This afternoon, I was just watching a Law & Order rerun from 2001 titled "Myth of Fingerprints." A question came up in the story about the accuracy of some lab work done a decade earlier.
Forensic expert: I found seven false-positives of the 20 cases I tested.
Southerlynn: (dismayed) That's almost a third.
Say what?? Unless mathematics have changed in the 14 years since the episode aired, seven out of 20 is more than a third, in fact 35% to be accurate. It's pretty easy, basic math.
Now, I know in the real world, that's a simple error to make, and coming close on what's a third -- easy as this instance is -- isn't problematic. Except this isn't the real world. Someone wrote the words, someone approved them, it went through many drafts, the network had to approve them, a few more drafts were done, the actors rehearsed the scene several and then several takes before it ended.
And no one noticed that seven is more than a third of 20?? Seriously, guys?
Even if they came up with the explanation that the lawyer character wasn't a math whiz and was so dismayed by the results that she wasn't focusing, so she just was tossing out a random guess and came close, like some people might, even that stretches credibility -- because the person she's talking to is a scientist, who not only deals in exactitude...but the whole point of the scene is exactitude, which is specifically why the D.A.'s office went to this man as expert corroboration to learn if the earlier lab findings were off. And he would have corrected her and said, "More than a third." Because that's why they went to him. To find out of the earlier results were off and by how much.
To be clear, I don't care all that much that they got math off by a few percent. What has me scratching my head is how such a really incredibly easy math error could be made and make it through so many drafts and approvals and rehearsals without being caught and corrected, by anyone. Especially since "more than a third" makes an even better dramatic point for the point of the plot!
That aside, it's a very good episode. On a scale of 1 to 10, I'd probably give it a seven. That's over 75%.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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