1. “What happens to your blood when you die?”
First, your heart stops beating, and blood is no longer pumped around your body. Then gravity takes over and helps your blood to settle in capillaries, discolouring your skin. A purplish-red colour is noticeable around an hour after death. After eight hours or so, depending on the environment, it’s fixed. This process is called livor mortis.
If the body is moved after the livor is fixed, the discolouration stays in its original place. This can help forensic scientists work out if a body has been moved after death.
2. “Can you LITERALLY DIE from heartbreak? I was in science class, and my teacher said something like the heartstrings can rip.”
Not quite – but there IS a heart condition that seems to be brought on by significant emotional stress, such as bereavement or being involved in a disaster. People refer to it as “broken heart syndrome”, but its scientific name is takotsubo cardiomyopathy.
According to the NHS, the condition causes the heart muscle to become “suddenly weakened or ‘stunned’, causing the left ventricle (one of the heart’s main chambers) to change shape”.
Broken heart syndrome symptoms – chest pain and breathlessness – look similar to those of a heart attack, so call an ambulance if you or anyone else experiences them. Thankfully, though, broken heart syndrome is temporary and reversible.
3. “If you were on your period one day, and then you died, would the blood still flow?”
“The blood wouldn’t ‘flow’ as such, because the circulation stops and muscular contraction also ceases,” mortician Carla Valentine told BuzzFeed Science over email. “However, it would remain moist for a while before it dried (as normal blood would), so any residual blood/membrane could still leak out when you moved the body.
“It’s the uterus and prostate gland which are the last organs to decompose in a dead body – they remain recognisable the longest.”
4. “If you sneeze with your eyes open, will they pop out?”
It’s extremely unlikely. You shut your eyes when you sneeze as a reflex, not to stop them popping out. “It is certainly possible to keep your eyes open if you try while you are sneezing … but it requires working against the reflex,” Dr Rachel Vreeman toldNBC News in 2013.
5. “What would human flesh taste like if we ate it?”
There’s no consensus on this, although there seems to be more evidence of it tasting like pork than anything else.
According to convicted murderer and cannibal Armin Meiwes, “The flesh tastes like pork, a little bit more bitter, stronger. It tastes quite good.”
Another murderer, Karl Denke, is believed to have killed at least 40 people and even sold some of his victim’s flesh as “pork”, before he was arrested in 1924. Apparently the human flesh he was selling tasted enough like pork not to arouse suspicion.
Not everyone agrees that it tastes like pork, though. In the 1920s journalist William Seabrook managed to get hold of some human flesh without murdering someone, then cooked it and ate it. “It was like good, fully developed veal, not young, but not yet beef,” he wrote in his book Jungle Ways. “It was very definitely like that, and it was not like any other meat I had ever tasted.”
6. “Can someone actually die from getting hiccups?”
Short bursts of hiccups affect everyone and are nothing to worry about.
Hiccups that last more than 48 hours can have an underlying cause that is worth worrying about – like pneumonia, stroke, or a brain injury – although they don’t always. In those rare cases where it’s something serious causing the hiccups, a person might die, but the hiccups would be a symptom of the underlying condition rather than the cause.
Pope Pius XII had long-term hiccups thanks to gastritis, but in the end he died of a stroke. According to the BBC, a man called Chris Sands had hiccups for two and a half years that turned out to be caused by a tumour on his brain stem. After surgery to remove the tumour, the hiccups stopped.
7. “What is the average amount of skin cells, by the ratio of dead to alive, on the human body?”
Your skin accounts for roughly 16% of your body weight.
The top layer of skin you can see is called the epidermis, and the dead layer of skin within that is the stratum corneum. When new skin cells push their way up, old ones die and are weathered off the top layer.
You shed the outer layer of your skin once every two to four weeks, equating to between 0.001 and 0.003 ounces (or between 0.03 and 0.09 grams) of skin flakes per hour, according to the American Chemical Society. That’s 500 million cells every day. Fun fact: This dead skin is a major constituent of household dust.
Taking the weight of an average American woman at 166 pounds (about 75kg), that gives you almost 27 pounds (12kg) of skin. With an upper limit of 0.07 ounces (2.2g) of dead skins cells shed per day, you have way more alive skin cells than dead ones.
8. “Can a dead body ejaculate?”
“It can’t ejaculate, like, squirt (because there’s no muscle contraction/peristalsis),” Valentine told BuzzFeed Science. “However, semen very commonly seeps out of the end of penises of deceased males whether they’re slightly erect or not. Not a sex thing, just one of those odd biological occurrences.”
So now you know.