Illustrated Guide to Home Forensic Science Experiments: All Lab, No Lecture

Illustrated Guide to Home Forensic Science Experiments: All Lab, No Lecture


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Have you ever wondered whether the forensic science you’ve seen on TV is anything like the real thing? There’s no better way to find out than to roll up your sleeves and do it yourself. This full-color book offers advice for setting up an inexpensive home lab, and includes more than 50 hands-on lab sessions that deal with forensic science experiments in biology, chemistry, and physics. You’ll learn the practical skills and fundamental knowledge needed to pursue forensics as a lifelong hobby—or even a career.

The forensic science procedures in this book are not merely educational, they’re the real deal. Each chapter includes one or more lab sessions devoted to a particular topic. You’ll find a complete list of equipment and chemicals you need for each session.

  • Analyze soil, hair, and fibers
  • Match glass and plastic specimens
  • Develop latent fingerprints and reveal blood traces
  • Conduct drug and toxicology tests
  • Analyze gunshot and explosives residues
  • Detect forgeries and fakes
  • Analyze impressions, such as tool marks and footprints
  • Match pollen and diatom samples
  • Extract, isolate, and visualize DNA samples

Through their company, The Home Scientist, LLC (, the authors also offer inexpensive custom kits that provide specialized equipment and supplies you’ll need to complete the experiments. Add a microscope and some common household items and you’re good to go.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781449334512
Publisher: Maker Media, Inc
Publication date: 08/22/2012
Pages: 446
Sales rank: 380,044
Product dimensions: 8.00(w) x 9.75(h) x 1.05(d)

About the Author

Robert Bruce Thompson is a coauthor of Building the Perfect PC, Astronomy Hacks, and the Illustrated Guide to Astronomical Wonders. Thompson built his first computer in 1976 from discrete chips. It had 256 bytes of memory, used toggle switches and LEDs for I/O, ran at less than 1MHz, and had no operating system. Since then, he has bought, built, upgraded, and repaired hundreds of PCs for himself, employers, customers, friends, and clients. Robert spends most clear, moonless nights outdoors with his 10-inch Dobsonian reflector telescope, and is currently designing a larger, computerized, truss-tube Dobsonian that he plans to build.

Barbara Fritchman Thompson is, with her husband Robert, the co-author of numerous books about computers, science, and technology. With her Masters in Library Science and twenty years' experience as a public librarian, Barbara is the research half of our writing team.

