Crime Science: How Investigators Use Science
to Track Down the Bad Guys
Owl Books, 1997
Winner, Canadian Science Writers
Finalist, Silver Birch Award, Red
- Information Book "Honor" Award (2nd place), Children's
Literature Roundtables of Canada
- #2 non-fiction children's book of 1997
as rated by Quill & Quire
Making a Face
Who was this person? Police have found bones and a skull, but the
face is unrecognizable. This is a job for a forensic artist. The
artist can draw a picture or make a model of what the person probably
looked like. Then somebody might be able to put a name to the face.
Building from the Ground Up
How does the artist start? The bones can give some information,
like the person's sex. Strands of hair might prove the hair colour.
The remains of a belt would show what size pants the person was
wearing, and give clues to the person's build.
The rest of the clues would come from the skull. The skull shows
the shape of the face and how the eyes, nose and mouth are placed.
Forensic artists use a chart to calculate how much tissue (fat,
muscle and skin) is likely to be on each part of the skull. Feel
your face with your fingertips. How much soft tissue is on your
cheeks, your forehead or the tip of your nose? The pictures below
show a skull reconstruction in progress.
Maggots Under the Microscope
Did you know that maggots can help the police solve crimes? When police
want to know when a death occurred, and the body has been dead for
more than a few days, they call in a forensic entomolgist. A forensic
entomologist studies the insects that live on a dead body.
Evidence on the Wing
What happens if you leave a piece of meat on the kitchen table? It
doesn't take long before flies land on it. A dead body also attracts
flies. The first arrive within 24 hours, and sometimes in minutes.
These flies are looking for a place to lay their eggs where their
larvae (young flies) will have food. Different kinds of flies arrive
at different times as the body cools and decomposes. Some won't arrive
until the body has been dead for several months.
A fly goes through several stages during its life. Forensic entomologists
examine the insects on a corpse to identify the species and the
stage of their life cycle. For example, empty pupal cases show that
a fly has gone through a complete life cycle on the body. Clues
like this help entomologists figure out exactly how long the body
has been dead.
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