Friday, January 14, 2011

"Even the homeless are going green"

The "Holding Cell" episode of CSI: New York on January 14, 2011 had chemical references to formaldehyde/sulfuric acid and to a gallium/indium crystal and to intoxication via ethanol vapor at a New York City club.

The gallium/indium crystal came from a homeless guy, who was recruited to murder the ultimate victim, by the victim. The homeless guy couldn't do it. One Vern Jackson may be a lot of things but he ain't no killer, but he was stealing solar panels, the modern day equivalent of stealing copper piping. This part of the episode led to the quip: "even the homeless are going green."

Self-medication by the victim with clonazepam was the culprit here, yet another piece of chemistry.

Of the formaldehyde, wikipedia notes: Formaldehyde, along with 18 M (concentrated) sulfuric acid (the entire solution often called the Marquis reagent), is used as an MDMA (the drug ecstasy) "testing kit" by such groups as Dancesafe as well as MDMA consumers. The solution alone cannot verify the presence of MDMA but reacts with many other chemicals that the MDMA tablet itself may be adulterated with. The reaction itself produces colors that correlate with these components.

Of indium/gallium:

Thin-film solar cells offer savings on material and manufacturing costs. Those based on CIGS absorb sunlight through a thin layer of copper, indium, gallium, selenium, and sulphur. CIGS solar cells have achieved an efficiency of about 20% but have a much higher theoretical efficiency.

Possible issues with chemistry on the show:

Holes in clothes from sulfuric acid usually show up after washing in water, not on contact.

Burning ethanol has a blue flame, not a yellow one, as shown.

Solar cells with indium/gallium involve thin films of the material, not crystals.

**In passing, CBS re-broadcast the "18-5-4" episode of The Mentalist on 14 January following CSI: New York. A bunch of clowns were called together for an audition as a smokescreen to obscure the identity of the clown killer. If this sounds familiar, CBS used the same plotline in a different show broadcast after the original 18-5-4 episode. Curiously, the copying show was none other than CSI: New York, on 7 January. What's next, a re-do of "Killer Klowns from Outer Space" with Royal Dano?

UPDATE: as the commenter below notes, the re-use of the multiple clown business was rather unimaginative copying, all on the same network. In passing, Michael Boatman portrayed a Chicago lawyer on both CBS and NBC.


Blogger Unknown said...

I caught The Mentalist and the CSI:NY episodes with the clown ruses and was a little disappointed. I wonder if there is rule of thumb for crime procedural writers regarding how long to wait before recycling a premises used in another show. Some - the suspect feigning amnesia - are so hackneyed that the "borrowing" is not nearly as objectionable as its mere use. This premise, on the other hand, seems more like stealing.

1:29 PM  

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