Death, lye thou there


Since they first walked the planet, humans have either buried or burned their dead. Now a new option is generating interest -- dissolving bodies in lye and flushing the brownish, syrupy residue down the drain.

Generally, I'm most interested in the processes that give rise to dry bones. Particularly, dry bones that don't smell bad.

"Syrupy residue," on the other hand, is not really my thing. And I guess it's not really most people's thing:

Getting the public to accept a process that strikes some as ghastly may be the biggest challenge. Psychopaths and dictators have used acid or lye to torture or erase their victims, and legislation to make alkaline hydrolysis available to the public in New York state was branded "Hannibal Lecter's bill" in a play on the movie character's sadism.

The appeal seems to be that this generates fewer emissions than cremation -- think of it as an elaborate sort of carbon sequestration. And it has to be better than pouring embalming fluid down the drain.

UPDATE(2008/05/08): Miguel Capriles writes:

[J]ust a quick comment about your post "Death, lye thou there": the reference to the "syrupy residue" made me recollect one of John Aubrey's Brief Lives when he tells about the coffin of John Colet, broken after the Great Fire of London in 1666. Aubrey tells (in modern English, as I got it on Google Books in a version published in 1982 by Boydell & Brewer):
"After the conflagration, his monument being broken, his coffin, which was lead, was full of a liquor which conserved the body. Mr Wyld and Ralph Greatorex tasted it and 'twas of a kind of insipid taste, something of an ironish taste. The body felt, to the probe of a stick which they thrust into a chink, like brawn. The coffin was of lead and laid in the wall about two and a half feet above the surface of the floor."
Definitively it should be a lot nicer in the English Aubrey used.

And that, my friends, is why it is cool to have a blog. Because my readers have much better imaginations than mine.

Ooooh, they tasted it?!