Easy Forensic Science Experiments

EASY FORENSIC SCIENCE EXPERIMENTS

Easy and forensic seem like a dichotomy but it is possible to find easy forensic science experiments. (For example, right here!)  Forensic experiments are cool and fun for your kids, grandkids, nieces, nephews, as a classroom activity or for a birthday party, with minimal materials! I’m going to show you how to do 2 forensic science experiments at home!

Easy forensic Science Experiments_2- Louie Magnified
Louie is going to help

EASY FORENSIC SCIENCE EXPERIMENTS PODCAST

FORENSICS

What is forensics?

The use of science and technology to investigate and establish facts in criminal or civil courts of law.

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FORENSIC EVIDENCE

Forensic evidence are the physical items collected or information gathered by scientific methods at crime scenes.

Examples include DNA matching, fingerprint identification, ballistic trajectory, and hair/fiber samples. 

Forensic evidence often helps to establish the guilt or innocence of possible suspects.

sugar keys into our dopamine receptors
Who ate these cookies?
Suspect looks guilty
Both these suspects look guilty, but how can we tell for sure?

FINGERPRINT FORENSICS

Fingerprints have long been considered one of the most valuable types of physical evidence that can be found at a crime scene.

Fingerprint identification is employed by police squads and agencies as a powerful weapon for combating crime. This technique helps crime fighters all over the world, by providing them with a reliable and accurate means of identifying suspects.

Crime scene forensic evidence _ Derbs
Derby got under the police tape. This could ruin the evidence!

Dactylography is the scientific study of fingerprints as a means of identification.

FORENSIC CHEMISTRY LAB ACTIVITIES

That’s why our easy forensic science experiments will  involve fingerprint collection!

First a word about fingerprints. Why do we even have fingerprints? What is the point of fingerprints? When did humans discover them?

WHY DO WE HAVE FINGERPRINTS?

In mammals, skin consists of two layers of tissue. One is a thick, deep layer called the dermis. Over the dermis is the epidermis.
In mammals, these two layers of the skin are closely joined. The dermis buckles where it meets epidermis. Some of the tissue of the dermis project up into the epidermis so that they are firmly attached. The pattern is what causes fingerprints.
The purple squiggle
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WHAT IS THE POINT OF FINGERPRINTS?

Fingerprints are ridges in the skin of our fingers and toes
Their purpose is to increase surface area, thereby increasing friction
Hands can more firmly grasp things
Feet do not slip when walking.
In theory, anyway!
In 1895, David Hepburn wrote a paper which described that friction ridges assist with grasping
email me if you'd like the article!
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A BRIEF HISTORY OF FINGERPRINTS...or skip the slides if this isn't sufficiently brief!

Chemistry experiments make sense of science
Brief? When are you ever brief?
The use of friction ridge skin impressions as a means of ID has been around for 1000's of years!
221 BC
Chinese officials used fingerprints on clay to seal documents and as a personal signature.
Oldest Known Fingerprints
6000 year old jug with ridge impressions discov­ered @ an archaeological site in northwest China
1788
German anatomist J.C.A. Mayer (that guy had lots of first names) was the first to declare that ‘friction ridge’ skin was unique between individuals.
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1850
Sir William Herschel, a British officer in India, is credited with the first systematic use of fingerprints for identification.
The system was later perfected by Sir E.R. Henry. It’s still called the Henry System today.
1898
A criminal case in Bengali is considered the first in which fingerprint evidence was used to secure a conviction
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1924
United States FBI organized its first fingerprint database in a central file with a collection of 810,188 fingerprint files
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FINGERPRINT PATTERNS

There are eight fingerprint patterns currently recognized by the FBI, but there are three basic types of fingerprints.

ARCH
The rarest fingerprint pattern! Only 5% of people have this type of fingerprint.
LOOP
60-70% of fingerprints patterns are loops. These are the most common fingerprint pattern.
WHORL
25-35% of fingerprint patterns are whorls.
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Which fingerprint pattern do you have? One of my kids is excited because he has the arch pattern.

forensic science experiments at home crow kayak
Cormorants don't leave prints. Good thing we have an eyewitness to see who left the mess on the kayak!

Having a fingerprint database is preferable to other forms of differentiation.

 Many civilizations have used tattooing, branding, and even maiming as means of identifying people.

Ancient Romans branded runaway slaves with the letters FVG, meaning “fugitive.” Hm…that guy on the far right has a V on his chest. Maybe he escaped b4 the Romans could finish the job? (He looks a little sketchy.)

