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Predicting Imminent Death

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It is fairly common to hear of cases of people who were able to predict that their death was coming shortly before they passed away. It included a personal experience with my grandfather who seemed to have known it a month in advance. While it is a phenomenon which is difficult to explain, with many people being sceptical claiming that such predictions tend to be a coincidence, some animals were found to be able to predict deaths with noteworthy accuracy.


A relatively recent story is that of a cat called Oscar, who lives at a nursing home in Rhode Island and enjoys walking around the patients' rooms without interacting much with them. However, it was noticed that the cat is very friendly towards patients who are about to die and his prolonged presence by their bedside would often be an indicator of the patient being about to pass away within several hours. To date, Oscar had accurately predicted approximately 100 deaths. In 2007, there was a rumour that the cat had been killed by …

What happens to a body donated to science?

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It is common for individuals and relatives of the deceased to donate dead bodies to science, believing they are contributing to good causes, such as disease research and potential organ donations. Most often there are no questions asked once the donations have been made. However, what should be known, and most often is not publicised, is the fact that donating a body to science is likely to contribute to commercial activities of the company the corpse had been donated to, more than to the interests of actual true science.

The reality is that the body-donation industry has loose regulations, and profits often matter more than ensuring the cadavers are actually used for legitimate research. A case has been recently reported of an amateur who purchased human heads from body-donation companies, for several thousand dollars each. He stored the heads in a refrigerator for the purpose of conducting self-taught experiments on them, even though the organisations claimed to only be selling part…

Qualqilya Zoo and Dr Khader's Taxidermy

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Qalqilya is a Palestinian city, which houses a 2-hectare zoo, open since 1986. It used to be a popular attraction among Arabic and Israeli visitors. However, once the Second Intifada (Palestinian uprising against Israel) began, visitors from outside of Qalqilya were no longer permitted to visit the zoo. 

The zoo was often surrounded by violence as protests broke out. For example, at one time school children decided to throw stones at passing Israeli tanks. In response, the soldiers started shooting at them. This resulted in very some tragic losses. One of the zoo's key projects were its giraffes. At the time the zoo housed two giraffes, male and female, with the female being pregnant at the time. When the sound of gunfire could be heard in the giraffes' enclosure, the male giraffe became very frightened, he panicked, and ran into a wall of his enclosure. This caused him to fall down, and as he was unable to get up, he died due to failed blood circulation (giraffes must not lie …

Taxidermy at the Manchester Museum

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"The world is not to be put in order; the world is order, incarnate. It is for us to harmonize with this order" - Henry Miller ----------------------------------------
Last weekend I visited my family in Manchester, UK. While I was there I took the opportunity to visit the Manchester museum, where natural history is a big theme and there is a large collection of taxidermy exhibits. My personal favourites were the birds and forest wildlife. Below are some pictures I took of the exhibits:

1. Taxidermy squirrel This exhibit shows part of the process involved in creating a mammal taxidermy. It is clear that the skin removed from the cadaver is placed on a man-made structure shaped as a squirrel. Of course, due to natural decay the animal's real eyeballs are replaced with glass eyes. I had a chance to touch a finished taxidermy squirrel in the museum and it felt like a living, furry animal, except for the lack of a spine.

2. The big bad wolf
This angry-looking wolf is a well-m…

Tsantsas - Shrunken Decapitated Heads

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Severed human heads can be shrunken and preserved. The process used to be carried out by tribal people from the Amazon rainforest for ritual, trade and trophy purposes. In some cases the shrunken heads could be used as toys for children. The demand for tsantsas (another name for the shrunken heads) from traders caused an increase in warfare between some of the Amazon tribes. Most of the demand came from dealers, museums and private collectors. The practice has ended around the 1960s.

