence. They used the moon photo to determine, using known landmarks in the region (two mountains with similar heights) and the azimuth of the moon between them, how far away the bad guys house was. I was fine with it.

Am I too credulous of their methods? Probably. But I wish you would lighten up about CSI. It is entertainment. It is fiction. Of course no computer works that fast! Do you want to sit around your TV for several weeks waiting for the results of the fingerprint database scan like in real life? It is called creative license and it is to move the story along that these techniques are used. Lighten up.

Your criticism reminds me of people who hate Spiderman because the physics of him swinging from building to building is not realistic.

Some people should not be allowed to read or view fiction...
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written by pointyjess, January 16, 2009
Not only is the GPS so handy that it reminds you which country you're in, it also has the ability to track down a tent-dwelling photographer isolated deep in the jungle.
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Fact check
written by TheElkMechanic, January 16, 2009
> Gary Dourdan, who played Warrick Brown, was caught with a veritable pharmacy of illegal drugs leading to his character's untimely death.

Haven't watched in a while, so I didn't know Warrick was gone. Went poking around and it looks like Dourdan's contract negotiations fell through two weeks BEFORE his arrest for drug possession. So if anything, the job loss caused the drugs. (But not necessarily. Always remember, boys and girls, correlation does not imply causation.)
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Not as nitpicky as you may think
written by iiwo, January 16, 2009
MoistenedBint:

In theory, the concept they used to try and determine the location of the house from the azimuths (degree readings) is good. They are headed in the right direction. There is the problem, though.

Imagine you are sitting on the roof of the killer's house with map and compass. You take a reading from each of the mountain tops and draw a line corresponding through each mountain (on the map). The lines should have the same angle to the North arrow (you may have to extend it) on the map as your compass does to the magnetic north pole. Done correctly this will create a long, skinny triangle. You will be at the pointy end where both long sides meet. The short side connects the mountains.

If you shot (spot) the azimuths perfectly the point of this triangle will be your exact location. The problem is this: on the ground, it is highly recommended that you include about 3 degrees of error because resolution is not THAT good (and degrees are small things on compasses). Rule of thumb is that 1 degree of error equals an error of about 100 feet per mile on the ground. With 3 degrees of error you now must draw two triangles: one larger (to accommodate the larger numbers) and one smaller for the smaller numbers. For every mile away from the item you are shooting, add 300 feet. If you are 1 mile from the mountains, add 300. For 2 miles, 600 etc. It may be easier to just draw a circle w/x00ft radius around the point where the original azimuths crossed. In reality the area is more ovaly/wedge shaped, but a circle will suffice for this thought experiment.

That is the margin of error is someone is sitting AT the house taking readings.

Using JUST the photograph, the margin of error is going to be huge. (I'm assuming here that the mountains are positively identified). For reasons Remie listed above we simply don't have enough solid information to nail down the azimuths to a 3degree range. I would put money on 10-15degrees minimum between the not "great" resolution and the optical illusions she described in the post. For every mile away from the mountain top (or whatever we sighted off) we must shift the boundaries of the search area by 1000-1500 feet. The north one must move north, and the south one south. Every mile. (And the house may well be 2-5 miles from the mountain). At a minimum, this search are should cover several square miles--quite a feat to manage compared to the way it was pictured. That said, many shows skip the dirty stuff and just go straight to the 'concept' of the idea for plot and other reasons. This frustrates me, but I understand the reasoning--even on a 'science' based show smilies/wink.gif.

Now I don't say any of this to harass you, but she hardly scratched the surface of the problem. Once the mountains are identified (which may not be that hard, but it involves a lot of detail I will let Remie go into if she decides to follow up) the troubles are only beginning.

It is also possible that my math is wrong. I am working the numbers and shapes of search area boundaries without an actual map. I'm pretty sure I have the concept right (and I'm fairly confident on the numbers too). If I'm wrong, I suspect someone will correct me. I'll also check the data later and post again if I made a mistake.
smilies/wink.gif
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Not that bad...
written by lcanney, January 16, 2009
I gave up on trying to explain the "science" of CSI a long time ago. I know they cut corners to keep the narrative moving and they make up science in order to make the stories work. I like the fact that the show puts science in the forefront and revolves around Petersen's character, who is openly anti-woo and to whom "evidence" is everything. I think this episode wasn't nearly as good as it should have been, partly because of the issues you've mentioned. Grissom's farewell deserved better.
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written by RobNYNY, January 16, 2009
I remember an episode of one of the police procedural series set in NYC (CSI: New York?) where they had a mysterioius photo that showed a street lined by low buildings, leading down to a river. On the other side of a the river was a skyline with the Empire State Building on the left and Citicorp on the right. They fed the picture into a computer, and -- amazing as it sounds -- the computer was able to figure out that the picture was taken in Queens! Looking towards Manhattan! Thank the gods for modern technology or the detectives would still be scratching their heads.
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written by Caller X, January 16, 2009
"...played by Laurence Fishburne, who it appears will become a part of the CSI team"

