Transdermal Patches Gone Wild

The first transdermal drug patch was marketed in 1979 and the most notable include the narcotic pain reliever fentanyl and the drug scopolamine for motion sickness. Since then, a wide variety of drugs have been developed to deliver medication effectively via transfer through the skin.

I’ve posted two blogs over the last couple of years here and here explaining the good and bad aspects of such therapy methods. In the first of those blogs, I imagined how a delicious murder plot could be developed by substituting poisons for the prescription drugs within the transdermal patch material.

I sort of forgot about those blogs until a couple of days ago when my wife forwarded an article to me regarding the use of vitamin cocktail supplements via transdermal technology. You can read the full article here; but it stated that in recent years the boom of the wellness industry for better fitness, beauty and increased mental and physical energy have included vitamin patches. I had no idea such things were available!

I was skeptical of the effectiveness of such “supplement therapy” since vitamin supplements are not regulated by the FDA and are considered drugs when medicinal and curative claims are made. It seems that the FDA has similar skepticisms since many of the companies marketing such products are claiming specific therapeutic effects that would tip these products into the drug category.

The article also indicates that the FDA considers vitamins as “dietary supplements” and that such supplements are intended for oral ingestion. Therefore, the FDA appears to be taking the stance that transdermal patch products cannot be labeled as supplements and, therefore, the FDA considers the marketing of such supplements to be health fraud.

“Health fraud” is the FDA’s way of stating that a product is actually an unapproved new drug and cannot continue to be marketed until the manufacturer completes the new drug approval process—a long and expensive series of procedures and testing to protect the public from fraudulent drug distribution.

The article does state that there are some clinical studies that indicate certain vitamin therapies, such as a vitamin D transdermal delivery system, may well be effective. The clinical evidence for other vitamin supplements, however, seems to be minimal and as yet unproven.

What this article made me realize once again was that transdermal patches can be the focus of a splendid idea for a murder mystery plot by injecting poisons into these prescription drug patches—and now made easier by these more readily-available vitamin patches.

Thoughts? Comments? I’d love to hear them!

Posted in A How To Blog on Murder Plot Ideas, A How To Blog on Murder Weapons, A Murder Mystery Novel, About Medications/Pharmacy, About Murder, All About Murder, Blog Writers, Blogging, Bloodless Death Scene Writing, Chemical Poisons, Chemical Weapons Discussions, Chemicals Used For Murder, Choosing How a Character Should Die in a Story, Contact Poisons, Creating Emotional Drama in a Murder Scene, Deadly Poisons Discussed, Designer Drug Deaths, Designer Poisons Used For Murder, Designing Murder Plots, Developing Story Plots, Developing Storyline Ideas, Dramatic Murder Weapons, Drug Poisoning, Drugs For Murder Plots, Drugs Used For Murder, Drugs Used to Murder, How to Choose a Murder Weapon for a Plot Idea, How To Write A BloodLess Murder Scene, Ideas for Murder Scenes, Instruments of Death, Interesting Murder Weapons, James J. Murray Blog, Killing Off Characters in Writing, Killing Off Characters in Your Novel, Lethal Agents and Murder, Lethal Chemical Poisons, Lethal Chemicals in Murder Mysteries, Lethal Poisons, Methods of Murder, Murder Mayhem and Medicine, Murder Weapons Discussed, New Blog, New Methods of Murder, New Methods To Kill Characters in Your Novel, Plotting Murder Scenes, Plotting The Perfect Murder, Poisons and Murder, Poisons in Transdermal Patch Therapy, Poisons Used For Murder, Prescription For Murder Blog, The Art of Storytelling, The Science of Murder, Tools for Murder, Transdermal Patch Therapy, Unique Lethal Compounds, Unique Murder Plots, Unique Murder Weapons, Ways to Murder, Writing Death Scenes, Writing Dramatic Murder Scenes | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A New Twist in Micro-Robot Technology

Question? What’s about half the size of a paper clip, weighs less than a tenth of a gram, totally mechanical and not organic in nature, but could save the world from hunger?

