Lab vs. Lab: CSI Edition

“I just met with the conference of Louisiana judges, and, when I asked if ‘CSI’ had influenced their juries, every one of them raised their hands,” Carol Henderson, the director of the National Clearinghouse for Science, Technology and the Law, at Stetson University, in Florida, told me. “People are riveted by the idea that science can solve crimes.” -- from "The CSI Effect" by Jeffry Toobin in The New Yorker. Today's edition presents actual content, not just photos. Linked from each photo is some insight not only into how movie/TV labs look different from actual labs, but what effects on public perception these portrayals have on what a lab can do and mean.

An actual lab:

From The New Yorker

Lisa Faber, the supervisor of the N.Y.P.D. crime lab’s hair-and-fibre unit. Photograph by Gus Powell.

A TV lab:

Some CSI show

Note the shiny surfaces, indirect lighting, the prevalence of hair gel, plenty of open space to move and pace and pedeconference, tailored lab coats, and results that take under two weeks."

Bonus content:

CSI lab equipment

From linked article: "Our set decorators and designers work really hard to not only make beautiful sets, but also sets that are real." Note how "real" can oddly be a subset or secondary consideration to "beautiful". Is your lab beautiful?

As always: please send in photos of your own lab!

Lab vs. Lab: Physics Edition


An actual lab: "Carolyn Pearce uses a piece of equipment at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory to study mineral samples from a nuclear reprocessing site. The data collected will be used for a better understanding of nuclear waste. Jessica Brandi Lifland for USA Today."


Movie lab: Hard to criticize this movie. Note the safety goggles (and how they're being ignored), the outdated-for-the-time equipment, and that Mitch is totally obsessed with data readouts.


Racks of equipment, dingy lighting, looks like little is happening yet the students look like their lives hang in the balance. Yep, a lab.


Okay, the toque blanche and the smiles might be deceptive, but still a lab. (I encourage the reader to look up this clip for a pretty good joke, though.)

Lab vs. Lab: Bio Edition, Part 1


Welcome to the inaugural edition of Lab vs. Lab! An actual lab: Scientists work at a lab at the National Shanghai Center for New Drug Safety Evaluation in Zhangjiang Industrial Park in Shanghai. Associated Press photo by Eugene Hoshiko.


Movie lab: Note the indirect lighting (makes it hard to read instrument outputs, but dramatic), the tailored lab wear, equipment placed aside as through the people were more important.