Yes, as announced in mainstream publications months ago. Please try to follow along. It was also announced that Peterson was leaving because he felt the brand was being diluted by CSI NY, Miami, SUV, CSI Legal, How I Met Your CSI, The Big CSI Theory, etc.

You know what other show is unbelievable? The Brady Bunch. Six kids at or near puberty sharing one bathroom in a house designed by its owner, a professional architect.

Don't even get me started on Hogan Knows Best. Why must television continue to insult my freakishly large intelligence?
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written by Cuddy Joe, January 16, 2009
Gigging CSI for creative license is premature, as is gigging the Brady Bunch and Hogan's Heroes. First, we must address how it was that nobody in Ozzie & Harriet Nelson's household had a job and yet they maintained an idyllic middle class existence.

"Science is like a blabbermouth who ruins a movie by telling you how it ends! Well I say there are some things we don't want to know! Important things!"

-Ned Flanders
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written by Skeptigirl, January 16, 2009
The whole premise of CSI is wrong. I work with a crime lab and they are forensics people, not detectives that interview suspects. That alone makes the show too hokey for me.

It's nice they verbalize "the evidence" over people's statements. It's nice they repeat the value of science on a regular basis. But I'll not miss Grissom's, "I'm not a police officer, I'm a scientist". Said in the context of a show that continually misrepresents the role of the crime lab in detective work it contradicts the facts.

BTW, I can understand commenting on the bad science in these shows, but do the character's personalities really need this much commentary on a JREF blog entry? No offense but it reminds me of a soap opera update. Not that I don't have my favorite TV drama escape, mind you. Just wondering how much of the above comments might have been better left out in order to get to the skeptic's points more concisely.
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written by Cuddy Joe, January 16, 2009
Well, Skeptigirl, the name of the column is Woo In Review, but little in the way of woo gets reviewed, so I'm guessing all posts are good.

I suspect the sort of person who believes CSI accurately represents police investigative procedures doesn't read or post at skeptical websites much.
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written by the_fiction_spider, January 16, 2009
"Not only is the GPS so handy that it reminds you which country you're in, it also has the ability to track down a tent-dwelling photographer isolated deep in the jungle." (pointyjess)

Apparently you don't know this, but it is quite possible to enter gps-coordinates (instead of, for example, a tent in the middle of nowhere smilies/wink.gif) into your gps-device. So Grissom´d just have entered some coordinated into the thing, and then´d just follow wherever it´d take him.
The whole ´location-based gaming´ (Urban gaming) is based in this principle.
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looks like ...
written by MadScientist, January 16, 2009
this one's going to be analyzed to pieces.

So if the general location was known and the mountains identified, with the moon in there as a reference we know the apparent angular separation of the peaks (based on the size of the moon). This separation would depend on the location of the two mountains and the location of the camera; the solution is not unique. This is why when people do triangulation to guess where they are they measure angles to easily identified immobile objects which are separated by a large angle. However, the taper of the peaks can also be measured and this gives you a better idea of where the camera was.

Assuming we only know where the peaks are on a map and the angular separation is measured, we then draw a track on the map indicating the possible viewing angles and distances. Now the moon can come in - we know the local time, we have the track which gives us the observed angular separation of the peaks, and we can now calculate where the moon should be. Knowing where the moon is (and its angular separation from the mountain peaks), we now narrow down the area to just a fraction of the original track calculated based on the separation of the peaks.

It may just work - even if it's not what the script writers had in mind.

