Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Dexter's "science"

Sometimes in TV spectacular science is presented as mundane while standard science is presented incorrectly. Here's an example.

During a recent episode of Showtime's "Dexter" some "science" was deployed. After all, Dexter is the lab (Dexter's laboratory :) ) technician in a police department. In the episode he managed to get some DNA from the killer at a crime scene - to their credit they did point out the hair was pulled out by its roots (most TV shows seem to get DNA from hair clippings which is pretty impressive). The DNA database didn't give him a match but he then decided to go for the mitochondrial DNA in the hope the mother may be on the database. With the click of a button an instant match came up.  It conveniently belonged to someone he knew so his next logical step was to get a photo of this woman's child. Once scanned into the computer he used a "magic" program (which could still be indentified as photoshop) to add 30 years onto the 6 year old child. Hey presto it churned out a picture with a 97% match (no idea what stat was used) to ANOTHER person he just happened to know.

Pros: They know you need roots of hair to get a DNA sample
         They know that mitochondrial DNA is inherited from the mother.

Cons: I don't think you can age people on computer software that quickly or that accurately.
          I don't think you can sequence DNA and do a search that quickly either.

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