Archive for the ‘Research’ Category
It’s Saturday night, Dark Side of the Moon is on the turntable, and bags of M&M’s and Doritos stand ready for…
Okay, if the previous words took you back to the days of black light posters, Janis and Jimi, 8-track tape players, and spilled bong water, well, you already have some understanding of the mechanics of pot smoking. However, it’s a whole new world out there today and, as you know, in some states marijuana is approved to treat certain medical conditions, such as glaucoma, depression, and even cancer.
Before we delve any further into the topic, though, you should know there are two main types of cannabis (marijuana)—Indica and Sativa.
Sativa plants are tall and loosely branched, with narrow leaves (leaf pictured above). Indica plants are short, densely branched, with wide leaves (the appearance is similar to the above photo, but the leaflets are much broader).
By the way, a marijuana leaf is a compound leaf, a leaf composed of individual leaflets. The top photo of the marijuana leaf shows a single leaf with seven individual leaflets (cannabis leaves will have between 5-9 leaflets with serrated edges).
Cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are the two main ingredients in the marijuana plant.
THC is the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. It’s the component that makes you high. CBD is non-psychoactive (CBD does not make you high) and is the ingredient that’s most attractive as a medicine. Both, however, are used in medical marijuana.
Uses of Medical Cannabis
Sativa is uplifting, therefore it’s used to treat mild depression, social anxiety, ADD, fatigue, and migraines. It’s also thought by some that Sativa helps increase creativity. Sativa is best used during daytime hours.
Indica is relaxing and calming and is used to treat conditions such as, anxiety and panic attacks, pain, glaucoma, muscle cramps, asthma, complications associated with AIDS, epilepsy, gastric disorders, MS, cerebral palsy, Crohn’s Disease, Fibromyalgia, and insomnia. Indica is best used at night.
There are numerous methods of consuming medical cannabis. For example, smoking, vaporizers, tinctures or tonics, topicals applied directly to the skin as a salve, and edibles, to name a few.
Since most of you are probably familiar with pot smoking (you’ve at least heard about it), we’ll address edible cannibas and its many forms and products. Remember, cannibas edibles are not the meek and mild pot brownies of days long ago. Edibles today are much more potent.
Sure, it’s said that edibles do a great job of reducing anxiety and helping to induce deep, restful sleep without the medicated feeling that one experiences after consuming pharmaceutical medications. However, dosing of edible cannibas can be a hit or miss situation. The perfect amount for one person may not be right for another. Therefore, a bit of trial and error can come into play before a user/patient finds the correct size “bite/dose” that best suits their needs.
So, without further adieu, here’s a small sampling of the vast assortment of edibles available this holiday season. Bon appetit!
And for those of you who prefer to prepare your own…
Now, please pass the M&M’s, onion dip, chocolate ice cream, and pickled pigs feet.
Does the hero of your story have a real need to drive an invisible car? How about clothing that protects against a mustard gas attack? Is she an expert in facial recognition? Well…
1. Forensic Facial Examiners (yes, they do exist) have been tested to determine the accuracy of their identification/recognition skills. The results? Darn near perfect (99.7%, to be exact). The high mark indicates that when comparing the accuracy of trained facial examiners to non-experts, well, the trained experts were far better at recognizing, comparing, identifying and matching faces to photos than people who are not trained to do so. Therefore, it’s safe to say the experts are indeed believable and reliable when it comes to courtroom testimony.
2. Scientists have developed a new compound that neutralizes chemical warfare agents such as mustard gas. The compound, a hydrogel coating, can be applied to clothing to help safeguard against the deadly chemicals. Adding the hydrogel to paint can also protect the interior of homes/rooms from chemical hazards.
3. Researchers interviewed 99 inmates, asking where they obtained the firearms used when committing their crimes. They found that very few guns, if any, were obtained by theft. Instead, the bad guys said they obtained their guns through:
a) purchase or trade from friends and family.
b) travel to states with slack gun laws for legal purchases (gun shows, online connections, etc.), but not via traditional gun stores.
c) gangs make bulk purchases from traffickers and then distribute to members.
d) 15% of weapons recovered from the criminals interviewed were purchased for them by women. Third party gun deals are called straw purchases. It is illegal to purchase a gun for someone who cannot legally posses a firearm.