If you were aware of the news reports of the last few years reporting honeybee colony collapse disorder (CCD) and the reported reduction in not only honey production but also the eventual reduction in crop pollination, then you were on the right track.

Bees are an important component in the pollination process of many fruits and vegetables, coffee and a multitude of other foods. Without them, estimates are that a third of the world’s crops we eat would no longer exist.

The good news more recently is that the mysterious condition of bee colony collapse seems to be easing and that only specific kinds of bees were seriously affected. Even so, the more than $15 billion agricultural industry represents a significant impact on the world’s economy, particularly if the bee colony collapse phenomenon should continue or exacerbate.

So, back to my opening question? What would replace pollinating bees if they ceased to exist? Scientists have worried about that possibility for years, and the solution seems to be on the immediate horizon—artificial bees, or more specifically, RoboBees!

A robobee is an autonomous flying micro-robot with the potential to perform the same job in pollinating crops as the honeybee. Researchers at the Wyss Institute at Harvard University have developed a mechanical bee capable of performing the important agricultural role of bees.

These micro-robots are micro-aerial vehicles that are self-contained and capable of self-directed flight. They are even capable of the similar bee-swarming effect to achieve coordinated behavior in large groups that represent the patterns of honeybees. They can also stick to walls and other surfaces like live bees.

These micro-machines contain smart sensors and other electronics that mimic the eyes and antennae of bees, can sense and respond to their surrounding environment, and have a compact and integrated battery power source—a true mechanical bee insect!

This research technology has evolved and progressed to the point of receiving the attention of marketing giants such as Walmart. The mega-box conglomerate recently patented unmanned micro-vehicles as pollination drones for a more efficient method of pollination and fertilization of crops for its vendors.

A future without insect pollination would jeopardize one third of the world’s crops, producing significantly less food and eventually increasing food prices dramatically.

Just when we thought that first-world countries had automated farming figured out, we now realize that automation in crop production is on the verge of a whole new leap in technology.

Thoughts? Comments? I’d love to hear them!

By The Way!

I used similar micro-robot technology in my 2nd Jon Masters thriller which I published last year. The novel is called IMPERFECT MURDER and I used this technology in a special way to disable a bad guy.

Available at Amazon For Only 99¢

Read a Sample Here

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Using DNA To An Author’s Advantage

It’s been some time since I’ve posted a new blog. What can I say—life gets in the way! It’s amazing how getting into and out of the habit of writing can happen so easily. I’ve decided to get back into the habit of writing and that begins with this blog.

I’ve written before here and here about the pluses and minuses of using DNA evidence as the life-blood of securing convictions in today’s criminal justice system. However, I had a real eye-opener the other day while talking to a lawyer friend about the plot for a book I was contemplating.

The plot will make use of unidentifiable DNA (that is, DNA not yet entered into any database system for a match), and the lawyer told me about a couple of cases where the DNA evidence actually pointed to the wrong perpetrator and would have convicted the wrong person of the crimes if further evidence were not available.

The Academy of Forensic Sciences in 2009 admitted that the use of forensics is as much an art as a science and that the science may not always be definitive.

For decades, the criminal justice system relied on DNA evidence as rock solid and foolproof to achieve convictions. DNA was considered the gold standard for identifying criminals.However, the couple of cases my lawyer friend told me about convinced me that there is more to criminal detection than simply matching DNA evidence.

Take the example of a homeless man’s DNA being found on a wealthy murder victim who was killed in his mansion. The homeless man was documented to have been hospitalized at the time of the murder and could not possibly have committed the crime, nor was there any evidence that the homeless man had ever been to that victim’s home.

Extensive and clever investigation (the art part of forensics) finally found the link.The homeless man had been treated by a paramedic earlier in the day and the paramedic had transported the homeless man to the hospital. That same paramedic was called to the scene of the wealthy man’s attack and, upon examination, declared the person dead. It was later determined that the paramedic had not changed his gloves after the callout for the homeless man and contaminated the wealthy victim’s body with the homeless man’s DNA—as transfer from the unchanged glove of the paramedic.