Case in point; Nathaniel Hawthorne’s classic, The Scarlet Letter, was based on a 1636 code of laws known as the ‘General Fundamentals,’ put into effect at the colony in Plymouth, MA. 

Convicted adulterers were to be punished by wearing the letters ‘A’ and ‘D’ sewn on to their garments.

What do you think the ‘D’ stands for? Dumb dumb?

Branding criminals in puritan times
For more classic book recommendations, click on the book cover.

EASY FORENSIC SCIENCE EXPERIMENTS AT HOME # 1

We can collect all the fingerprints we want, but it won’t do us any good if we can’t ID who belongs to which fingerprints!

To catch a criminal, we need fingerprints on file. Like the FBI, we must create a database!

Ours won’t have 800,000 prints. Maybe stick with family and / or friends!

Easy Forensic Science Experiments Unique fingerprints
It is estimated that the chances of one person’s fingerprints matching up exactly with someone else’s is only about one in 64 billion

SUPPLIES FOR CREATING OUR FINGERPRINT DATABASE

Supply List Chemistry experiments Fingerprint Collection
Louie is available to assist! Just send him an email using the form on his contact page!

INSTRUCTIONS FOR FORENSIC SCIENCE EXPERIMENTS # 1 : FINGERPRINT DATABASE COMPILATION

  1. Use a piece of fresh paper for each person.
  2.  Color their finger with the marker.
  3. Press their finger onto the paper.
  4. Don’t forget to label each paper with names!
  5. Keep your database together in a folder or binder.

Now that you have your criminals…uh…database compiled, let’s detect a few latent prints. 

Wait. What are latent prints? First, a quick word about the 3 types of fingerprints.

Easy Forensic Science Experiments_suspects
Who looks the guiltiest to you? I say the ginger.

THREE TYPES OF FINGERPRINTS

VISIBLE, IMPRESSION, & LATENT
Visible fingerprints can be photographed directly
Impression fingerprints can usually be photographed under special lighting conditions.
Latent fingerprints are invisible.
They must first be made visible b4 an ID can be made.
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The fact that latent fingerprints are invisible brings us to forensic science experiment # 2!

We’re going to make the invisible, visible!

How? With superglue! 

See! An easy forensic science experiment! Go chemistry.

EASY FORENSIC SCIENCE EXPERIMENTS # 2

In 1978, the Criminal Identification Division of the Japanese National Police Agency began employing a chemical technique now known as the super glue identification method or the cyanoacrylate fuming method.

We’re going to do this, too! Easy forensic science experiments at home. 

Forensic science experiments at home Make sense of science
Chemistry is cool!

This isn’t magic. It involves a chemical reaction. Chemistry experiments! Hurrah.

SUPPLIES FOR THE SUPERGLUE IDENTIFICATION METHOD

Forensic Experiments Supplies
Louie gathered the supplies for us!
  1. Superglue
  2. Cotton balls
  3. Small glass that will fit into our gallon-sized bag
  4. Aluminum foil
  5. Gallon-sized, sealable bag
  6. Gloves optional

INSTRUCTIONS FOR EASY FORENSIC SCIENCE EXPERIMENTS # 2

I decided a how-to video of this forensic experiment was a good idea. I also wanted to see if it would really work. It was fun, made more fun because the experiment was a success!

What wasn’t as much fun was balancing my phone on two stacks of books and talking while worrying about it falling down. Or using the brand-new-to-me editing software. I wanted to create a cohesive you tube video. 

 

 

The learning curve was steep.  I figure I can only go up from here. Right?

THE FORENSIC SCIENCE EXPERIMENT IS EASIER THAN EDITING THIS VIDEO!

THE WHY BEHIND THE SUPERGLUE IDENTIFICATION METHOD

SUPERGLUE
Cyanoacrylate fuming involves placing evidence taken from a crime scene such as weapons, glasses, or picture frames, into an airtight chamber.
The airtight chamber can really be as as simple as a plastic bag!
Many police departments use plastic bags as chambers when fuming at a crime scene!
Cyanoacrylate must be a gaseous form to react with the traces of amino acids, fatty acids, and proteins left behind by our skin.
We captured the gaseous form inside the bag or else it would diffuse into the atmosphere.
Their forensic chemistry lab is a plastic bag!
Just like ours!
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Let me know if you give these two easy forensic science experiments a try at home. It’s a lot of fun. And it’s chemistry.

greatest scientists of all time
Chemistry experiments are way more fun than wearing this wig.

