The CSI’s Utility Belt Part 3 – The DNA Swab

 An excellent wife, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good and not evil all the days of her life. She looks for wool and flax and works with her hands in delight. – Proverbs 31:10-13

The Grim Sleeper, a 1980s serial killer resurfaced in Los Angeles and killed again in 2007. In 2015 a home invasion in the neighborhood of the Vice President of the United States ended in a quadruple homicide. The killers in both of these crimes were caught thanks to suspects generated from DNA evidence left on partially eaten pizzas. The 1950s advertisement below states “everything under the sun gets done with Q-tips® .” This includes solving murders.

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This post is not about pizza. Nor is it particularly about DNA. It is however about one of the most commonly used tools in a CSI’s Utility Belt – the DNA swab.

Who do CSI’s all over the world owe a thank you to? It seems they owe thanks to the creative wife of a Polish-American immigrant, Leo Gerstenzang. It is believed in 1923 Leo saw his wife Ziuta wrap some cotton around the tip of a toothpick to use as a cleaning tool. Inspired by this prototype Leo marketed cotton tipped applicators named “Baby Gays” which later evolved into Q-Tips.  Sterile cotton swabs  became the perfect tool for collecting DNA samples from floors, walls, ceilings, clothing, weapons, and the mouths of suspects.

DNA swabs come in many varieties but from the same concept, absorbent clean fibers wrapped around the tip of a stick. The DNA swab (Puritan Cap-Shure) in the photograph below comes with its own protective case. Just swab, pull, close the cap, and you have a sealed DNA swab ready for drying and analysis.

That bit of cotton on the end of a toothpick has affected millions of lives and criminal investigations. Because of her Leo built an empire and “had no lack of gain.” Also because of her a very valuable tool in the CSI’s Utility Belt was created. Thank you Ziuta for your invention!

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Angle of Impact

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I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to talk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.     Ephesians 4:1-3

To perform trajectory or blood spatter analysis, the angle of impact (angles which a bullet or drop of blood impacts a surface) must be determined. This angle helps shows the investigator a point of origin (a point in three dimensional space the bullet or blood came from). Using this knowledge the investigator deducts physical actions of the crime. It also aids in proving or disproving witness testimony.

After measuring the width and length of the spatter or hole, a trigonometric calculation provides the angle of impact. The angle of impact = sin-1 (w/l), or the arc sine of the hole or spatter width divided by its’ length. The blood spatter in the photo has an approximate 13.7° angle of impact. Basically, longer spatter or bullet holes equal lower angles of impact. A 90° impact, almost perfectly round, and has minimal surface contact. The lower angle impact is longer and incurs greater surface contact. Additional data must be collected for complete trajectory or spatter analysis but establishing angles of impact remains essential.

Examining bullet holes and blood spatter can tell me what happened at a crime scene. These same bullet holes taught me the equal importance of determining angles of impact in living as a Christian. A bullet entering a body at 90° incurs greater risk of deep tissue/organ injury or fatality than a lower-angle grazing wound. Grazing wounds leave a larger, more noticeable mark but allow greater chance of survival and healing (these being key). The nation of Israel prayed a 90° bullet would come from heaven straight into the heart of their enemy, the gentiles and the oppressive Roman Empire. God, the Master Marksman, took a lower angle shot at the real enemy—the darkness in the heart of all men. His blessed bullet was Jesus Christ.

Too often I observe Christians in head-to-head heated debate with those of different beliefs. These confrontations usually end up injuring or killing relationships, and/or any hope of productive dialogue. The cowboy philosopher Will Rogers once said, “People’s minds are changed through observation and not through argument.” I agree with Will.

The Apostle Paul gave us guidelines for Christian living in Ephesians 4:1-3. If we want to successfully share the Gospel message

  • We must be confident yet humble in our daily life.
  • We must be strong but kind when dealing with conflict.
  • We must hold our beliefs firmly yet display patience with those who do not share them.
  • We must not desire what the world offers but remain understanding of those who do.
  • We must be eager to bring others into the body of Christ but not accept worldly standards.
  • All must be done with loving intent in word and action.

Jesus Christ, the bullet from heaven, did all these. He walked, worked, dined, laughed, cried, praised, and mourned with those beside Him. He could have come straight down from heaven with both barrels blazing and snuffed non-believers out of existence. He did not.

As in all things Christians should imitate Christ. Whenever we speak with those outside, or inside the faith, we must come from a position, not above or below, but from beside. We should in turn walk, work, dine, laugh, cry, praise, and mourn with them while following the guidelines Paul wrote down. Living this way impacts the minds of those we meet in a greater way. The message of the Gospel we share with the hearer might still sting a bit. But the chances of killing any relationship or further dialogue will be significantly diminished. The survival of the relationship and healing it allows is once again, key.

So what angle do you take when you share the Gospel with others? Have you experienced the difference?