Table of Contents

Who this Book is For;
How this Book is Organized;
How to Contact Us;
Thank You;
Author Bios;
Chapter 1: Laboratory Safety;
Chapter 2: Equipping Your Forensics Laboratory;
2.1 Optical Equipment;
2.2 Laboratory Equipment;
2.3 Chemicals and Reagents;
2.4 Specimens;
Soil Analysis;
Chapter 3: Lab I-1 Gather and Prepare Soil Samples;
3.1 Equipment and Materials;
3.2 Background;
3.3 Procedure I-1-1: Gather Soil Specimens;
3.4 Procedure I-1-2: Dry Soil Specimens;
3.5 Review Questions;
Chapter 4: Lab I-2 Examine the Physical Characteristics of Soil;
4.1 Equipment and Materials;
4.2 Background;
4.3 Procedure I-2-1: Observe and Categorize Soil Color;
4.4 Procedure I-2-2: Determine Soil Density;
4.5 Procedure I-2-3: Determine Soil Settling Time;
4.6 Procedure I-2-4: Determine Soil Particle Size Distribution;
4.7 Review Questions;
Chapter 5: Lab I-3 Examine the Microscopic Characteristics of Soil;
5.1 Equipment and Materials;
5.2 Background;
5.3 Procedure I-3-1: Examine Soil Specimens Under Magnification;
5.4 Review Questions;
Chapter 6: Lab I-4 Assay Phosphate Concentrations in Soil Specimens;
6.1 Equipment and Materials;
6.2 Background;
6.3 Procedure I-4-1: Extract Soil Specimens;
6.4 Procedure I-4-2: Assay Soil Phosphate Concentrations;
6.5 Review Questions;
Chapter 7: Lab I-5 Examine the Spectroscopic Characteristics of Soil;
7.1 Equipment and Materials;
7.2 Background;
7.3 Procedure I-5-1: Extract Ion Species from Soil Specimens;
7.4 Procedure I-5-2: Test Soil Specimen Extracts with the Spectrometer;
7.5 Procedure I-5-3: Identify Ions Present in Exemplar;
7.6 Review Questions;
Hair and Fiber Analysis;
Chapter 8: Lab II-1 Gathering Hair Specimens;
8.1 Equipment and Materials;
8.2 Background;
8.3 Procedure II-1-1: Obtain Hair Specimens with Forceps;
8.4 Procedure II-1-2: Obtain Hair Specimens with Lift Tape;
8.5 Review Questions;
Chapter 9: Lab II-2 Study the Morphology of Human Scalp Hair;
9.1 Equipment and Materials;
9.2 Background;
9.3 Procedure II-2-1: Macroscopic Examination of Human Scalp Hair;
9.4 Procedure II-2-2: Wet-Mount Hair Specimens;
9.5 Procedure II-2-3: Microscopic Examination of Human Scalp Hair;
9.6 Review Questions;
Chapter 10: Lab II-3 Make Scale Casts of Hair Specimens;
10.1 Equipment and Materials;
10.2 Background;
10.3 Procedure II-3-1: Make and Observe Scale Casts of Human Hair;
10.4 Review Questions;
Chapter 11: Lab II-4 Study the Morphology of Animal Hair;
11.1 Equipment and Materials;
11.2 Background;
11.3 Procedure II-4-1: Observe Animal Hair;
11.4 Review Question;
Chapter 12: Lab II-5 Individualize Human Hair Specimens;
12.1 Equipment and Materials;
12.2 Background;
12.3 Procedure II-5-1: Obtain Hair Specimens;
12.4 Procedure II-5-2: Observe and Characterize Hair Specimens;
12.5 Review Questions;
Chapter 13: Lab II-6 Physical and Chemical Tests of Fibers;
13.1 Equipment and Materials;
13.2 Background;
13.3 Procedure II-6-1: Test Fiber Specimens by Burning;
13.4 Procedure II-6-2: Test Fiber Specimens by Solubility;
13.5 Procedure II-6-3: Test Fiber Specimens by Dye Stripping;
13.6 Procedure II-6-4: Test Fiber Specimens by Dyeing;
13.7 Review Questions;
Chapter 14: Lab II-7 Study the Morphology of Fibers and Fabrics;
14.1 Equipment and Materials;
14.2 Background;
14.3 Procedure II-7-1: Macroscopic Examination of Fabrics;
14.4 Procedure II-7-2: Microscopic Examination of Fibers and Fabrics;
14.5 Procedure II-7-3: Cross-Sectional Examination of Fiber Specimens;
14.6 Procedure II-7-4: Determine the Refractive Index of Fibers with RI Matching Liquids;
14.7 Procedure II-7-5: Examining Fibers by Polarized Light;
14.8 Review Questions;
Glass and Plastic Analysis;
Chapter 15: Lab III-1 Determine Densities of Glass and Plastic Specimens;
15.1 Equipment and Materials;
15.2 Background;
15.3 Procedure III-1-1: Determine Density by Displacement;
15.4 Procedure III-1-2: Determine Density by Flotation;
15.5 Review Questions;
Chapter 16: Lab III-2 Compare Refractive Indices of Glass and Plastic Specimens;
16.1 Equipment and Materials;
16.2 Background;
16.3 Procedure III-2-1: Compare RI of Questioned and Known Specimens;
16.4 Review Question;
Chapter 17: Lab III-3 Observe Shatter Patterns;