My verdict: PLAUSIBLE

(Damn, I wish I could have said MYTH BUSTED)
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who does the interviews?
written by MadScientist, January 16, 2009
@Skeptigirl:

I guess you have to take the local area and how they run operations into consideration. I've been in Australia the past decade or so and the practices vary between states. Once upon a time the gathering of forensic evidence was left to the police alone and the police could also take statements. Over the past few years some states seem to have hired a civilian force (they are not considered part of the police force, are not trained with weapons and are not allowed to port weapons) to collect forensic evidence. These people may not take statements or conduct interviews although of course they can ask some questions at the scene if they believe it will help them find something - basically these people can only collect material to send to a lab; they never actually do any analysis. Any police officer may still take statements and ask questions. For 'major crime' the police can still do all those things but of course it is the detectives and not the general police that conduct the investigations. Anyway, my point is, given that people in different places do things differently, maybe there is some place on the planet where the forensic technicians do all the investigative work (although I doubt it). Of course if you work in the area portrayed by the show then feel free to tear the show apart; I'm sure many people would love to read a little about how forensics labs work.
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The "Classroom" may have had a video conferencing setup.
written by novaphile, January 16, 2009
I don't watch CSI because it is boring and the science is mostly non-science.

However, your comments about the video session seems to report more about your lack of experience with common technology than the accuracy of the show.

In Australia, I've participated in real-time video link classes (at universities) where the video feed is two-way. The cameras are of high quality, and you need adequate bandwidth, but the interactions (between lecturer and students) are quite compelling.

The fixed video camera at our end, was similar in size to a modern small data projector, and it stood on a stand the front and centre of the stage in the lecture theatre. The video data we were watching was displayed from a projector mounted on the ceiling.

When the larger than life person on the big screen responds to your raised hand, i.e. turns head, raises head and looks at you - the illusion is complete that there is a big person in the room with you.

Technically, a webcam is any camera that sends a video feed across the internet, unless the writers went to extraordinary lengths to explain that there was no video feed back to the prisoner - thus making a plot device impossible - your webcam quibbles seem flawed to me.

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written by mjh937, January 16, 2009
I just watched a rerun of a CSI:Miami episode. A car went shooting through a garage door because someone put jet fuel in it. They they had a long story about how hard it is to get jet fuel. Jet fuel is very similar to diesel, in fact without testing anyone would think it was diesel before they considered jet fuel if it was found in a car engine. Diesel would be easy to get but would not cause a gasoline engine to perform well (or at all). I am done with the CSI shows.
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written by bosshog, January 16, 2009
MJH937:
I saw another show with a very similar incident.
Only it was Granny's rheumatis medicine that was put in Jed's truck.
Ah, glorious television!
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Another Australian!
written by BillyJoe, January 16, 2009
As for one person doing all the work which, in real life is done by many different people, that is nothing compared with "House". Those docs are all at one and the same time RMOs, registrars, specimen collectors, radiotechnicians, radiologists, ultrasonographers, histopathologists, microbiologists. biochemists.....
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CSI: Miami and jet fuel in cars
written by MadScientist, January 16, 2009
@mjh937:

Jet fuel is chiefly kerosene. I know if that was injected into my car's cylinders they wouldn't fire properly; I'm not doing the experiment to see what trouble it causes. You're right about a car not running if you put jet fuel into it. Now if you got your hands on a JATO unit (jet assist take-off, a solid fuel rocket) and strapped that to the car it'd really go - where it goes would be anyone's guess.
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written by Cuddy Joe, January 17, 2009
You CSI: Miami Jet Fuel DENIERS just don't understand the science. See, if jet fuel makes a jet go real fast, it will also make a car go real fast. Likewise, jet fuel would also make toasters, sewing machines, roller skates, and any other mechanical device go faster. Try to keep current, huh?
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written by BillyJoe, January 17, 2009
Like the man with the Darwin Award who strapped a rocket engine to his car, became airborn over the crest of a hill, and was last seen headed towards Mars.
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written by brucea, January 17, 2009
I didn't see the episode, but the butterfly effect mentioned might be this http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Butterfly_effect
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written by Caller X, January 17, 2009
He added that “you take yourself out of the equation, it's the butterfly effect!”

I cannot even fathom what he meant by that. A butterfly flaps its wings and... Grissom quits CSI. Grissom quitting CSI is like a butterfly flapping its wings? I think the editors made a minor misjudgment in letting that line slip through and that what he really meant was the domino effect, but hey, whatever. He might've meant the Ashton Kutcher movie.


As brucea pointed out, you could have looked it up. Laziness is unbecoming in an otherwise happenin' lady. The concept or meme of the Butterfly Effect has been common knowledge in popular culture since not long after Mandelbrot's book on fractals came out in the 1980's. Since you've ensconced yourself as a reviewer of popular culture it would behoove you to at least try to keep up.
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written by BillyJoe, January 17, 2009
I think you are right.
(which is a wonder in itself!)

