JAN 18, 2016 10:44 AM PST

The Science Behind Death

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham

The macabre study of how bodies decompose is known as forensic anthropology. Experts in this field are often called upon to assist in identifying the cause of death and the age of the decaying body. Morbid as the job may sound, forensic anthropologists provide crucial information to not only solve crimes, but also to explore our human past and understand our inevitable future.

Outdoor forensic anthropology research labs are often referred to as "body farms," a sensational moniker that's not actually literal. There are currently six facilities of this nature in the United States.

Using donated bodies, scientists here study the rate of human decomposition in various conditions. Although human remains go through the same stages of decomposition, how fast this process takes depends largely on where decomposition takes place. Here, researchers do not miss any single detail of how a body turns to dust, including the indescribable scent of decomposition. Watch the video to learn more about how forensic anthropologists investigate the smells of decomposing bodies.
About the Author
  • I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
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