Years ago, the lovely Sharon and I used to be regular fans of CSI. It was very entertaining and occasionally scientifically educational. There were many geek cringe moments, like when they used to use CCTV security camera footage and zoom in to read details off name badges. Have they never herd of information theory and the limit of signal to noise, blah blah, blah…

So, after a long period of not watching it I decided to have another look at CSI. Specifically CSI New York. I was ready for the zooming in on the licence plates, but I was not ready for the really bad science. It seems that the show must have some poor science writers who use the science to move the story along and don’t worry so much about it linking up smoothly.

The case I am thinking of is that of a diver’s body. The diver was discovered, a few days after death, with a tank 90% full (in the show they quoted the tank as 90% full of oxygen, we can forgive that one), and the diver had eye balls which showed signs of asphyxiation. The puzzle was; how can a diver asphyxiate (lack of oxygen) with a nearly full tank of oxygen air?

Later it is discovered that he died of cyanide poisoning. But the eye ball symptoms are left unexplained. I thought the symptoms of cyanide poisoning would be quite different. Geeky bit… Cyanide would bind to a chemical in cells (myoglobin) that takes oxygen from your blood. Your cells can’t take the oxygen from the blood and your blood ends up packed with oxygen that has nowhere to go. this leaves your blood a very cherry red colour.

How did the cyanide get into the diver? How was he murdered? In an ingenious bit of very simple bicycle mechanic engineering the CSI team held the diver’s equipment under a pool of water to see a stream of bubbles leaking from the line from the tank. Aha! this was the injection point for a hypodermic needle of cyanide.


How can the tank be 90% full it had been leaking all this time, possibly for days? And if it was 90% full, why did they think to test for leaks? Are CSI investigators writers not taught critical thinking skills?

Am I being too geeky? If your passion was English literature would you be happy watching an adaptation which included huge mistakes in the story? Could you cope with Mr Darcy being 5ft 4, bald and covered in boils?