17.1 Equipment and Materials;
17.2 Background;
17.3 Procedure III-3-1: Produce Glass Shards;
17.4 Procedure III-3-2: Observe and Compare Glass Shards;
17.5 Review Questions;
Revealing Latent Fingerprints;
Chapter 18: Lab IV-1 Dusting and Lifting Latent Fingerprints;
18.1 Equipment and Materials;
18.2 Background;
18.3 Procedure IV-1-1: Dusting Latent Fingerprints;
18.4 Procedure IV-1-2: Lifting Developed Fingerprints;
18.5 Review Questions;
Chapter 19: Lab IV-2 Revealing Latent Fingerprints Using Iodine Fuming;
19.1 Equipment and Materials;
19.2 Background;
19.3 Procedure IV-2-1: Fuming Latent Fingerprints with Iodine;
19.4 Review Questions;
Chapter 20: Lab IV-3 Revealing Latent Fingerprints Using Ninhydrin;
20.1 Equipment and Materials;
20.2 Background;
20.3 Procedure IV-3-1: Developing Latent Fingerprints with Ninhydrin;
20.4 Procedure IV-3-2: Ninhydrin After-Treatments;
20.5 Review Questions;
Chapter 21: Lab IV-4 Revealing Latent Fingerprints Using Superglue Fuming;
21.1 Equipment and Materials;
21.2 Background;
21.3 Procedure IV-4-1: Preparing for Superglue Fuming;
21.4 Procedure IV-4-2: Fuming Latent Fingerprints with Superglue;
21.5 Procedure IV-4-3: Dusting and Lifting Superglue-fumed Fingerprints;
21.6 Review Questions;
Chapter 22: Lab IV-5 Revealing Latent Fingerprints On Sticky Surfaces;
22.1 Equipment and Materials;
22.2 Background;
22.3 Procedure IV-5-1: Preparing Specimens for Gentian Violet Development;
22.4 Procedure IV-5-2: Developing Specimens with Gentian Violet;
22.5 Review Questions;
Chapter 23: Lab IV-6 Revealing Latent Fingerprints On Brass Cartridge Cases;
23.1 Equipment and Materials;
23.2 Background;
23.3 Procedure IV-6-1: Treat Specimens with Acidified Hydrogen Peroxide;
23.4 Review Question;
Detecting Blood;
Chapter 24: Lab V-1 Testing the Sensitivity and Selectivity of Kastle-Meyer Reagent;
24.1 Equipment and Materials;
24.2 Background;
24.3 Procedure V-1-1: Prepare Known Dilutions of Blood;
24.4 Procedure V-1-2: Spot Known Dilutions of Blood;
24.5 Procedure V-1-3: Test Sensitivity of Kastle-Meyer Reagent;
24.6 Procedure V-1-4: Test Selectivity of Kastle-Meyer Reagent;
24.7 Procedure V-1-5: Field Testing with Kastle-Meyer Reagent;
24.8 Review Questions;
Impression Analysis;
Chapter 25: Lab VI-1 Tool Mark Analysis;
25.1 Equipment and Materials;
25.2 Background;
25.3 Procedure VI-1-1: Produce and Compare Compression Specimens;
25.4 Procedure VI-1-2: Produce and Compare Scoring Specimens;
25.5 Review Questions;
Chapter 26: Lab VI-2 Matching Images to Cameras;
26.1 Equipment and Materials;
26.2 Background;
26.3 Procedure VI-2-1: Matching Films to Cameras;
26.4 Procedure VI-2-1: Forensic Examination of Digital Image Files;
26.5 Review Questions;
Chapter 27: Lab VI-3 Perforation and Tear Analysis;
27.1 Equipment and Materials;
27.2 Background;
27.3 Procedure VI-3-1: Produce and Examine Tape Specimens;
27.4 Review Question;
Forensic Drug Testing;
Chapter 28: Lab VII-1 Presumptive Drug Testing;
28.1 Equipment and Materials;
28.2 Background;
28.3 Procedure VII-1-1: Testing Specimens Against Presumptive Reagents;
28.4 Procedure VII-1-2: Verifying Test Results;
28.5 Review Questions;
Chapter 29: Lab VII-2 Detect Cocaine and Methamphetamine on Paper Currency;
29.1 Equipment and Materials;
29.2 Background;
29.3 Procedure VII-2-1: Testing a Control Specimen;
29.4 Procedure VII-2-2: Testing Currency for Cocaine;
29.5 Procedure VII-2-3: Testing Currency for Methamphetamine;
29.6 Review Questions;
Chapter 30: Lab VII-3 Analysis of Drugs by Chromatography;
30.1 Equipment and Materials;
30.2 Background;
30.3 Procedure VII-3-1: Prepare Chromatography Jars and Strips;
30.4 Procedure VII-3-2: Prepare Solutions of Known and Questioned Specimens;
30.5 Procedure VII-3-3: Spot and Develop the Chromatograms;
30.6 Procedure VII-3-4: Visualize the Chromatograms;
30.7 Review Questions;
Chapter 31: Lab VII-4 Observation of Drug Microcrystalline Structures and Precipitation Reactions;
31.1 Equipment and Materials;
31.2 Background;
31.3 Procedure VII-4-1: Preparing Solutions of Known and Questioned Specimens;
31.4 Procedure VII-4-2: Observing Microcrystalline Structures;
31.5 Procedure VII-4-3: Analysis of Drugs by Precipitation;
