Moving On

We can read or watch programs on studies of very old bone, or merely old bones, very frequently these days. It is amazing how much insight the paleontologists are able to gain about the lifestyle of our distant ancestors from what would seem to be insignificant details. The spirit of Sherlock Holmes is alive and well in the TV studios.

What about the distant future? Will there be a search for our bones, and if there should be, will they be able to draw meaningful conclusions? The chunks of metal from screws, pins, and hip joints will be self-explanatory, but what about silicone implants and PTFE chin extensions?

Cremations are a solution chosen by lots of people these days, so they will be out of the picture, but this brings up another question. How green is cremation?  The BBC report that 16% of the airborne mercury in the UK is from the output from crematoria (1).

Also reported in the same article are two new innovative alternatives. One of these has two competing producers of the equipment, one in Scotland and one in Australia. This method involves pressure cooking in an alkali solution so all our lipids are turned into soap and we can be flushed down the drain, leaving bones, metals, such as used for repairs to bones and teeth, but also polymer implants. The bones are then crushed as in crematoria, but I guess they have to be manually processed to remove the metal and polymer extras.

An alternative is being developed in Sweden where the plan is to freeze the body with liquid nitrogen and then vibrate it with gusto. The body is very brittle at that temperature and breaks up into small pieces. The metals and, presumably the polymers, can be sieved out and the rest composted.


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