The procedure of shrinking a human head would first involve removing the skull by making an incision at the back of the head and pulling the skin off, while severing the muscles and tissues connecting the skin to the skull. The skull is thrown away, eyes are removed and cartlidges from the nose and ears are cut off. The skin is cleaned while being turned inside out. A purpose-made boiling pot is then filled with water, and the water is brought to boil. The skin of the head is immersed in the boiling water…

Promiscuity and Infidelity

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I would like to dedicate this post to the man who made me realise that love no longer exists. A brief message to him is as follows: If you ever happen to come across this post, you know I'm talking about you, but the purpose is not to blame you or judge you for seducing countless women with your lies. I wish you could realise that the more you do it, the more likely you are to destroy your own life. The point is that all actions have their consequences. -----------------------------

As the title says, in this post I would like to talk about the potential deadliness of promiscuity (i.e. unsafe or excessive sexual behaviour, in case someone isn't sure). There exists undeniable proof that having multiple partners dramatically increases the risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases and cancer. And it is not only intercourse which can cause STDs, but also oral sex and even just touching each other can transmit harmful bacteria and viruses. But that's not the whole stor…

Asphyxiation

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Asphyxia is the key cause of death from things such as strangulation, drowning and carbon monoxide poisoning. It involves low level of oxygen in the body, combined with high carbon dioxide and acidosis (i.e. build up of lactic acid). In forensics there are 3 key categories of death via asphyxiation: Strangulation, Chemical Asphyxia, and Suffocation.

Strangulation is the method most commonly used during murders. It was also used as a method of execution in the past. For example, the garrote was a device used for capital punishment in Spain, until as late as 1940. It involved tying a rope around the neck of the condemned, and twisting it until it was tight enough to cause strangulation. However, self-strangulation, often auto-erotic, is also very common. The auto-erotic type often involves taking in alcohol or other substances, such as drugs, while being strapped and positioned with the head lowered relative to the rest of the body. Several famous people died that way, including the Ame…

Dead Birds: Part 1

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I was always fascinated by dead animals, especially birds and fish, as they usually cannot be handled easily and examined while alive. I have seen many dead birds throughout my life and took a few pictures to document the more interesting cases. Below are a few images of what I managed to find, near to where I live.

Bird 1: Likely a lark
This specimen was found still alive by my family near Manchester, UK. It was weak and unable to fly so they decided to take it to the vet, but it died on the way there. I believe it was a lark, most likely a skylark, or a meadow pipit, although skylark is more likely due to its size and shape. These birds can be found everywhere in UK, but mostly live in the countryside and farmland. They are not very easy to spot where this one was found, so it was interesting to see. 
As seen on the picture, the bird has angular wings, which are long in proportion to the rest of its body, enabling them to fly and hover smoothly. If it was alive, it could likely sing,…

Immolation

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Immolation refers to deliberate causing of death by means of burning. Sometimes self-immolation is carried out as a means of sacrifice, although the method was predominantly used for carrying out executions since the early human history.
Usually the prisoner would be bound to a large wooden stake and fire would be lit up underneath them. If the fire was large, the condemned would often die by Carbon Monoxide poisoning, before being burnt alive. However, if the flame was small, the body would catch fire while the prisoner remained conscious and their flesh would burn for a period of time, until death occurred due to loss of blood, body fluids, thermal decomposition of vital body parts or heatstroke.
During the process, the fire would first of all peel away the outer layer of human skin, i.e. the epidermis. After a few minutes, the thicker layer of the skin (aka the dermis) shrinks, splits open and fat begins leaking out. The fat can act as a fuel for the fire, thus sustaining the flam…

Censorship and Trigger Warnings - my viewpoint

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This post will be slightly different from what I usually write. It will be more personal, rather than just informative. I wanted to use this opportunity to present my viewpoint regarding the prevalence of censorship and trigger warnings. You may agree or disagree, and that is absolutely fine. However, I will not tolerate any disrespect as I believe in freedom of expression and the importance of respectful exchange of opinions between individuals. And honestly, I would love to finally get some comments on this blog.