This friend told me of another case in which a plumber was arrested on a rape charge when his DNA was found on the underwear of the victim. It was later determined that the plumber had worked on plumbing in that same closet the week before the rape occurred in that same enclosed area. The plumber’s DNA had transferred to the surfaces of the closet and also to the rape victim’s underwear.

My imagination can come up with other instances where DNA could innocently transfer from one person to another, either directly or on a surface for later transfer; and this is how innocent people can be wrongly convicted of a crime with supposedly irrefutable DNA evidence.

Something as innocent as brushing up against a potential criminal and having your sweat transfer onto the person before he or she commits a sinister deed could be enough to link you to a crime you did not commit by transferred DNA.

As a writer, this puts my imagination on overload and gives me several ideas for use of such innocent DNA transfer in my next murder mystery.

Thoughts? Comments? I’d love to hear them!

Posted in A How To Blog on Murder Plot Ideas, A How To Blog on Murder Weapons, A Murder Mystery Novel, A Writer's Psyche, About James J. Murray, About Murder, About Writing, Blog Writers, Blogging, Characteristics of Murder, Deciding How to Kill Off a Character in a Novel, Designing Murder Plots, Developing Story Arcs, Developing Story Plots, Developing Storyline Ideas, DNA Evidence, DNA Evidence and Murder Mystery Writing, DNA Forensic Science, DNA Testing Flaws, DNA Testing Tainted, DNA Testing Techniques Called Into Question, DNA Transfer, Evidence Free Murder, Flaws in High Sensitivity DNA Testing Techniques, Ideas for Murder Scenes, Is DNA Matching an Art or a Science?, James J. Murray Blog, Murder Mayhem and Medicine, New Blog, Plot Development, Plot Ideas and Where They Come From, Plotting Interesting Murder Scenes, Plotting Murder Scenes, Plotting The Perfect Murder, Prescription For Murder Blog, Reliability of DNA Evidence, Sources of Story and Plot Ideas, The Art of Storytelling, The Art of Writing, The Habit of Writing, The Science of Murder, Tools of Fiction Writing, Unique Murder Plots, Ways to Murder, Writing Dramatic Murder Scenes | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Happy Fourth of July!

HAPPY FOURTH OF JULY!!

 

My wish is for you and your family to enjoy 

this wonderful summer holiday and to have a safe 

Fourth of July celebration experience.

Posted in A Holiday Wish, Fourth of July, Fourth of July Celebrating, Happy Fourth of July, Holiday Cheer | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Espionage at the Molecular Level

In the world of espionage, privacy and security are top priorities to the success and safety of secret agents. Over the centuries, spies have utilized an evolving series of techniques to maintain the privacy of their confidential information.

In Roman times, authors of secret information tinkered with plant extracts to make invisible ink, and that clandestine art was used well into modern times. However, such inks remained invisible only until heat, special lights or chemical solutions were used, and that fact also made the information available to clever enemies.

Although cryptography and encryption furnished modern society with new ways to make information private, these security methods also became vulnerable to the clever adversary in this age of advanced computer technology.

Scientists now have found a new method to encrypt information in much the same way as the Enigma machine allowed the German army in World War II to encrypt and decrypt messages without fear of interception. Comprised of a series of rotors that produced a code, the sender could use the Enigma to encrypt a message and send it by radio. Only a recipient who knew the initial rotor settings could decrypt the message using their own Enigma machine. The discovery and eventual decoding of the German Enigma machine by Allied powers became a major factor in defeating the German Empire.

Presently, researchers are working with cryptography to synthesize specific chemicals that serve as highly secure passwords based on their atomic composition to produce a sort of chemical Enigma system.

In this case, the chemical Enigma system consists of a fluorescent amino acid structure (elemental components of various proteins) that can bind to various other compounds. With this “chemical device system,” the sender converts a message into a code, such as each letter representing a number, and dissolves that message into a specific chemical solution.

All the recipient of that message needs to do is add the same chemical and solvent as the sending device to produce the conditions which decrypt the message—much like a recipient in the past used the same rotor settings on the Enigma machine to reproduce readable text.

