Science Café: The Truth About Stiffs: The Straight Dope on Dead Bodies

October 14, 2014

Right away, when I saw this presentation announced by the Omaha Atheists, I knew I had to go!  I usually don’t tell people this right away but I have always been very interested in forensic science, along with psychology, criminology, etc.. I am kind of a dork... so I knew this was right up my alley.  Here are a few things I took away from tonight's lecture.    

 

The presentation was given by Geoffrey Talmon, M.D., who is an associate professor in the department of pathology and microbiology at UNMC.  The Slowdown was packed with a variety of people; lots of med students, atheists, drinkers, and more!  Pizza was provided by The Nebraska Coalition for Lifesaving Cures.

 

Memorable Moments

 

  • Dr. Talmon quoted Woody Allen saying, “I’m not afraid of death; I just don’t want to be there when it happens”.

  • 101 billion people have died, and we are only 6% that are still alive 

  • As someone dies, their sense of hearing is suspected to be the last to go

  • It is estimated that the brain is conscious 15 to 20 seconds after beheading

  • After cremation the remains weigh about 4-6 lbs.

  • USPS will ship ashes of human remains, however FedEx will not

  • Most autopsies are free at hospitals, or at least at UNMC if you are a patient with them at all

  • There are several research facilities called body farms where human decomposition can be studied in a variety of environments

 

Interesting Information

 

  • Pallor/Livor mortis is the discoloration of the dead

    • Blood pools in direct response to gravity which happens 1-3 hours after death

  • Rigor Mortis is the stiffness of the deceased

    • Starts within 1-2 hours, peaks after 12 hours and goes away within 1-2 days

    • Not permanent

  • Algor mortis is the cool of the dead

    • Change in temperature within the body - Due to environment, physical conditions, etc., it is not consistent in determining the exact time of death

  • Putrefaction – AKA rotting/decay

  • Bacteria breaks down cells first, then fat and bone

  • Within 6 months to 1 year the deceased is a skeleton with very little tissues left

  • Bio Cremation is now an option that is environmentally friendly and works just like fire

  • Mummification is pure autolysis without putrefaction

    • Done so by removing organs, controlling environments, etc.

  • Embalming is done to slow the putrefaction process for funeral

  • Cremation is like being burned by a jet engine for 2-3 hours

 

If you have any questions let me know!  

Angie

 

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