Forensic science is rarely far away from our TV screens. Whether fingerprints are being pored over in CSI: New York or ballistics evidence is getting analysed in high-profile court cases, forensics seems to be the domain of the court room and crime scene.
However, that isn’t necessarily the case. Here are four areas in which forensics is surprisingly useful.
Analysing the amount of carbon-14 in human or animal bones can tell archaeologists how long they’ve been dead for and therefore when an ancient settlement was in use. Carbon-14 decays at a constant rate, so scientists find how much is in a sample and count backward to find when the organism died and their bones started decaying.
Families that have been separated through adoption, abduction or any number of reasons like natural disasters can be reunited through their DNA. By analysing the DNA of child and parent, geneticists can establish a definitive match and provide cast-iron proof of the relationship.
Technology is a key part of many criminal investigations, so the field of technology forensics is growing. Experts can determine the last person to use a computer, locate and date e-mails and even pinpoint a person’s current location using IP addresses.
Forensics has wide-ranging practical uses in the animal kingdom too. Forensics teams can measure paw prints to learn when and where species are travelling , use DNA samples to find out how many offspring a particular animal has and learn about their diet by analysing their droppings.