It was discovered that most guns purchased and carried by criminals are older weapons—11 years or older. The inmates also stated that proactive policing once put a damper on carrying weapons they believed to be “hot,” fearing police would connect them to other crimes. Now, however, the move away from police stop and frisk practically eliminates the crooks’ worry about carrying illegal firearms.
4. Engineers have successfully developed a cloaking device that works even on very large objects, including military drones. The new Teflon substrate and ceramic studs scatters electromagnetic waves (light and radar), causing light to bypass the target object…making it “invisible” to detection. The process is basically an alteration of our perceptions.
5. According to Alabama professor and study researcher, Adam Lankford, five percent of the world’s population lives in the U.S. Within that 5% are 31% of world’s mass shooters (based upon 1966-2012 stats). Lankford also found that mass shooters from countries other than the U.S. typically use only one firearm. In the U.S. however, over half of the mass shooters have used at least two firearms when killing.
6. A University of Illinois Chicago study shows that 92% of all police officer line of duty deaths (murders) are by gunfire. 3/4 of those deaths are by handgun. From 1996 – 2010, 782 officers were killed. 716 were killed by gunfire (515 were handguns).
The study produced an unexpected result. The states with the highest numbers of officers murdered were not states with the highest rates of violent crime. Instead, the areas where officers were murdered most frequently were the states with the highest numbers of public-owned firearms, such as Montana, Alabama, Alaska, and Mississippi.
*This post is not an open invitation to express opinions about gun control. Instead, the list above is a collection of facts that could add an extra element to a work in progress.
Is your writers’ toolbox looking a bit tired and used up these days? Do you find yourself recycling stale material no matter how deep you dig for it? Well, if you’ve noticed it, it’s likely your readers are starting to grumble, wishing you’d move on past cordite and terms like flatfoot and gumshoe.
So, here are six brand new and still-shiny facts and ideas you can toss into your toolbox for use in your current work-in-progress. After all, National Novel Writing Month is just around the corner so something new might be just the thing to brighten up a hard to write scene.
Six Facts for Your Writers’ Toolbox
1. Thermal On Demand (TOD) is a new device that allows firefighters to see detailed images—doors, light switches, furniture, victims, etc.—in smoke-filled, pitch-black places.
2. Researchers from Ben-Gurion University have developed a personality profiling technique to assist in identifying potential school shooters. The process uses vector semantics (constructing vectors that represent a variety of known personality disorders and traits) to analyze and gauge the similarities with writings of a suspect/subject. The data analysis is completed automatically via computer.
3. Scientists have discovered a method for dating fingerprints. Using a cumbersome and lab-stationary, imaging mass spectrometer (the device is not a mobile/transportable device), they’ve been able to correctly age prints up to four days. However, the prints tested were single prints deposited on polished silicon surfaces—perfect prints on perfectly-suited surfaces for testing. Experts say their next move is to test over longer periods of time, and to test on more real-life surfaces. But it’s a start. Imagine being able to rule out a suspect because his prints were left at the crime scene two weeks prior to the murder. Or, to arrest a guy because his prints were the only fingerprints left at the scene on the exact day of the homicide.
4. A new device allows the military to better hear incoming radio messages by using bone conduction of vibrations to transport sound, instead of relying on a sound that’s traditionally emitted by speakers. The device is super small, the size of a dime, which is far lighter and less cumbersome than a radio. It’s attached to a wearer’s helmut and transmits messages by turning them into vibrations. The wearer’s skull bones then send those vibrations straight to the inner ear/cochlea, bypassing the ear canal and eardrum entirely. This is an added bonus because the wearer is then free to wear hearing protection and, at the same time, receive important messages.
5. Vienna, Austria is the home of the IMS (International Monitoring System, a first-alert station that monitors nuclear transgressions throughout the world. Receiving daily real-time data from stations in 89 countries, the IMS is able to detect nuclear testing anywhere on the planet. To identify nuclear activity, the IMS analyzes atmospheric gases as well as sensitive seismometers to detect earth movement. Eleven stations monitor underwater sounds and acoustic waveforms. Since sound travels so well underwater, eleven stations are enough to cover the entire world.