31.6 Review Questions;
Chapter 32: Lab VII-5 Assay Vitamin C in Urine by Iodometric Titration;
32.1 Equipment and Materials;
32.2 Background;
32.3 Procedure VII-5-1: Prepare a Standard Vitamin C Solution;
32.4 Procedure VII-5-2: Titrate the Standard Vitamin C Solution;
32.5 Procedure VII-5-3: Titrate the Questioned Urine Specimen;
32.6 Review Questions;
Forensic Toxicology;
Chapter 33: Lab VIII-1 Salicylate Determination by Visual Colorimetry;
33.1 Equipment and Materials;
33.2 Background;
33.3 Procedure VIII-1-1: Prepare an Array of Salicylate Concentrations;
33.4 Procedure VIII-1-2: Test the Reagent;
33.5 Procedure VIII-1-3: Test the Questioned Specimen(S);
33.6 Review Questions;
Chapter 34: Lab VIII-2 Detect Alkaloid Poisons with Dragendorff’s Reagent;
34.1 Equipment and Materials;
34.2 Background;
34.3 Procedure VIII-2-1: Prepare Questioned Alkaloid Specimens;
34.4 Procedure VIII-2-2: Test Specimens for the Presence of Alkaloids;
34.5 Procedure VIII-2-3: Analyze Alkaloids Using Paper Chromatography;
34.6 Review Questions;
Gunshot and Explosive Residues Analysis;
Chapter 35: Lab IX-1 Presumptive Color Tests for Gunshot Residue;
35.1 Equipment and Materials;
35.2 Background;
35.3 Procedure IX-1-1: Produce Gunshot Residue (GSR) Specimens;
35.4 Procedure IX-1-2: Make up Modified Griess Reagent Test Paper;
35.5 Procedure IX-1-3: Test for Nitrite Residue in GSR Specimens;
35.6 Procedure IX-1-4: Test White GSR Specimens for Lead Residue;
35.7 Procedure IX-1-5: Test Colored or Patterned GSR Specimens for Lead Residue;
35.8 Review Questions;
Chapter 36: Lab IX-2 Presumptive Color Tests for Explosives Residues;
36.1 Equipment and Materials;
36.2 Background;
36.3 Procedure IX-2-1: Test Known Specimens;
36.4 Procedure IX-2-2: Extract Explosives Residues;
36.5 Procedure IX-2-3: Test Swabs for Explosives Residues;
36.6 Review Questions;
Detecting Altered and Forged Documents;
Chapter 37: Lab X-1 Revealing Alterations in Documents;
37.1 Equipment and Materials;
37.2 Background;
37.3 Procedure X-1-1: Test Ink Solvents;
37.4 Procedure X-1-2: Produce Questioned Document Specimens;
37.5 Procedure X-1-3: Examine Questioned Documents by Visible and Ultraviolet Light;
37.6 Procedure X-1-4: Examine Questioned Documents Microscopically;
37.7 Procedure X-1-5: Examine Questioned Documents by Iodine Fuming;
37.8 Procedure X-1-6: Examine Questioned Documents by Chemical Treatment;
37.9 Review Questions;
Chapter 38: Lab X-2 Analysis of Inks by Chromatography;
38.1 Equipment and Materials;
38.2 Background;
38.3 Procedure X-1-1: Prepare Chromatography Jars;
38.4 Procedure X-1-2: Prepare the Questioned Ink Specimen;
38.5 Procedure X-1-3: Prepare and Spot Chromatograms;
38.6 Procedure X-1-4: Develop Chromatograms;
38.7 Review Questions;
Chapter 39: Lab X-3 Forensic Analysis of Paper;
39.1 Equipment and Materials;
39.2 Background;
39.3 Procedure X-3-1: Examine Paper Specimens Visually;
39.4 Procedure X-3-2: Examine Paper Specimens Microscopically;
39.5 Procedure X-3-3: Examine Paper Specimens by Differential Staining;
39.6 Review Questions;
Forensic Biology;
Chapter 40: Lab XI-1 Pollen Analysis;
40.1 Equipment and Materials;
40.2 Background;
40.3 Procedure XI-1-1: Examining Known and Questioned Pollen Grains;
40.4 Review Questions;
Chapter 41: Lab XI-2 Diatom Analysis;
41.1 Equipment and Materials;
41.2 Background;
41.3 Procedure XI-2-1: Digest Diatom Specimens;
41.4 Procedure XI-2-2: Mount and Observe Diatoms;
41.5 Review Questions;
Chapter 42: Lab XI-3 Extract, Isolate, and Visualize DNA;
42.1 Equipment and Materials;
42.2 Background;
42.3 Procedure XI-3-1: Extract DNA;
42.4 Procedure XI-3-2: Isolate DNA;
42.5 Procedure XI-3-1: Visualize DNA;
42.6 Review Questions;
Chapter 43: Lab XI-4 DNA Analysis by Gel Electrophoresis;
43.1 Equipment and Materials;
43.2 Background;
43.3 Procedure XI-3-1: Build a Gel Electrophoresis Apparatus;
43.4 Procedure XI-3-2: Prepare DNA Specimens;
43.5 Procedure XI-3-3: Prepare and Cast Gel(s);
43.6 Procedure XI-3-4: Load and Run the DNA Specimens;
43.7 Procedure XI-3-5: Stain and Visualize the Gel(s);
43.8 Review Questions;

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