September 19, 2019 8:29 pm

Friday, StarTalk Solves Crimes with Science

Do you ever find yourself trying to figure out a classic whodunit murder mystery? Wouldn’t it be better to have science help you solve the case instead of relying on the word of your pesky grandmother who, we all know, can’t be trusted, no matter how many times she says she saw this one?

On this week’s episode of StarTalk Radio, Neil deGrasse Tyson explores the world of forensics and solving crimes with science with crime novelist Patricia Cornwell. Patricia is known for her best-selling novels that follow medical examiner Dr. Kay Scarpetta. In-studio, Neil is joined by comic co-host Matt Kirshen and forensic pathologist Dr. Rebecca Folkerth, MD.

Brandon Royal’s photo of Neil deGrasse Tyson and Patricia Cornwell.

Neil deGrasse Tyson and Patricia Cornwell. Photo Credit: Brandon Royal.

Find out what sparked Patricia’s love for science. We dive into her early career working in a morgue. You’ll hear how she experienced something similar to the “overview effect” felt by astronauts after they have a cognitive shift when they come back from space. However, for Patricia, it was the “underview” effect. Learn more about her books and how they helped usher forensic science into pop culture.

Discover more about the tools used in forensics in the past and the present, and what might be used in the future. Rebecca tells us how medical examiners work in tandem with the police and other departments to help piece together a crime. Get details on how the ability to examine DNA at crime scenes re-shaped the way investigations are handled.

Find out about Patricia’s visit to “The Body Farm” – a research facility where body decomposition can be studied in a number of different ways. We discuss the different ways you can donate your body for scientific study. Matt devises a way to pull one last bit after he dies, and Patricia tells us why engaging with the world of your story is the only way to tell it correctly.

Dr. Andrew Newberg, MD, drops in to help us understand the field of “neurotheology” which investigates the relationship between neuroscience and religion. We answer fan-submitted Cosmic Queries about the afterlife, artificial intelligence, and ghosts. Bill Nye stops by to give us a bit of forensics history. All that, plus, Patricia sheds light on her involvement with the mysterious, unsolved case of Jack the Ripper.

Please join us tomorrow night for Solving Crimes with Science, with Patricia Cornwell at 7pm ET right here on our website, as well as on Apple Podcasts, Google Play Music, SoundCloud, Spotify, Stitcher, and TuneIn. If you’re a StarTalk+ Patron or an All-Access subscriber, you can listen to this episode ad-free at 7pm, too.

That’s it for now. Keep Looking Up!
-Ian Mullen