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54 thoughts on “Easy Forensic Science Experiments”

  1. As someone who is super into true crime documentaries and and wanted to go into forensics as a teen, these experiments sound so fun! I like how you’ve included instructions as well. Definitely going to give them a go, I’m sure my son would be very interested in some experiments.

    Reply
    • What happened to your idea about forensics as a career? I like crime documentaries and dramas too. (We’re currently watching season 10 of Criminal Minds!) I’d love to hear how this goes with your son. Thanks so much!

      Reply
  2. These forensic science experiments look really fun. I can’t tell which type of fingerprint pattern I have. Maybe a combination? I think your youtube video was great. I’m sure I can reproduce the experiment after watching it. That’s the whole point, right? I can tell you put a lot of work into this. Thanks.

    Reply
    • There is a fourth pattern called ‘combination.’ Maybe that’s you? I didn’t want to get too detailed with patterns. I’m glad you thought my video was all right and enjoy my posts! Thanks so much.

      Reply
  3. I loved your post. The forensics experiments can easily make you understand how things work while you also have fun doing them. I will try them out. Thank you for sharing!

    Reply
  4. This reminds me of a recent Letterbox Lab box Flora and I did, with fingerprints being a large part of the activities. Fascinating stuff, Sue, I’m sure Flora would love to try these experiments too, thank you!

    Reply
  5. Hi Sue,

    What fantastic, and entertaining, experiments! Making use of all those materials to hand you’re like a MacGyver for kids 🙂 Great job!

    Reply
  6. I don’t know if I want my family to know how to check things for my fingerprints. Just kidding! Great post as usual.

    Reply
  7. Lol I was obsessed with CSI growing up and I swore I was going to become a forensic scientologist when I grew up. But I realized I don’t think I could handle all the blood and gore that came with that all the time. I became a dental hygienist instead. Somewhat bloody but definitely not as much haha

    Reply
  8. Wow, I love this post. Halfway through I had to head off to find my magnifying glass to check out my fingerprints. They are arched, so I guess I’m easy to catch with the stolen cookie. I’m going to bookmark this post for when my nephew comes over. Thanks for this.

    Reply
  9. This sounds so fun! I love the pictures and the dog is adorable! I think this could be a fun activity for anyone! Thank you for the ideas!

    Reply
    • Louie loves to help but doesn’t enjoy posing quite as much. (Like me, actually.) I agree, this would be lots of fun for an adult party, as a who-done-it game. Thank you for stopping by!

      Reply
  10. I love a good forensic dive, and have all the supplies for these two experiments right at home. Love that you created a video for the second one! It is amazing how quick the filming is and how long the editing of a piece actually takes . . .

    Looks like I am a whorl kind of gal myself. 🙂 My guess for the scarlet D: Dangerous.
    Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
    • Dangerous is a better guess than dumb dumb! You’re so right about the 40 seconds of filming and 4 hours of editing. Maybe with time I’ll pare that latter number down! Thanks so much.

      Reply
  11. Forensic experiments for kids was a clever and genius idea infact of you to come up with. I didn’t know surface area was for friction or maybe forgot. Second experiment was clever and loved the who ate cookie and then the grin on the man and dog pic. Lol. You do humor so good! Enjoyed xx
    Isa A. Blogger
    https://bit.ly/3s2ryHq

    Reply
  12. This post is something I haven’t seen before! I love how your personality is clear and the photos + captions you add. They certainly kept me engaged and chuckling. Forensics always seems so professional, but turns out you can do fun projects with little ones. I’ll certainly bookmark this for whenever I babysit, thanks for sharing Sue! I also really liked the cards with info on them.

    Sejal | http://www.thelazygal.com

    Reply
  13. Oh my gosh, this sounds so fun! My oldest two would love this (they are 10 and 7). We will have to give it a try. Thank you!

    Reply
  14. I’ve been wanting to do forensic science as a job since I was younger. These experiments sound amazing! Thanks for sharing Xo

    Elle – ellegracedeveson.com

    Reply
  15. Hi Sue,

    I did this with my seven-year-old grandson and his younger brother. My husband and I set it up the night before that one of us was going to touch the glass. They had to guess whose fingerprint was on the glass. They got it right.
    Thanks for the fun experiment.

    Reply
    • How fun, Amy! I’m excited that you set it up as a mystery to solve. Hurrah. You’re so welcome. Thanks for checking back and letting me know about your successful experiment.

      Reply

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