So to begin with, censorship is defined as the prohibition of communication or information that may be considered objectionable, harmful, sensitive, politically incorrect etc. It had been used throughout centuries to block out information from the public. I believe that in some ways it can be good, for example preventing children from seeing sexually explicit images and hearing sexual word references (that includes swearing), which they are not mature enough to understand a…

Electric Chair

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Execution via electric chair is believed to be a humane and painless method. However, it does not look as such from an onlooker's perspective, as the prisoner often appears to be thrashing, their eyeballs often melt and/or pop out of their skull, involuntary bowel movement occurs, and the smell of burning skin is prevalent. Autopsies of convicts executed in this way often showed that the brain had literally been cooked inside the skull. Thus, the question arises, how is that a humane and painless execution?

Death by electrocution is caused by high voltage electricity resulting in rapid and irregular contractions of the heart, thus causing cardiac arrest. For the execution in an electric chair, the prisoner's hair is removed from one of their legs and their head in order to connect electrodes to the skin.  They are strapped to the chair. Then, an initial high voltage (usually around 2000 V) alternating current is applied for about 30 seconds, which makes the convict lose consci…

Decapitation

Decapitation for the purpose of execution goes back a long way in history. It was a method used in the Greek and Roman empires. The method was popular in Britain up to 1747. Beheadings were typically carried out using swords and axes, until the guillotine was invented in 1792 in France.

Decapitation by means of a sword usually involved the prisoner being made to kneel down as low as they could, and a long sword (about 0.9 -1.2 m long) weighing about 2 kg would be used to sever the head. Using an axe would usually require implementing a wooden block, often cut at an angle which would allow an easier job for the executioner, where the prisoner would place their neck. Ideally, the head would be severed off with a single swing of the axe. However, in some cases, the angle of the axe to the neck would make it difficult to sever the head with a single blow, thus requiring several attempts, causing pain to the prisoner. For example, during the beheading of Mary, the Queen of Scots in 1587, i…

Decomposition

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The process of bio decomposition is essential for the maintenance of natural cycles. Decomposition begins from the moment of death, being caused by and autolysis (when the body breaks down its own tissues, usually starting with the liver due to enzymes present, and in the brain due to its high water content), later followed by putrefaction (breakdown of body tissues via bacteria). Prime decomposers are bacteria and fungi but larger organisms also play a role in the process. These range from arthropods such as beetles and flies to larger birds and mammals, such as vultures, dogs and wolves.

During the first few hours following death no signs of corpse decomposition are yet visible. However, the body cools down, usually its temperature dropping by 2 degrees per hour. This is known as algor mortis. Due to gravity blood settles in those parts of the body which are closest to the ground. This is known as livor mortis and it occurs for up to 8 hours following death. Moreover, muscles stiff…

Eco-friendly Funerals

From the viewpoint of an engineer, sustainability via fuel conservation and preserving natural resources are significant matters at the end of life of all machines. So why do human burials tend to be treated so differently?  A single cremation uses as much fuel as a car driving for 4800 miles, and releases polluting chemicals into the atmosphere, including Carbon Dioxide, mercury and dioxin. Typical burials use up plenty of wood, concrete and plastic only for the sake of shielding a body from the surrounding ground, attempting to slow down the natural cycle of decay. Such materials take many years to decay and can leave behind toxic residue. A body drained of blood is typically filled with environmentally harmful chemicals, including formaldehyde and phenol for preservation purposes.

The above practices are unlikely to stop any time soon as cultural beliefs prevail over environmental concerns. However, with time, perhaps more eco-friendly methods of corpse disposal will become more p…

Introduction

People tend to make countless plans for their future, often without considering the possibility of their life ending. However, death affects everyone sooner or later, and it cannot be ignored. In the end, who you truly are, and how people will perceive and remember you are determined in that one final moment. I decided to focus this blog on the topic of death because it is something that always interested me since the passing away of my grandmother, and the key purpose is to be informative.

Perhaps my morbid curiosity is not normal, but who can really judge? Everyone has their own hobbies, some weirder than others. Mine just happens to be researching various topics and implications of the inevitable. I want to show that it is nothing to be afraid of, but rather, something that can be fascinating, and I believe that remembering our mortality and fragility of life may encourage personal growth and help us become better people as a result.