I didn't even enter my mind that Alison has never heard of "the butterfly effect" smilies/shocked.gif

BJ
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written by StarTrekLivz, January 18, 2009
one of my best friends works in the crime lab for the City of Detroit Police. He watches the CSI shows as comedy, and laughs all the way through them.

NO LAB in the country has the budget for all the toys & devices they have (most of which are still in prototype or experimental mode, and have not reached the threshhold of reliability to be admissible in court).

Crime Scene Investigation (including data gathering) and lab analysis are now such discrete sciences that NO ONE is allowed to do both (except possibly in small jurisdictions where they don't have the budget: in which case they are more likely to have a crew that gathers evidence and then send it to a state or county lab or the FBI in Quantico rather than attempt it themselves).

Depending on the size of the DNA sample (and in some instances they are referring to a single follicle of hair) it can take months of running a biological replication process to acquire enough DNA to run a valid test (and the test can take hours to days to run, not the 15 minutes they use). A limited blood factor test can be done on the scene, but the computer pictures they show is the full-blown spectrum analysis).

There is no national data base of fingerprints that is scannable. Great thought, doesn't exist: the computer analysis is used to run against identified suspects whose fingerprints have been acquired for testing purposes, not the pool of possibles.

As for the data networks, Bill laughs: "We can't get e-mail to work from the police lab to the city purchasing department to buy more carbon paper, they think there are national databases of obscure information for police use, that are always up & running?"

And, tragically, generally the police want the lab to corroborate their suspicion of who is guilty rather than identifying or confirming a suspect. There have been a number of times Bill has provided evidence that confirmed an arrest, but in some instances he's been asked to redo tests because his work exonerated the suspect and the police did not want to keep looking.

So CSI can be commended for supporting Science as opposed to psychics, whims, etc., but understand the TV show is almost as fictional as "Star Trek."
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written by StarTrekLivz, January 18, 2009
addendum:

further, no police department in the country has the budget to devote a whole squad of officers and a whole crime scene investigation team and a whole lab unit to a single crime: Bill frequently is working a couple dozen cases at a time, plus can waste whole days sitting in a corridor outside a courtroom waiting to testify (he's not allowed in the court except when actually giving testimony to make sure his evidence is not tainted by anything he hears from other witnesses).
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written by BillyJoe, January 18, 2009
...substitute doctors and medical equipment for police and forensic equipment and you have the same argument against "House".
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written by StarTrekLivz, January 18, 2009
BillyJoe, although I appreciate House's analytical and agnostic views, I agree: I cannot imagine there is any place, any where, where a whole team of medical professionals have only 1 patient, even if he were the President of the USA/
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House
written by MadScientist, January 18, 2009
@BillyJoe:

What? Are you telling me that Lord Percy, acquaintance of the famous Lord Blackadder, cannot just look at people and diagnose their illness? Next you'll be saying he's not a faith healer! Heathen!
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written by Caller X, January 18, 2009
StarTrekLivz wrote:

As for the data networks, Bill laughs: "We can't get e-mail to work from the police lab to the city purchasing department to buy more carbon paper, they think there are national databases of obscure information for police use, that are always up & running?"


Carbon paper. Obviously a cutting-edge shop. Res ipsa loquitur.
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butterfly effect
written by Weatherwax, January 18, 2009
"written by brucea, January 17, 2009

I didn't see the episode, but the butterfly effect mentioned might be this http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Butterfly_effect "

I don't think she meant she didn't know what the butterfly effect was. She meant the statement made no sense.
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written by tctheunbeliever, January 18, 2009
Most people are aware that Spiderman is fictional (I think). But purposely passing off nonsense as reality is the reason we have so many people looking for da Vinci's Code, the Bible Code, and Atlantis.
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written by Caller X, January 18, 2009
Weatherwax tapped out:
I don't think she meant she didn't know what the butterfly effect was. She meant the statement made no sense.


I think the part where Miss Lazybones says: "I cannot even fathom what he meant by that" makes it pretty clear. Don't put critical thinking on hold just because she's hot.

She goes on to say "I think the editors made a minor misjudgment in letting that line slip through and that what he really meant was the domino effect, but hey, whatever."

"hey, whatever" There's some precision in writing. As Spock said in Star Trek IV, "Ah, the giants!"
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written by StarTrekLivz, January 19, 2009
Yes, I thought Carbon Paper was a bit of antiquity, too, but Bill says it's used to make impressions of evidence, especially to make things easier to read & photograph; it's not used to make copies while they bang out reports on manual typewriters.
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written by segnosaur, January 19, 2009
"One mountain could be twice as high and twice as far away. Shadows might work, maybe."