To be able to read this special chemically dissolved message with this molecular technique, a spy only needs to add the same chemical and solvent to produce a fluorescence emission to decipher the code and receive the message.

What all this technical jargon boils down to is that someone can hide a message within the molecular chemical sensor in a solution and allow that liquid to absorb into something like paper or cloth, and another person (another spy) could soak the paper or cloth in a liquid with the same chemical configuration to unlock the ciphered text, which is then read with special cryptography.

I can envision a spy using a very simple eyedrop solution to drip a message onto a napkin and that would allow another spy to easily retrieve that napkin, dissolve it in a solution and then decode the message. 

What makes this spy tool so advantageous is that there are so many chemical compounds available that can be fluoresced to hide a message within a chemical compound. The important key is that both the encryptor and the decryptor must know the secret chemical reaction required to allow the message to be retrieved.

Scientists believe there are large numbers of compounds available that could be chosen for the reaction sequence. The important key is that the chemical methodology to encrypt and decrypt should be applied with molecules that have a high level of structural complexity, and the chemical process should be simple, robust and predictably reproducible.

As a final layer of security, the chemicals used should be as thermally and chemically inert as possible—what scientists call “a one-pot reaction” to unlock the chemically-imbedded message.

I think I have the beginnings of a plot for a new short story here!

Thoughts? Comments? I’d love to hear them!

Posted in About James J. Murray, All About Murder, Blog Writers, Blogging, Chemical Encryption, Chemical Enigma System, Chemical Passwords For Security, Chemical Weapons Discussions, Chemicals Used For Murder, Designing Murder Plots, Developing Story Plots, Developing Storyline Ideas, Elements of Murder, Fiction Based on Facts, Fiction Based on Real Life, Fluorescent Spy Technology, Interesting Event and Ideas Develop into Short Stories, James J. Murray Blog, Modern Espionage, Modern Espionage in Fiction Writing, Murder Mayhem and Medicine, New Blog, New Methods To Kill Characters in Your Novel, Plot Development, Plot Ideas and Where They Come From, Plotting Short Stories, Prescription For Murder Blog, Short Story Development, The Art of Storytelling, The Science of Murder, Unique Murder Plots | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Legality of Familial DNA Searches

As a runner, I’ve often told my female runner friends, “Don’t run alone!” There have been cases of solo female runners being attacked on the lovely running trails we have in and around the city I live in. That advice was exactly what the father of Karina Vetrano gave to his daughter when she went out for a run along the wetlands near Howard Beach, Queens, New York. She was strangled to death and sexually assaulted that day during her run.

The case became an investigator’s nightmare with little evidence except for a stranger’s DNA on the victim’s hands, throat and cellphone. The DNA did not produce a match in any national database and the crime remained unsolved.

Frustration from the local investigative authorities caused them to seek approval to use an unusual search method called “familial DNA searches” to scour the criminal databases to identify likely close relatives of the offender to generate an evidence trail. The New York State Commission on Forensic Evidence, a member panel appointed by the governor, even developed a seven-member subcommittee to develop standards for using such familial DNA searches.

Although the perpetrator was identified eventually through other circumstantial evidence and later by an actual DNA match, the high-profile case spotlighted the potential use of familial DNA searches when DNA could not be linked directly to a suspect.

Such familial DNA searches were first introduced in Britain in 2002 and used for the first time in the United States in a California murder case in 2008, followed one year later as an evidence tool in a Colorado case. Such searches have now become a forensic application in eight states, and it has produced a helpful crime-solving trail in at least a dozen cases in the States over the last ten years. Familial DNA searches now represent a new avenue of evidence gathering in the world of forensic science.

This evidence technique uses a database “hit” of a close relative for unidentified DNA to lead authorities to a possible suspect. The close familial match to a perpetrator’s relative is less of a solid piece of evidence, and rather it represents another lead in cases to a likely suspect.

DNA testing remains the most reliable tool in forensic investigations and has been used not only to identify suspects in criminal cases but also to exonerate the wrongfully accused and convicted. As DNA technology expands from the collection and matching of samples through law enforcement agencies and evolves into DNA collections in the private sector, major concerns have been voiced regarding privacy issues and the potential for misuse.

