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Filthy Lucre

A Case Involving the Chemical Detection of Cocaine-Contaminated Currency



Author:

Ed Acheson
Department of Chemistry
Millikin University
eacheson@millikin.edu

Abstract:

"Tom Brown" is arrested at the airport on his way home for winter break and charged with possession of cocaine when a drug sniffing dog detects traces of the narcotic in his caryy-on bag. Some of the money he is carrying has apparently been contaminated with cocaine. Students are introduced to concepts in experimental design, sampling, the interpretation of scientific data, and the reliability of results as they design an experiment to determine what percentage of paper currency is contaminated with cocaine. The case includes lab work involving the use of GC/MS techniques and instrumentation. The case was designed for a chemistry course for non-science majors.

Objectives:
  • Introduce students to experimental design.
  • Introduce students to the concept of sampling.
  • Allow students to examine and discuss the differences between science and science policy.
  • Allow students to work in the lab on a fun, but meaningful, project.
  • Allow students to gain an understanding of scientific disputes by interpreting data that can be analyzed in a variety of ways.
Keywords: Experimental design; sampling; cocaine contamination; mass spectrometry; gas chromatography; RICO Act
Topical Area: Legal issues
Educational Level: High school, Undergraduate lower division
Formats: PDF
Type/Method: Dilemma/Decision, Laboratory, Role-Play, Trial
Language: English
Subject Headings: Chemistry (General)   Analytical Chemistry  
Date Posted: 2/23/00
Date Modified: N/A
Copyright: Copyright held by the National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science, University at Buffalo, State University of New York. Please see our usage guidelines, which outline our policy concerning permissible reproduction of this work.

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