I can't remember seeing this during the episode, but in theory, if there were trees near the tops of both of those mountains in the photograph, could that be used as a point of reference?

After all, on average you'd expect all mature trees to be roughly the same height. If you compare 2 mountains, one with trees that looked (for example) 10 pixels high, and the other with trees that looked 20 pixels high, you could assume that mountain 2 was closer. But if trees on both mountains were the same height in the picture, you could assume that the 2 mountain tops were the same distance away.

So, measure he heights of trees in the picture, if they're the same then assume the mountain peaks are roughly the same distance away. (Again, that's assuming that there were actually trees visible in the picture.)
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written by Weatherwax, January 19, 2009
"written by Caller X, January 18, 2009

Weatherwax tapped out:

I don't think she meant she didn't know what the butterfly effect was. She meant the statement made no sense.


I think the part where Miss Lazybones says: "I cannot even fathom what he meant by that" makes it pretty clear. Don't put critical thinking on hold just because she's hot.

She goes on to say "I think the editors made a minor misjudgment in letting that line slip through and that what he really meant was the domino effect, but hey, whatever."

"hey, whatever" There's some precision in writing. As Spock said in Star Trek IV, "Ah, the giants!" "

The domino effect is still more appropriate, Mr Snarky. The are subtle but important defferences between the two. Frankly, the butterfly effect is one of those terms more often used in pseudoscience than real science.

Don't feel obliged to be pompous because she's a girl.
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written by Caller X, January 19, 2009
written by StarTrekLivz, January 19, 2009
Yes, I thought Carbon Paper was a bit of antiquity, too, but Bill says it's used to make impressions of evidence, especially to make things easier to read & photograph; it's not used to make copies while they bang out reports on manual typewriters.


Kudos to you for coming back with an answer to what was intended as a smartass remark. That use would never have ocurred to me.
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written by Caller X, January 19, 2009
Weatherwax wrote:
The domino effect is still more appropriate, Mr Snarky. The are subtle but important defferences between the two. Frankly, the butterfly effect is one of those terms more often used in pseudoscience than real science.

Don't feel obliged to be pompous because she's a girl.


The differences between the two aren't subtle. The domino effect implies foreseen consequences. The butterfly effect implies unforeseen consequences. The writers knew what they wanted to say. But thank you for enlightening me on the usage of the term. Clearly I missed it when I wrote: "The concept or meme of the Butterfly Effect has been common knowledge in popular culture since..."

But thank you for letting me know that Ms. Smith is a "girl". Knowing that she is not an adult woman, I shall go easier on her in the future.
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written by bosshog, January 20, 2009
I think the most damning evidence that CSI is not real is that NO crime lab has the budget to afford mazes of glass wallpanels set at desultory angles and underlit by indigo neon light that serve no purpose but to create dramatic atmospherics for the terse action that unfolds as a team of tough-as-nails police scientists go after their hardest case.

PS: I can't believe anyone takes "House" as anything more than surreal comedy.
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written by Cuddy Joe, January 20, 2009
Boss: "I can't believe anyone takes "House" as anything more than surreal comedy."

To add on to that, I can't believe anyone takes anything on TV as anything more than surreal comedy. Including the news, nay... *especially* the news.
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written by BillyJoe, January 20, 2009
I can't believe anyone takes "House" as anything more than surreal comedy.

Likewise, but some people are so stupid that they approach actors who play the role of doctors for medical advice (I don't know if this has happened to Hugh Laurie). So I have no doubt that there are a legion of others who think there is at least a semblance of reality in what goes on in "House".
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written by Weatherwax, January 20, 2009
"written by Caller X, January 19, 2009

Weatherwax wrote:

The domino effect is still more appropriate, Mr Snarky. The are subtle but important defferences between the two. Frankly, the butterfly effect is one of those terms more often used in pseudoscience than real science.

Don't feel obliged to be pompous because she's a girl.



The differences between the two aren't subtle. The domino effect implies foreseen consequences. The butterfly effect implies unforeseen consequences. The writers knew what they wanted to say. But thank you for enlightening me on the usage of the term. Clearly I missed it when I wrote: "The concept or meme of the Butterfly Effect has been common knowledge in popular culture since..."

But thank you for letting me know that Ms. Smith is a "girl". Knowing that she is not an adult woman, I shall go easier on her in the future."

