From: email@example.com(Steven B. Harris)
Subject: Re: Why do dead bodies float?
Date: Wed, 15 Oct 1997
In <344388A3.firstname.lastname@example.org> Rick <email@example.com> writes:
>> My physics teacher asked the class, as a bonus question, why do dead
>> bodies float? Well, I looked in my mothers anatomy book but I can't
>> find the answer. If anyone could point my towards a fairly lengthy
>> description of why, I would greatly appreciate it. Thanks.
>Gut flora continue to work after you die and the carbon dioxide they
>produce fills up the abdominal cavity (in the GI tract) and you become
>boyant. At a later stage in death I believe you sink.
But it's a pretty late stage. Before that bodies blow up like balloons
and become terrifically buoyant. You CAN'T keep them down with
anything less than cannon balls. People have come up from lakes
chained to outboard motors and other outrageously heavy objects. Many
a murderer has been caught that way. To properly sink a body so it
will stay down, the abdomen and chest has to be opened, as you saw in
the movie Rob Roy. Murder is an art.
The gases of decomposition are more than CO2-- they also include
hydrogen and methane and who knows what else. As in sinking a body, a
major part of embalming consists of inserting a trocar into the
abdominal cavity and puncturing all the viscera, sucking out the
contents, and delivering formalin solution so this gas formation is
quashed. If it is not donee, the corpse "purges" as the viscera are
squashed by the expanding gases, and bloody fluid from the stomach
comes out of the mouth. Dig up such a corpse and it looks fatter, and
with blood coming out of the mouth the supposition that somebody has
been up and feasting on blood was easily made by superstitious people.
Thus, vampire legends.
Steve Harris, M.D.