CSI-Miami could be renamed CSI Microbiology

The CSI shows have certainly done a lot for science, from the point of view of getting people to talk about science as it relates to forensics. Sure, much of the science in the show is a bit off kilter, but the show would basically suck if it showed the real science (e.g., things work really quickly in all the shows — unlike much of science). But if we compare the science in CSI versus in the latest CNN/Fox yelling matches or the latest wife swapping show, CSI rules the day.

And all of the CSI-like shows (which can be viewed as a form of convergent evolution in ways), also have a decent chunk of science here and there (e.g., NCIS). What is most remarkable to me about all of this has been the number of shows with something about microbes. And the latest CSI- Miami is an example of this (see the recap here:CSI: Miami Recap: Bad Seed – CBS.com)

This episode had a mix of DNA based forensics of E. coli infections, as well as a smattering of microbe associated anti-GMO sentiment when an evil biotech company made some GMO corn that was designed to be carrying a cellulytic gene from a Clostridium species but instead some of the corn carried a toxin gene from Clostridium botulinum. And the winner from a microbial point of view was the brief mention of lateral gene transfer that was responsible for the cellulolytic species of Clostridium picking up some genes from the botulism bug.

No the science they showed was not perfect. But when a TV show starts discussing mechanisms of lateral gene transfer – they will get my attention.

Author: Jonathan Eisen

I am an evolutionary biologist and a Professor at U. C. Davis. (see my lab site here). My research focuses on the origin of novelty (how new processes and functions originate). To study this I focus on sequencing and analyzing genomes of organisms, especially microbes and using phylogenomic analysis

One thought on “CSI-Miami could be renamed CSI Microbiology”

  1. Have you seen the Canadian show ReGenesis? You can see it on cable in the US. Despite the lower budget, it is actually a more scientifically accurate show than the American CSI series, and microbiology is a common theme. And there is a bioinformatican character that actually does recognizable bioinformatic analyses from time to time!


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