Archive for the ‘Research’ Category
1. Scientists have developed a new sophisticated fluorescent ink that can be used as a multicolored barcode, a tool that will aid consumers with identifying and verifying authentic products. A quick scan with a cell phone and you’ll instantly know if what you’re buying is the real thing, or a cheap imitation.
2. FINDER (Finding Individuals for Disaster and Emergency Response), a new device used for locating buried victims, is now available for the commercial market. FINDER uses radar to locate and pinpoint heartbeats.
3. Hybridsil, a new Kevlar-based material used to manufacture firefighters’ gloves, offers enhanced dexterity, and much-improved heat and water resistance. The new material also provides an added protection against punctures and lacerations.
4. The Office of Naval Research (ONR) is now using functional MRI machines to determine how well working canines respond to verbal praise, petting, and snack treats. The purpose of the fMRI testing is to measure brain activity by detecting changes in blood flow caused by the animals’ responses to the stimuli. The ONR is also studying how long canines remember certain odors and how they process them.
5. Presumptive drug test kits used in the field by law enforcement have been found to give false positive results when used to test common household items, such as coffee, aspirin, and chocolate. Even soap has been “positively” identified as the date-rape drug GHB. Candy showed up as meth. And mints were identified as crack cocaine. Of course, in criminal cases laboratory tests performed by forensic scientists are always conducted to confirm field results.
The problem with the false positives, if negated by lab tests, is that innocent people have been detained and even jailed due to faulty test kit results. Remember, though, convictions for illegal drug possession are not based on presumptive drug testing conducted street-side by cops. Instead, officers use the field tests/kits only to help determine probable cause for arrest.
6. Human microbial signatures—skin-associated bacteria—can be identified on various surfaces, such as computers, shoes, clothing, cell phones, flooring, etc. Therefore, it is possible that law enforcement may pinpoint a suspect’s previous whereabouts by examining bacteria found at crime scenes.
7. Altering fingerprints CAN beat the system. Yes, criminals have escaped producing a “match” by altering their print patterns in some way. The most common and effective means of changing print patterns is to cut a straight vertical line through the print(s). The method can prevent an automatic hit returned by an automated ID system. Sanding, burning, biting, and other methods of cutting are far less effective.
As writers, most of you go the extra mile to conduct research for your books, and your fans certainly appreciate the effort. But how far do your characters go on their own to be sure they don’t do something silly? I know they’re serious about getting their facts straight because several of them—Jack Reacher, Monk, Joanna Brady, and many more—have shown up at my door to ask questions about police work and how detectives conduct investigations.
Some characters, however, such as Cabot Cove’s beloved super sleuth, Jessica Fletcher, take the “get-it-right” approach to an even higher level by purchasing her own research books. Don’t believe me? Well, here’s a bit of dialog from Murder, She Wrote: Death of a Blue Blood. It’s a conversation between Jessica Fletcher and Scotland Yard Inspector George Sutherland.
“Did Father Christmas treat you well this year?” George asked as we looked over a tray of holiday socks that had been set outside a clothing store.
“Yes, indeed. Someone gave me a lovely tartan shawl,” I said, holding up a corner of the scarf. “Thank you again.”
“You’re very welcome again. And thank you again for the leather fishing belt.”
“Made in Maine,” I said, laughing. “I couldn’t resist when I saw the silver trout on it. We’ll have to go fishing together one day.”
“I think I would enjoy that.”
“I did buy myself a present when I was in New York City.”
“And what did you get?”
“A book called Police Procedure and Investigation.”
“I would have thought you knew all that by now.”
“There’s always more to learn. Plus, I love having my own library of reference books. The Internet is wonderful, but it doesn’t match the feeling of paging through a book and finding something you didn’t even realize you needed. I hope that experience never goes away.”
I’m extremely flattered that Jessica Fletcher has called on me in past, but it’s an added thrill to know that she and her writers, Donald Bain and Renee Paley-Bain, often turn to my book and this blog when concocting a new crime-solving adventure. And it never gets old seeing my name in the acknowledgements of the Murder She Wrote books. After all, I’ve been a Donald Bain fan since, well, since his book, Coffee, Tea, or Me? found its way into the hands of many teen boys back in the mid to late 60’s.
So yes, I’m extremely proud that my own book has a home in the Bains’ office. I’m also proud of the personally signed copy of Coffee, Tea, or Me I received from Donald Bain not so long ago. How cool is that!
As for Jessica Fletcher, well, I truly think these two make a nice-looking couple. Don’t you?
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Here’s another great couple.
Donald Bain and Renee Paley-Bain
Donald Bain has written more than 125 books, among them 43 in the “Murder, She Wrote” series on which he has collaborated with his wife, Renee Paley-Bain, for the past 15 years.