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A Forensic Examination of 'Forensics'


"Dear editors," the letter reads, "Please do not continue to encourage the improper use of the word 'forensics.' The courses referred to in the article ... are courses in forensic science. Forensics is to argue in a court of law. It is also used, and has been for the past 100+ years, to refer to debate."

A reader from Colorado takes exception to my use of the word "forensics" as shorthand for the study of "forensic science" in schools. I wrote about the proliferation of classes on that topic this week.

Ask teachers and students today what's meant by forensics, and I'll bet that most of them will associate it with the study of crime scenes, criminal evidence, "CSI," and so on.

Yet this was not always so, and it should not be the case today, the reader contends. He explains that his school offers "forensics" classes that focus on the study of debate—in addition to forensic-science classes, which look at "finding evidence for argument in criminal cases." (A colleague in my office recently said a similar thing, observing that she could remember when forensics meant "debate.")

But it appears that the definition of "forensics" has evolved over time.

An edition of the 1985 American Heritage Dictionary defines "forensics" as simply "the study or practice of formal debate; argumentation." It defines "forensic," as an adjective, as 1) "pertaining to or employed in legal proceedings or argumentation: forensic medicine; 2) Of, pertaining to, or employed in the debate or argument; rhetorical." No mention of crime scenes, blood spatter, fingerprint analysis, etc.

Yet when I consult my own 2001 edition of Webster's New World College Dictionary, it defines "forensic" (from the Latin term forensis, for public) as 1) "of, characteristic of, or suitable for a law court, public debate, or formal argumentation; 2) specializing in or having to do with the application of scientific, esp. medical, knowledge to legal matters, as in the investigation of a crime." Used as a noun, it refers to "debate or formal argumentation."

So it seems the definition has shifted a bit toward the CSI-side-of-things in recent years. Even so, to the reader from Colorado, I say point taken! You may be waging a lonely, and ultimately futile battle against the weight of popular culture and journalistic imprecision, but it's a distinction worth noting. Of course, if you really want your argument carried to a larger audience, you'd lobby the creators of "CSI" to slip some relevant dialogue on this subject onto the show.

I'll pose this question to teachers and school administrators: Do you refer to the debate classes and activities in your schools as "forensics"? Or simply "debate"?


I taught Forensics & Debate for almost 10 years. They're really two different things- Debate is one- on- one (or team) argument of a topic. Forensics is individual competition in which one performer (in any one of a variety of events) competes with 6-10 of his/ her peers and receives a ranking which will either advance him/ her to future competition or will eliminate him/ her from that tournament.

Totally different things- except that they usually go hand-in- hand from a logistics perspective.

Material forensics is known by the forensic equation, which follows.
Advancement of quantum science has produced the picoyoctometric, 3D, interactive video atomic model imaging function, in terms of chronons and spacons for exact, quantized, relativistic animation. This format returns clear numerical data for a full spectrum of variables. The atom's RQT (relative quantum topological) data point imaging function is built by combination of the relativistic Einstein-Lorenz transform functions for time, mass, and energy with the workon quantized electromagnetic wave equations for frequency and wavelength.

The atom labeled psi (Z) pulsates at the frequency {Nhu=e/h} by cycles of {e=m(c^2)} transformation of nuclear surface mass to forcons with joule values, followed by nuclear force absorption. This radiation process is limited only by spacetime boundaries of {Gravity-Time}, where gravity is the force binding space to psi, forming the GT integral atomic wavefunction. The expression is defined as the series expansion differential of nuclear output rates with quantum symmetry numbers assigned along the progression to give topology to the solutions.

Next, the correlation function for the manifold of internal heat capacity energy particle 3D functions is extracted by rearranging the total internal momentum function to the photon gain rule and integrating it for GT limits. This produces a series of 26 topological waveparticle functions of the five classes; {+Positron, Workon, Thermon, -Electromagneton, Magnemedon}, each the 3D data image of a type of energy intermedon of the 5/2 kT J internal energy cloud, accounting for all of them.

Those 26 energy data values intersect the sizes of the fundamental physical constants: h, h-bar, delta, nuclear magneton, beta magneton, k (series). They quantize atomic dynamics by acting as fulcrum particles. The result is the picoyoctometric, 3D, interactive video atomic model data point imaging function, responsive to keyboard input of virtual photon gain events by relativistic, quantized shifts of electron, force, and energy field states and positions.

Images of the h-bar magnetic energy waveparticle of ~175 picoyoctometers are available online at http://www.symmecon.com with the complete RQT atomic modeling manual titled The Crystalon Door, copyright TXu1-266-788. TCD conforms to the unopposed motion of disclosure in U.S. District (NM) Court of 04/02/2001 titled The Solution to the Equation of Schrodinger.

While I respect the colloquial use of the word "forensics" that Laura (commenter above) uses, the truth of the matter is that within the forensic speech and debate discipline, "forensics" is the overarching term for all public presentation exercises, and what she refers to as "forensics" is more commonly "speech" or "individual events." The nation's largest honorary society and interscholastic league for secondary and middle school has been named "National Forensic League" since its founding in 1925, and and the oldest interscholastic league - the Wisconsin High School Forensic Association was founded in 1895. Both those organizations sanction activities in both debate and speech.

And respectfully, Laura, I take issue with calling them "totally different things." The skill sets, pedagogy and core approach are the same. If the Latin root for forensics is "public" and finds its root in the Greek, "to seek the truth," all forensic performers -- whether presenting poetry, speaking extemporaneously on current events, or debating a key issue -- are all advancing their expression of a critical truth. The mission is the same, and I respect some regions for separating them out for the purposes of specialty, but please do not assert that they are different disciplines or areas.

Adam Jacobi
Coordinator of Education/Programs
The National Forensic League Speech & Debate Honor Society

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