Forensic scientists analyse the physical evidence left at a crime scene using tools like fingerprinting, DNA, fibre and hair analysis, and document examination. Public interest in forensic science has increased with the popularity of television shows like "CSI" and episodes dedicated to forensics on programs for children such as "DragonflyTV." Crafts and activities centred on forensics can encourage a child's interest in science.
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Construct a Paper Chromatography Apparatus
Pen ink is made from several different colours. Applying a technique called chromatography that involves exposing the ink to particular solvents like water can separate these colours. Chromatography can help investigators determine if a suspect's pen was used to write a note.
Collect three or four black or blue water-soluble ink pens and use one to write a ransom note. Next, assemble the chromatography apparatus. Cut a 1.5-inch-wide strip for each pen from coffee filters or heavy paper towels and attach the ends to a drinking straw with tape. Mark each strip just above the end with a different pen. Attach a 1.5-inch-wide strip of the ransom note to the straw. Place the straw across two upside-down paper cups and place a pan filled with 1.5 inches of water underneath. Only the tips of each strip should touch the water. Wait 15 minutes for the inks to separate and compare the colour patterns to determine which pen was used to write the note.
Make a Fingerprint Dusting Kit
Dusting is a simple way to collect visible fingerprints left on surfaces by oily or dirty fingers. Once fingerprints are collected, they can be compared to find patterns like loops, whorls and arches.
To create a fingerprint dusting kit, assemble some white index cards, light and dark coloured paper, an ink pad or marker, a small paint or make-up brush, clear tape and talcum and cocoa powder. Gather fingerprints from everyone in the house using an ink pad or marker rubbed onto fingertips and white index cards. Identify and compare the patterns. To dust for prints, sprinkle the talcum powder on dark surfaces and the cocoa powder on light surfaces and use the small brush to remove the excess powder. Use clear tape with the sticky side down to carefully lift the print and stick it to paper that is the opposite colour of the powder used. Consult the index cards to identify whose prints were collected. Does everyone have a particular fingerprint pattern in common?
Apply Handwriting Analysis to a Ransom Note
An expert in forensic handwriting analysis determines whether the same person wrote two or more writing samples. Such evidence is useful to investigators who want to show that a particular suspect committed a forgery or wrote a ransom note. Handwriting experts examine the shapes of the letters including their angles, slants and curves. The thickness of the line, the spacing and alignment on the page and unique punctuation are also key characteristics of an individual's handwriting.
Begin by having a participant write a ransom note in secret. Next, all participants should write their names three times on an unlined piece of paper. Write the first signature normally, then holding the pen in a fist and finally with the pen clutched by the elbow. Compare the three signatures. The basic form should be the same even if some signatures are sloppier than others. Finally, compare everyone's signatures with the ransom note. Can the writer be identified?
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