6. Smart watches are a source of hacking/mining personal data. For example, a hacker using a camouflaged app could be used to steal information from emails, banking details, passwords, etc. In fact, researchers used motion sensors on smart watches to accurately guess what a user was typing. It was through the use of a homegrown app that caused the data “leaks” produced by the motion sensors.
As many of you know, I field an awful lot of questions from writers—“What kind of gun does a detective carry?” “What are all those little thingy’s on a cop’s gun belt?” “Do police officers have to take off their gun belts when they use the restroom?” And the ever popular, “Have you ever shot anyone?” But, one of the more consistently asked questions is, “How do I approach a police officer to ask him questions about my work-in-progress?”
Most police officers are actually quite willing to help you out, if you just ask. That’s the key to this whole problem. You’ve got to ask. I promise, the officer will not bite. Well, maybe you shouldn’t try this during the noon buffet at the local Chinese restaurant…but under normal circumstances you’ll be fine. Don’t be shy! And please do use common sense. For example, these are times when you wouldn’t want to approach an officer.
1. While the officer is involved in a shootout with bad guys.
2. When the officer is on the ground wrestling with a 300 lb. suspect who prefers to remain out of jail.
3. On the side of the highway while she’s conducting a traffic stop on a stolen car.
4. At a major intersection while the officer is directing rush hour traffic.
5. While he/she is in the act of breaking up a huge bar fight.
6. While they’re advising someone of Miranda. This would be the perfect time for you to “remain silent.”
7. Public restroom stalls. NO!
8. Any meal time. Officers never know when they’ll have to hop up and rush to save a life. Therefore, their meal times are often precious moments.
Anyway, here’s a great example of how easy it is to have an officer answer your questions. I used to travel a lot, especially between our former home in Georgia and our other house near Mayberry (Hey, Barney!). The drive between the two took approximately six hours, which translates into just over a tank of gas (this was pre-hybrid days). So, during one of my fuel stops I happened to park beside a patrol car. The driver, a sheriff’s lieutenant—I immediately knew he was lieutenant by the gold bars pinned to his collar—, was cleaning the windows and pumping gas into his blue-and-white marked car.
By the way, before heading out to your meet-n-greet with an officer, it’s a good idea to learn the various collar insignias. Officers appreciate being addressed by their rank, especially the officers wearing all that fancy hardware on their collars—gold bars, stripes, stars, and eagles.
The markings on this lieutenant’s patrol vehicle, “Aggressive Criminal Enforcement,” caught my eye since it’s not something you normally see on a police car. In fact, others had noticed it as well. Customers were casually walking past the vehicle, chatting among themselves. I heard one lady say to her companion, “I wonder what that means?” A man walked by, turning his head so hard to the right he looked like an owl that had just spied dinner. Two women walked up and pretended to talk about a business across the street so they could get a better look at the police car. As they walked away one said to the other, “I wish I knew what he did.”
Well, at that point I, too, was wishing I knew the meaning of those three words. So take a guess at what I did? Yep, I went completely crazy and did the unthinkable. I walked over and before I could stop myself, I heard these words fall out of my mouth, “What exactly is Aggressive Criminal Apprehension?” There. I’d done it. I’d gone where no writer dares to go. I asked a cop a question. Right there. Right out in the open where the whole world could see. And an amazing thing happened.
Without blinking an eye, that well-armed, muscular police officer turned to face me. Our eyes locked. A bead of sweat trickled down my back. He took a deep breath. So did I. And then it happened… He answered my question. And he did it with a smile on his face. You see, Lieutenant S. Graham of the Calhoun County S.C. Sheriff’s Office is extremely proud of the work he does.
In just a matter of minutes, I learned that Lt. Graham is actually a detective with the sheriff’s office, but he also serves on the Aggressive Criminal Enforcement Team, a team of deputies that was formed in 2005 to combat drug crimes, and to work in areas of Calhoun County that need “extra attention.”
Calhoun County deputy and evidence seized during drug interdiction operation.
For example, you all know that interstate highways are used to transport narcotics. Calhoun’s A.C.E. unit patrols the interstate looking for the indicators of drug trafficking (I can’t tell you what those indicators are…for a cop’s eyes and ears only…or a future blog post :). I’ve worked drug interdiction in the past and the time spent working the highways really pays off. Believe it or not, the simple question, “May I search your car?” yields tons of dope arrests each year. Why people say yes to that question, knowing they have a dozen kilos of coke in the trunk, amazes me.
