Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Mary Roach

Blogger hasn't been working for me lately but I'm still here!  I just have to jump through some hoops to post.  I'm not too big on jumping through any kind of hoops, so I hope Blogger starts working better soon or I'm in trouble, blogwise.

I've been reading books by Mary Roach recently.  The first one I read was called Bonk, all about the science of sex.  She's really funny.  Now I'm reading Stiff, all about what happens to our corpses after we die.  Wow.  It is so morbid and so interesting.  The whole book is like a horrible car accident that you can't tear your eyes away from.  I'm on a chapter right now about the future potential of whole-body transplants.  If your body is all gross and diseased and dying, but your head is okay, in the future you could get a whole body transplant!  Some doctor in France did it with some monkeys and the poor little monkeys lived anywhere from a few hours to three days. The monkeys weren't too happy about it because whenever the doctor got near them, they would bite him. They don't call it a head transplant, they call it a body transplant because medical science has pretty much decided that we are our brains.  There has been some anecdotal evidence that some personality traits or thoughts of the donor show up in the recipients of heart transplants.  Like this one man who told his doctor that heknew he got his heart from a young black woman and that she died in a car accident and she was not too happy about having her heart ripped out.  He said sometimes when he looked in the mirror he saw her instead of himself and she was all bloody.  His doctor was kind of freaked out so he did a little digging to find out if the donor actually was a young black woman who died in a car accident and it wasn't.  It was a middle aged man.  And then that doctor looked into the donors of other people who said they thought they knew who their donors were.  They were wrong every time.  We live in our heads, and like I was saying, you could potentially get a body transplant someday, but since medical science still can't fix severed nerves, your new body would be paralyzed from the neck down.  Bummer for you.

Some scientists in France during the heyday of the guillotine tried to figure out how long a head lived after it is removed from it's body, and they decided it is as long as ten minutes.  TEN MINUTES.  They did this by looking at the head right after it was chopped, and studying the eyes and the expression.  When after a minute or so the head got tired and the eyes drooped, the doctor would yell out the head's name and he would open his eyes and focus on the doctor like, "What?" and look at him for a while and then doze off again.  The doctor did this to the head three times and every time the head woke up and focused on the doctor.  Oh my god, just let the poor head go to sleep already!

I don't think you really will get the chance to get a body transplant someday because of the expense and the ethics of it.  Insurance would never cover it and instead of tacking that paralyzed body onto you, those organs could go to save the lives of several people, so the only people getting body transplants in the future will be filthy rich paraplegics.  So you still need to exercise and take your vitamins and take care of your gross ingrown toenails!

The next book by Mary Roach that I'm going to read is called Spook, and it is about the science of the afterlife and the soul.  She talked to some people who said the soul has mass.  They measured it by putting a dying person on a super sensitive scale and at the precise time of death they weigh slightly less!  Weird!  I can't wait to read what she has to say about that.  


  1. All of it sounds pretty creepy to me.

  2. 1. ugh, i feel sorry for those poor little french monkeys.

    2. holy.shit. i'm going to have fucking night terrors over those eye-contact making heads.

    3. @ sensitive scale that weighs less at death: good. now i can throw all this dieting booshet out the window.

  3. Hey I read Stiff too!!!
    And I did not realize Mary had other books
    I will check it out!

  4. Do the people who die on the scale poop and pee at the exact moment of death and does that affect their weight? Maybe poop weighs less outside the body than in? Let me know, because I don't believe we have immortal souls that leave our bodies when we die, yet I don't know if I feel like reading that science-y book. There must be SOME other explanation. Involving poop.

  5. Dana McKibbage WaldbilligNovember 12, 2010 at 8:23 PM

    Ditto, Jane!

    I read "Stiff" but didn't know about the other books. I'm totally going to read them. I just saw a thing on a cable show (Discovery, or NatGeo or something) that talked about that little "weight loss" moment when a person dies. It's like, a couple of grams or something. Cool. Poof.


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