Dr. Joan Bushwell's Chimpanzee Refuge

Letter from Copenhagen: CSI. WTF?

I am pleased to welcome a guest bonobo to the Refuge. You might recall Professor Doctor Eye as the model for this fine motivational poster:


Dr. Eye is a physicist on the faculty of a university in a certain European Union country where something smells rotten and it ain’t Havarti. Maybe it’s a cheesy Danish gone bad. His hobbies include hobnobbing with hadrons and channeling Grendel. Without further adieu, Dr. Eye rants about science in television, a favorite subject here at the Refuge.

Recently, I have developed a somewhat less than healthy habit. Yes. CSI reruns. From Horatio overdramatically removing his sunglasses in Miami, to Mac Taylors’s NY sneer, to Grissom admonishing his—well, I don’t know what they are, juniors? Proteges? To look for what isn’t there, I love ’em. All. Every night at 20.00, on one of the many cable channels which seem to only ever show reruns of US TV shows, there they are – fellow scientists – but with guns. I won’t even get into their labs.

Good googly woogly, what I’d give to have a lab that clean and stylishly lit. But the entire illusion came crashing down in Las Vegas, and let me tell you…

I’m madder than Ed Asner at an ACLU convention! Some body had fallen (or was it pushed?) from an upper floor of a construction site*, and Grissom, discussing the fall, made the worst conceivable error (OK, I’ll admit this may only be the worse conceivable error for someone teaching first year physics, but still…). He didn’t have to mention it at all. It had nothing really to do with the case, but there he is, trying to look smart, saying the body reached its terminal velocity of…9.8m/s**2.

As the kids say today, dude, WTF? How can an error of this magnitude get broadcast on (inter)national television? Does this mean that I should question everything I have seen on CSI? Is it not commonplace to match (graphically!!) fingerprints in a matter of seconds? Do CSI folks really not get to interrogate suspects? Would they really not be allowed to blow up trucks full of explosives thus foiling terrorist attacks on nuclear power plants? Say it ain’t so.

*Yes, this may well be old news. In fact, I have no idea how old, since I don’t even know what season this show comes from. It is new news to me, though, and I’m still reeling from the shock. I’m even beginning to wonder if there really is luminol.


  1. #1 Frank Parker
    November 15, 2007

    “the body reached it’s terminal velocity”


  2. #2 JimFiore
    November 15, 2007

    The “terminal” part deals with the landing effects of accelerating said body to a sufficient velocity.

  3. #3 Lassi Hippelไinen
    November 15, 2007

    Hope you have heard about the “CSI Effect”. It even has a Wikipedia entry:

  4. #4 Zack
    November 15, 2007

    What does the caption on the demotivational poster say? I can’t make out the next to last word and it is driving me nuts.

  5. #5 Doc Bushwell
    November 15, 2007

    What does the caption on the demotivational poster say?

    Entire caption:


    It’s not a fucking tea party.

  6. #6 Mrs. Wetmore
    November 15, 2007

    Heh. I’ve never understood how the CSI people can get anything done in such poorly lit working spaces.

  7. #7 SDC
    November 15, 2007

    CSI is encouraging lots of kids in the US to study science. Some of them even finish high school.

  8. #8 Dr Eye
    November 16, 2007

    Don’t get me wrong, SDC, all I very much in favor of making science ‘cool’, I just wish it could be done a little more realistically. Now, where is that windmill? I’m ready for battle!

  9. #9 Dr Eye
    November 16, 2007

    By “all I very much”, I mean, of course, ” I am all (very much)”. Now, please excuse me, I need to go follow some evidence.

  10. #10 SDC
    November 16, 2007

    Oh, this reminds me. All you sciency types need to check out the graphic novel ‘The Five Fists Of Science’. Mark Twain and Nikola Tesla join forces against the Satan-Worshipping cabal of Thomas Edison, Guglimooglio Marconi, and J.P. Morgan. They build giant robots in an effort to create peace on earth. (Chris Farley reference) That was AWESOME!

  11. #11 Dr Eye
    November 18, 2007

    Thanks for the CSI effect link. I had heard of this before, but not in so much detail.
    I may be over reacting, but I think that (despite the overall positive image science gets in these shows) one problem is that people watching them will get a really twisted image of what scientists actually do.
    Still, I guess it as better twist than the usual evis scientist.

  12. #12 Gingerbaker
    November 18, 2007

    Dr Eye’s comments are so right on! The “science” on these shows is so, well, bogus, that I no longer watch them 12-15 hours a week.

    I’ll stick with Star Trek Voyager, thank you very much. ;D

  13. #13 Dr Eye
    November 20, 2007

    1.Yes, I have also cut down to 3 or 4 episodes a week.
    2.I loved your work in Cream.
    3.As for Star Trek…I can live with the science fiction; it is really fun and entertaining. But they mistakes they make with classical physics set my teeth on edge. Conservation of Tractor Beam Power, indeed. harrummmph!

  14. #14 gingerbaker
    November 20, 2007

    Terribly sorry – I meant that I no longer watch CSI reruns 12-15 hours a DAY, not per week. I watch them less than 12-15 hours a day now. ๐Ÿ™‚

    So, you are down to only 3-4 episodes a week? Wow!

    And, are you really saying that there are mistakes in the basic physics of Star Trek Voyager? Voyager???

    I think many people’s understandable skepticism about the physics used on Star Trek Voyager comes from this explanation of how the computers worked on board ship – from “Rascals” –
    “The Enterprise computer system is controlled by three primary main processing cores cross linked with a redundant melacortz ramistat and fourteen kiloquad interface modules. The core elements are based on FTL nanoprocessor units arranged into twenty-five bilateral kelilactirals with twenty of those units being slaved to the central heisenfram terminal. . . . Now this is the isopalavial interface which controls the main firomactal drive unit. . . . The ramistat kiloquad capacity is a function of the square root of the intermix ratio times the sum of the plasma injector quotient. . . .”

    But, keep in my mind that the point of the speech was to misdirect a Farenghi. Everyone knows that the Voyager computer doesn’t work this way! LOL. ๐Ÿ˜€ ๐Ÿ˜€

    I’m pretty sure they work with some system of quantum phase-shifted tachyon beams, or baryon plasma remodulation, or Intel chips.

    Thanks for your message, Dr Eye ๐Ÿ™‚

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