A recent high profile cold case, labeled as the Golden State Killer, perplexed authorities in California for over four decades. Unidentified DNA that had been linked to at least a dozen murders remained unmatched to DNA in any national database. Authorities finally were permitted to search online genealogy services to match the DNA of distant relatives to narrow down the search for the perpetrator and to eventually link other evidence to identify the killer.

Such online searches are controversial to say the least, and opponents of the techniques site the Fourth Amendment for prohibition of unreasonable search and the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause as reason to prevent use of familial DNA searches.

This crime-solving technique, although used in some particularly vexing cases, has not been thoroughly tested in the courts as yet, and it will be interesting to see how the legal issues surrounding this relatively new forensic tool evolve.

Thoughts? Comments? I’d love to hear them!

Posted in A How To Blog on Murder Plot Ideas, About James J. Murray, About Murder, All About Murder, Blog Writers, Blogging, Characteristics of Murder, Committing The Perfect Murder, Creating Emotional Drama in a Murder Scene, Cyber Security Issues, Deciding What Types of Fictional Characters Fit Into Your Plot, Designing Murder Plots, DNA Forensic Science, DNA Testing Flaws, DNA Testing Techniques Called Into Question, Familial DNA Searches, How to Choose a Murder Weapon for a Plot Idea, Ideas for Murder Scenes, James J. Murray Blog, Killing Off Characters in Your Novel, Methods of Murder, Murder Mayhem and Medicine, My Will Be Done - A Short Story, New Blog, New Forensic Tools, Plot Development, Plot Ideas and Where They Come From, Plotting Murder Scenes, Plotting The Perfect Murder, Privacy Issues and Online Genealogy Services, Standards for Familial DNA in Criminal Cases, The Science of Murder, Tools of Murder, Unique Murder Plots, Writing Dramatic Murder Scenes | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

CARFENTANIL – A New National Threat!

I’ve written blogs before about America’s love of opioid medications for pain control and the resulting opioid epidemic in this country. Inevitably, effective pain medications tend to be abused and then become more difficult to obtain legally by prescription, and they eventually make their way to “street drug” status.

Americans statistically are the largest consumers of the world’s natural and synthetic opioids, and it’s estimated that between 100 to 150 Americans are dying from overdoses of these powerful pain killers every day. Many of these drugs are obtained on the black market and the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis was instituted last year to address this crisis, which has been labeled a national emergency.

The synthetic opioid medication fentanyl is one of those prescription medications highly abused as a black market, street drug. It’s very potent—approximately 100 times more potent than morphine—and the prescribed dose to be an effective pain killer is small. In recent years, the availability of fentanyl on the streets as a black market drug has left a trail of death in its path. Just a few grains—a mere two (2) milligrams—can be fatal to a human.

Now, there is an even more potent synthetic opioid called carfentanil that has legitimate medical uses but has evolved into the latest black market, synthetic opioid readily available on the Internet for purchase.

Carfentanil was first synthesized in 1974 by Janssen Pharmaceuticals, but it was never approved for use in humans due to its super potency as a pain killer and sedative. It’s approximately 100 times more potent than fentanyl (and about 10,000 times more potent than morphine). A mere speck of the drug is enough to kill a person.

The United States government allows for the legal use of carfentanil under its Schedule II prescription status ONLY for veterinary use to sedate large animals—such as elephants. A simple Google search, however, of “synthetic opioid and Chinese pharmacies” results in the ability to purchase 100 grams of this highly potent drug without a prescription for about $750, to be shipped “by discreet courier” overnight. That 100-gram amount of carfentanil would translate to be enough drug to cause a staggering five million overdoses.

Some have labeled carfentanil as a weapon of mass destruction because of its easy availability and its lethal potential in small doses. My first novel, Lethal Medicine, addressed the flow of illegal drugs from China in its primary plot, and to this day that book still imparts a relevant message. However, the drugs of today seem to continue their flow from China, but now with enhanced ease and even greater national harm.

Thoughts? Comments? I’d love to hear them!

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