Each member of the A.C.E. team receives specialized training in the detection of narcotics and the workings of narcotics cases.
A unit such as Calhoun’s A.C.E. is extremely beneficial to a department. I once headed up what we called “Street Crimes Unit,” which functioned basically the same as Lt. Graham’s team. Not only was the unit effective against drug crimes, it allowed patrol officers to devote the majority of their time to answering calls and, well, patrolling.
Anyway, after the lieutenant and I finished chatting, I asked if he’d pose for a photo for my collection. Afterward, we shook hands and promised to stay in touch, and I headed back to my car (the gas pump had long ago clicked off). But, by this time a small crowd had gathered to see what was going on, and as I walked away they moved toward Lt. Graham.
Just as I was was sliding into my driver’s seat I heard a woman ask, “What’s Aggressive Criminal Apprehension?” I saw Lt. Graham turn to face her. The two locked eyes. And that same big smile split the lieutenant’s face as he started the story all over again, this time to a half-dozen people.
So, I have this response to one of the most-popular writer-questions of all time… Just ask and they will answer.
*My thanks to Lt. S. Graham for answering my questions. It was 100 degrees in South Carolina that day. And it was even hotter standing on the asphalt. Also, thanks to Calhoun County Sheriff Thomas Summers and his dedicated deputies. The residents of Calhoun County are in good hands.
I’ve been doing the “help writers get it right” for a long, long time, and during all those years I’ve seen a ton of questions and discussions that would buckle the knees of the even the most seasoned detectives and coroners.
Some of the questions I see from writers are out there. I mean WAAAAYYY out there, and that can be a good thing…or a bad thing. It depends.
I know, it’s tough to come up with new material, ideas, and ways to keep readers interested, but you do it and you do it day-in and day-out, and you do what you do extremely well. I can say this with confidence because I read your books.
But that’s not the point of this post. Instead, I want to remind everyone that you’re writing fiction, which means you’re legally authorized by Chapter 18 Section 12 of Imaginary Law to make up stuff. Really, it’s true. Every single state and country has this law in place. Google it (wink).
Most of you turn to experts who provide factual information as responses to your questions, and those responses aren’t typically an opinion. They’re real, hard fact based on their knowledge and real-life on the job experiences. It’s up to you to transpose, mold, and shape those facts into a fictional story that’s believable. Doesn’t have to be true, just believable make-believe, even if just for a few moments, in the mind of the reader.
If you want your hero’s revolver to have the capability of firing 75 rounds while simultaneously ejecting each spent round, then so be it. But you’ve got to show why that’s possible, because it’s not in the real world. Perhaps your protagonist knows a mad-scientist-guy in Philly who made the gun in his garage workshop.
Or, you insist upon having the odor of cordite spilling from every single page of your book. Well, you know that’s not possible unless you’re writing historical fiction. However, suppose your villain stumbled across a perfectly preserved crate of cordite-stuffed ammunition left over from WWII? That would work, right?
You absolutely must have the FBI solve every single murder that occurs in the country, even though we all know the FBI does not work local murder cases. It’s just not what they do. Nor do they work all kidnapping cases. But this is an easy fix. Simply have the small town local cops ring up the nearest FBI field office and ask for help, or ask them to handle the case. Remember, though, you’d need to have an explanation as to why the county sheriff or state police wouldn’t/couldn’t help, because that’s the typical route taken when assistance is needed. Rarely do locals call on the FBI for local stuff. But you’re the master of dreams and ideas, so coming up with reasons why things happen the way they do in your mind is what you do best.
So please do feel free to use your imaginations to write fiction, even when the story is about cops. However, if you’re going for accuracy stick to what the experts tell you. And please, whatever you do, don’t argue with a professional when the fact she provides doesn’t fit with what you wanted to happen in your story. Asking the same question over and over again, hoping they’ll finally say what you want them to say, is not going to change the facts. Simply take the information and make it fit into the tale. If that won’t work, figure a way to show why it didn’t. If readers wanted a strictly factual accounting of a story they’d watch the news or read true crime. Well, maybe watching the news was a bad example of factual information, but you know what I meant.
So, by the power granted to you by Chapter 18 Section 12 of Imaginary Law, have at it!
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.