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Body Worlds: Amsterdam - The Happiness Project

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I've recently had a break from writing posts as I was busy working and travelling. However, as I have a bit of time this evening, I wanted to share my experience from the amazing attraction, which I had an opportunity to attend during my visit to Amsterdam, Holland, where I went last month.
The Body Worlds is well known to be a rather controversial set of exhibitions containing real dissected bodies of humans (coming from willing donors) and animals, preserved via a method known as plastination. The technique was developed by the founder of the Body Worlds, Gunther Von Hagens, in order to conserve specimens, so that they do not smell or decay. It is done by replacing the fat and water within the bodies with plastics. From experience, I can say that the method works amazingly well as during my time at the exhibition I could not smell anything bad, only a slight smell of plastic.


While it is common for other people (such as my poor mother) to feel shocked or disturbed during visits…

Dead Birds: Part 2

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It has been a few months since I have published my previous photos of dead birds in the earlier post. Over the succeeding months I encountered three interesting specimens, which I decided to share in this post.

Bird 1: Spanish Seagull in Tabarca, Alicante, Spain




I have encountered this dead seagull during my holiday in Spain in late February, as I was walking along the beach with my friends. This beach was part of the Tabarca island, located very close to Alicante. The views there were amazing and it was one of the best holidays I ever had. That's why a month later I came back to Alicante, and with all that travelling and chaos at my workplace I haven't had time to write many new posts. 
But going back to the theme of this post, surely, dead seagulls must be a very common sight in places close to the sea and other water reservoirs. But while most people will look at cadavers like this with disgust and walk away, I decided to take the above picture and look at this specimen more…

Impalement

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Impalement can refer to either piercing through an individual with a sufficiently sharp stake or pole or hanging them off it, either by nailing or tying them to it. In this post I will be referring to the type of impalement, used as capital punishment, which involves execution by means of piercing through the central body mass of the guilty individual.

Impalement can be carried out either vertically (through you know where, which would vary depending on the individual's gender) or traversally (through the chest or torso) in order to cause a slow and painful death. This would be typically carried out as a consequence of crimes against the state in various parts of the world. The time taken from being initially "skewered" to death would typically take from a few minutes to 3 days, depending on the exact method.

The most notorious individual throughout history known to have carried out the punishment was Vlad the Impaler, aka Dracula, the Wallachian prince who lived in the …

Promession

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As described in one of my previous posts, environmentally-friendly funerals are increasingly gaining popularity. Interestingly, not all modern funerals in the western world involve disposing of the body by conventional means, such as cremation or full body burial. A method which has recently gained increased public awareness is promession, i.e. freeze-drying the human remains prior to disposal. The method allows the body to become a nutrient-rich fertiliser, allowing the life cycle to progress naturally.



The method is relatively straight-forward, involving 5 key stages: (a video demonstrating the process can be watched here: https://youtu.be/HpnopgptKHk)
1. Coffin separation: the body is removed from the coffin and placed in a chamber of the Promator machine.
2. Cryogenic freezing: liquid nitrogen at -196 degrees Celsius is used to freeze the body, in effect turning it into a human crystal.
3. Vibration: the body gets disintegrated into fine particles by means of shaking it in the cha…

Mass Bird Deaths - An Unexplained Phenomenon

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An unusual phenomenon has been observed in various parts of the world, which has recently been ocurring more regularly. Flocks of flying birds suddenly appear to loose control and fall to the ground. While this has occurred with a variety of bird species, it appears to be most common with crows and blackbirds.



While most of the birds die after taking the fall, some survive but are usually not strong enough to pick themselves up and fly away. Some witnesses of these events reported that the surviving birds appeared to be paralysed, being too weak to stand, even when pedestrians attempted to help them. The most recent event to date was observed at the end of January this year in Italy, Europe, and Draper, US. The bodies of many of the fallen birds had been flattened.



Environmental experts had been investigating the phenomenon, however, without reaching a conclusive explanation. Presented possibile causes include contagious disease, effects of a toxic chemical or poison, or even in some …

Euthanasia

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Euthanasia is a very controversial issue. It is often described as compassionate killing, or an act of causing death for the benefit of a suffering person. The original Greek word, euthanos, means easy death. While human euthanasia is legal in some countries including Canada, Netherlands, Belgium and Colombia, in most other places it is considered illegal, although assisted suicide is more widely accepted. In the UK neither is legal.

Although similar, there is a difference between the act of assisted suicide and euthanasia. Euthanasia involves action or deliberate lack of it, with the intention of causing death. For example, it might involve a lethal injection or withholding food from a terminally ill person who is unable to feed themselves. Meanwhile, assisted suicide involves providing an indirect means of death for the sufferer, as per their request, such as giving out too much prescription medication, which would allow for an overdose.

While by definition the law of euthanasia is …

Boiling Alive

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Boiling someone alive was a rather brutal punishment used by several rulers throughout history. It is believed to be one of the slowest and most painful ways to die. The method is documented to have been commonly used throughout the world in the 16th century.

An example of a British monarch who was known to use this punishment was Henry VIII. He typically used it on individuals accused of poisoning, as he believed it to be an unforgiveable offence. Those found guilty would be suspended via a network of pulleys and ropes above a drum filled with boiling liquid, such as water, tar, acid, wine, oil, molten lead etc. As a method of psychological torture the executioner would often slowly lower the guilty towards the pot, before bringing them back up without actually plunging them into the liquid.

While being lowered towards the pot, the skin of the prisoner would begin to blister, pop, and then melt away, revealing muscles, veins and arteries that clung to the bone. If clothing is worn du…

Gaza Zoo and Its Sad End

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In one of my previous posts I wrote about the Qualqilya zoo, where taxidermy is used to preserve dead animals, many of which had been killed by war, so that they can still be exhibited. Similarly, the city of Gaza and its zoo had been significantly affected by the militant conflict between Israel and Palestine, but the Gaza zoo had suffered to a much greater extent.



The zoo in Gaza opened in 2007 and many of its animals were smuggled accross the Egyptian border to create the initially thriving attraction. However, in 2008 a military offensive was launched by Israel against Hamas, which lasted 3 weeks, and during that time the zoo owner was unable to access the establishment. As a result, many animals starved to death. To preserve them, Mr Awaida (the owner) decided to resort to self-taught taxidermy using formaldehyde and sawdust.

The conditions in the area had not improved since. Due to shortages in funding many of the animals continued starving. As the animals lost during the offens…

Why I enjoy funerals more than weddings

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After coming back home feeling depressed after a friend's wedding, this time I decided to write a more personal post explaining my viewpoint regarding the common events of weddings and funerals, which almost everyone attends at some point during their lifetime. In almost all cultures throughout the world weddings are associated with happiness, while funerals are portrayed as sad events, associated with grief. In my culture a typical wedding would involve the ceremony of a wedding talk where the couple are given their blessing, and signing documents, followed by a party where the guests would dance to music, eat a lot of food and drink alcohol. Meanwhile, at a funeral, the body would be lying in a casket at a hall where a goodbye speech would be given, before being sent off to be buried or cremated. The guests would then go off to a wake, or reception, where food would be provided and people would talk to each other, commemorating the life of the deceased (often crying at the same …