Death is both saddening and inevitable. What’s more scary is the fact that we are unsure of what happens to us after it. We can never predict when or how it will happen. Losing a close friend, relative or even our beloved pets have a huge impact on us. Nevertheless, we must stay positive and try to continue to live our lives. Here are 15 strange and disturbing facts about death, that may surprise you.
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1. After being decapitated, a human head remains conscious for around 20 seconds.
For centuries, death by decapitation has been used as a form of capital punishment. Since the beginning of this practice, the question regarding the length of time that the head can remain conscious after its removal has been debated widely. Though many argue that once a person is beheaded, they lose consciousness instantaneously. They believe that this is a result of the drop in blood pressure due to the sudden and forceful impact of the decapitation device. Throughout history, there have been countless number of eyewitness reports, that describe the victim being aware for moments after execution.
A 2011 study from Radboud University Nijmegen in the Netherlands came up with a troubling result. A common method of euthanizing lab rats is by means of decapitation. To determine whether this method is humane or not, the Radboud University researchers connected an EEG machine to the brains of rats and monitored the electrical activity in the brain after the process. To their amazement, the rats’ brains were producing 13 to 100-Hertz frequency band signals for about 4-5 seconds after decapitation. This frequency is associated with consciousness and cognition, which is usually defined as a mental process. The tests yielded results that varied, in which researchers finalized that the brain is capable of producing thoughts and experience for almost 20 seconds following decapitation. (source 1, 2)
2. A human body decomposes four times faster at sea than on land.
Depending on the temperature of the water, a human body decomposes differently in sea than on land. Cold water encourages the formation of adipocere, which is a waxy substance formed from the fat in the body. It is responsible for partially protecting and reducing the decomposition rate. Some of the bodies retrieved by authorities from waters below 7°C were completely intact, even though death had occurred several weeks prior.
When it comes to tropical waters such as portions of Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, the process is completely different. The temperature and climate makes even a weighted body float on the surface in just three to four days. This in turn exposes the body to scavenging creatures or birds that will feed on it. After a week or so, the bones will slowly sink to the seabed, where they will be broken down as time progresses. (source 1, 2)
3. Within just three days of death, the enzymes that once helped you digest food begins to digest your body.
Although it sounds scary, it’s true that the enzymes that once helped us digest our meals to support life will start digesting us slowly after death. The enzymes in our stomach are highly concentrated acids that break down food into smaller glucose particles, which is then stored or utilized as energy in our body. This chemical process is known as digestion. After death, these enzymes have nothing to digest inside us and the only thing they come in contact with is our own internal organs. Since the body doesn’t perform any activity, roughly 2 litres of hydrochloric acid starts to digest the inner layers of the stomach. (source 1, 2)
4. About 151,600 people worldwide die each day.
Currently, there are 7.4 billion people inhabiting the Earth. According to the World Health Organization, about 151,600 people die every day. What’s more scary is that the birth rate is twice that of the death rate. 360,000 births takes place every day in this world with an average life expectancy of 70.78 years. Non-communicable diseases rank on top of the list as they claim more lives than road accidents or drug related deaths. Approximately 68 percent of all deaths each year are due to non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular diseases. Strokes claim the second highest, whereas chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases claim the third highest. (source 1, 2)
5. In the United States, medical errors claim about 250,000 lives every year.
The patient safety experts at Johns Hopkins University analyzed medical death rate data over an eight-year period. From their findings, they calculated that more than 250,000 deaths occur each year in the U.S. due to medical errors. Medical errors are also the third leading cause of death in the U.S., surpassing respiratory issues. The study was lead by surgeon and Johns Hopkins professor Martin Makary and was published on May 3, 2016, in The BMJ. The leading cause of death in the U.S. is heart disease, which claims about 611,000 lives per year. The second leading cause is cancer, which claims approximately 585,000 lives. (source 1, 2)
6. Analyzing some of the recent archaeological findings, scientists estimate that the practice of burial may date back about 300,000 years.
Studies show that Homo Neanderthalensis believed in supernatural agents and had peculiar behavior towards burials. A neanderthal grave discovered in the Kebara Cave in Israel, dated to be from 60,000 B.C., shows the possibility that they practiced certain rituals when a loved one was deceased. Another grave site was discovered in a cave in Spain, which dates back as far as 50,000 years, that showed resemblance to the modern day burial procedures. Scientists were able to analyze signs of fires being lit inside the cave, which indicated that they also visited the grave site of their loved ones.Burial rituals were also known to be performed during the middle Paleolithic time period as far as 300,000 years ago. (source 1, 2)
7. Forensic scientists are capable of estimating the time of death by observing the type of insects present around the body.
In the world of forensic entomology, insects are often used to help solve a crime, however, their main purpose is in estimating the time of death. Upon death, microorganisms such as fungi and bacteria begin the decomposition process. Soon, arthropods (insects) are attracted depending on the stage of decomposition. There are 5 basic stages of decomposition (fresh, putrefaction, fermentation, dry decay and skeletonization) that attracts different kinds of organisms. Forensic scientists are well aware of the stages and the insects attracted by each stage. This knowledge helps them in estimating the exact time frame of death, depending on the type of insect present in or around the body. (source 1, 2)
8. A community in India known as Parsi, offers its dead to vultures rather than burying/burning them.
The Parsi community in Mumbai, India continue with the Zoroastrian tradition of disposing their dead ones by offering them to scavengers. According to this ancient tradition, the process takes place in Towers of Silence, where the bodies are placed for the scavenging birds such as vultures to consume. The belief is that burial or cremation will pollute ancient elements such as air, earth, fire and water. This tradition is currently at the brink of extinction due to the decrease in vulture population. A drug known as diclofenac is given to farm animals to reduce joint pains and to allow them to work longer. When these farm animals die, the vultures feed on these carcasses and become exposed to the drug. It has been known to cause kidney failure and the Indian vulture population has declined about 97-99% in the past 6 years. (source 1, 2, 3)