I watched CSI: Crime Scene Investigation this evening. I’ve only seen it three or four times and it looked pretty cool. I mentioned at work that I’d seen it and Daren didn’t hide his dislike of the show. His main objection is that the circumstances are often somewhat far-fetched. While I don’t disagree with that, I guess I don’t have as much of a problem with it. Life is often pretty bizarre at times. What I do have a problem with is a show whose main characters are experts that make all kinds of technical mistakes. Only ten minutes into tonight’s episode, there were two big ones.
First, Gil Grissom states that terminal velocity is 9.8 metres per second squared. What he meant was that the acceleration due to gravity is 9.8 metres per second squared. Terminal velocity is the maximum speed that a falling object will reach given enough falling time. It’s a completely different thing and would not figure into the five-story fall he was investigating.
Second, Sara Sidle states that the safest place in a thunder-storm is in a car because the rubber tires act as an insulator. Although this is a commonly held belief, it’s not true. The reason you’re safe in a (non-convertible) car is that the lightning travels through the metal of the car … and if you’re sitting in a car, you’re not touching any metal despite being surrounded by it. The seat is plastic, fabric, or leather, and damn near everything else is plastic. The tires are a red herring. Although the insulating property of the rubber is obvious, it’s clear that a few inches of rubber isn’t going to stop a charge that went through five kilometres of air to get to the car!
Sure mistakes happen, but these things are not simple mistakes. This is high school level science. I’d suggest that the technical consultant (Elizabeth Devine in CSI’s case) get a boot in the ass, but I know that the corrections she (hopefully) made could be easily ignored or over-ridden by the director or a bunch of others working on the show.