Friday 23 September 2011

The Body Flop

To be honest, I have been a little disappointed with the BBC's Body Farm so far. I was full of hope at the beginning, willing it to be fantastic, but now I just hope that the first two episodes are not representative of the rest of the series. The first episode was a bit farcical, really, with two bodies supposedly blasted into smithereens, and plastered all over the walls of a small high-rise flat. There was nothing left of the bodies except gloop, and luckily, a (quite large) piece of mandible that allowed them to work out that it was human remains and not, as it looked, blancmange on the walls. Surely an explosion that powerful would have blown out the windows and the door? Despite the attempt at plot twists, I'd worked out who'd dunnit it about a quarter of the way in. And again in Episode 2. This one was let down by the acting, as well as the science, especially in the scenes with the bodies - do none of them have a sense of smell? And who in their right mind, would place the mortuary gurneys on the other side of a plastic curtain from the kitchen?! They can't be that short of space. Another thing that got me was their use of unnessecarily high-tech equipment for no obvious reason. They managed to send a DNA sample over the airways. Oh, and by the way, it's a buccal swab for cheek epithelial cells, not a sample of what the guy had for breakfast!
On balance, I'm still looking forward to the next installments, but I think they're in dire need of a forensic anthropologist as an advisor...

Friday 16 September 2011

The Body Farm

The new forensic offering from the BBC, The Body Farm, aired for the first time on Tuesday. It revolves around the forensic pathologist from Waking the Dead, Eve Lockhart, setting up a new facility for taphonomic research for forensic purposes. The facility is ostensibly like the Anthropology Research Facility at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville - more famously referred to as 'The Body Farm' - athough it appears to be set in decidely dingy premises. The original Body Farm is a huge, open space where forensic anthropology research is undertaken into all aspects of human decomposition. Luckily, there is a long waiting list of people prepared to donate their bodies to be buried, wrapped in duvets and binbags, hanged from trees, strapped into cars, or left in one of many other deposition methods, for the sake of advancing forensic science.
In the UK, this sort of facility exists, at the moment, only in fiction. It seems that our small, densely populated, opinionated nation is not ready for the ethical and moral onslaught of a human taphonomy facility. However, there are a couple of similar facilities that exist for the study of decomposition of animal analogues for humans - mainly pig cadavers. The Forensic Fieldwork Facility at Cranfield University is one of these two. The other is at UCLAN. The sites are invaluable for providing research opportunities into a wide range of conditions which can affect decomposition rate, and can therefore impact on accurate post-mortem interval and post-deposition interval estimation.
I eagerly await the next installment of the BBC series...what will happen next?

Monday 5 September 2011

Ask A Stupid Question!

I am going to be helping out with a new science programme on BBC3 called Ask A Stupid Question. I will be helping them with their enquiries about how long it takes for a body to decompose. They will be doing some filming on my Forensic Fieldwork Facility this week...I will keep you updated.

The Crossing Places

I have just started reading Elly Griffith's The Crossing Places. So far, so very good. For someone who isn't a forensic archaeologist herself, her attention to detail and her factual accuracy is very good. Also, I find her heroine, Ruth Galloway, extremely easy to relate to! There's a work-related reason that I'm reading it actually, but I'm not going to tell you about that...yet.