LOL. I'm sorry, I don't have time to debate with snotty 12 year olds. Have a nice day.
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written by Caller X, January 20, 2009
Weatherwax quoted and wrote:

The differences between the two aren't subtle. The domino effect implies foreseen consequences. The butterfly effect implies unforeseen consequences. The writers knew what they wanted to say. But thank you for enlightening me on the usage of the term. Clearly I missed it when I wrote: "The concept or meme of the Butterfly Effect has been common knowledge in popular culture since..."

But thank you for letting me know that Ms. Smith is a "girl". Knowing that she is not an adult woman, I shall go easier on her in the future."

LOL. I'm sorry, I don't have time to debate with snotty 12 year olds. Have a nice day.


Not snotty, just smart and well-informed, and right as the day is long, although far from perfect. Thank you for your kind wishes -- as it turned out I had an absolutely splendid day. No Pepysian asterisks, but otherwise a splendid day.
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CSI has always been absurd
written by jeffasselin, January 21, 2009
I've always enjoyed forensic science shows, my favorite being for many years The New Detectives, produced by the Discovery Channel. When people started talking about CSI, I checked out a couple episodes, and the "TV glamour" totally turned me off the show. Things like the equipment and computers they use, the look of their crime lab (I've never, ever seen a laboratory with designer furniture, colored walls, and such bad lighting) seemed just too surrealist to me, and I could never achieve any suspension of disbelief watching it.

I'll keep watching realistic, documentary-style shows that actually show us real science used to find real criminals. More interesting.
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written by BillyJoe, January 21, 2009
jeffasselin,

You are not alone. smilies/smiley.gif

BJ
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written by Skeptigirl, January 22, 2009
written by Cuddy Joe, January 20, 2009
Boss: "I can't believe anyone takes "House" as anything more than surreal comedy."

To add on to that, I can't believe anyone takes anything on TV as anything more than surreal comedy. Including the news, nay... *especially* the news.

"Democracy Now!" broadcasts news you can take seriously, but they are the exception for sure.

As for House, not only is it medically absurd, they only have one plot: Everything they decide about the mystery illness will either kill or save the person. I did enjoy the God vs House episode, however, even if it also was not consistent with reality. It's the only episode that had an interesting premise.
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written by Steel Rat, January 23, 2009
Where did they download those cool "bleeps" and "bloops" that their computers make when the open all rhose files? You know, the files they have on every motor vehicle record, birth certificate, and employment file for every man, woman, and child on earth? Also, please explain why every police photograph of any suspect looks like a glamour shot?


What really gets me with any show that deals with computers and GUIs, is that the thing on the screen is being manipulated, obviously by a mouse, yet the person supposedly doing the manipulating is banging away at the keyboard like a monkey trying to write some Shakespeare.
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written by Steel Rat, January 23, 2009
Oh, and Grissom mentioning CSIs aren't cops... Then why are they going on raids, interrogating suspects, etc? Real forensic specialists DO NOT do any of that.
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written by cullen, January 23, 2009
I got around to watching the episod the other night, and there are answers to most of these.

computer displays that for some reason show an image of every single fingerprint in the entire database when matching a comparison, running the CPU so hard that the computer itself would, quite possibly, burst into flames


Well, no, computers won't burst into flames - I watched full screen video on my computer the other day, and even at about 30 frames/second it didn't burst into flames. It might have been a little slow if it were called upon to do anything else, but ...

But besides that - what makes you think it shows an image of every single fingerprint? Why not 1 out of 100 or 1 out of a 1000? Or even a series of canned images? While this would certainly take more CPU power than a blinking "working..." or even the Windows hourglass, one can imagine a programmer tired of hearing "I can't tell what it's doing" finally putting up a screen that attempts to show it - even if it's purely fiction. It shuts up the user, which is success.

The CSIs then line up the angle of the eyeline of the serial killer with the auditorium the interview was broadcast to and pinpoint the seat location of the individual who must have been the accomplice....The angle of my sightline is irrelevant, because I am not actually looking into the room.


OK, they took a little little license because it looks better on TV. However, the serial killer was very clearly shown looking at the screen, not at the camera, when they showed him from the back. Higher end video conference systems try hard to correct to make it look like people are actually looking at what they're looking at (otherwise people get creeped out when it looks like they're staring into space). Also - the room wasn't all that full. So while it would likely have taken some amount of transposition, it was possible. Not like it looked, but possible.

And about the two peaks - when the video panned up, you could see the pass between the two hills. You could see the base of each hill, and the view panned up to the top. They looked like they were right next to each other to me. Contrived, yes. Impossible, no.
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