Forensics 101

Back in the fall I signed up for a course – a MOOC, which stands for Massive Open Online Course. I’ve taken several before. They are usually offered by a university, but hosted through a MOOC platform such as Coursera or EdX. They’re generally free, as is the one I’m taking now.

The one I’m taking now is through FutureLearn, and is being taught by faculty from the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Scotland. It’s Introduction to Forensic Science.

What better course for a mystery writer? I know that CSI is full of inaccuracies, but I don’t always know what they are. This six-week class is giving me the opportunity to get my facts straight.

I just finished the second week; this week concentrated on fingerprints. So interesting. I didn’t know that identical twins have non-identical fingerprints. I asked a friend who’s a biology professor about that. He has heard a theory that the fingerprints of twins form differently due to pressure from the flow of amniotic fluid. Hard to test that, I guess!

Not only am I learning a lot, but I have the opportunity to ask questions. My question for this week was, can fingerprints be lifted from human skin? I’m beginning to write some scenes for Played to Death, which involves a murder by bare-handed strangulation, and I need to know whether the CSIs could get fingerprints from the victim’s neck.

I’ve seen it done on the CSI shows but I have no idea if that’s correct! I’m looking forward to the answer.


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