Q: Ever heard of the world-renowned "dead body farm" at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville? It's the sort of place that piques the curiosity, both morbid and scientific.
A: In secluded parts of the campus, bodies of human donors are left to decompose naturally some in the sun, some in the shade, some buried or wrapped in coverings, says Cornelia Reichert in "New Scientist" magazine. The aim is to gain information to help police and pathologists solve potential homicide cases, where cadavers turn up in various places and under suspicious circumstances. One common place is along a coast, possibly a suicide or an accident victim.
Often there is little that forensic medicine can offer, leaving bereaved relatives with tragic uncertainty. Hence forensic entomologist Gail Anderson has set up an underwater version of the body farm, using pigs (humanely slaughtered) to study the decomposition process. Contrary to what happens to bodies on land, where the head usually goes first, marine fauna will leave the head and face until last. So when a body with facial wounds but otherwise unharmed is washed up, Anderson is confident that foul play was involved. "It's a macabre project but one of potentially immense value to the families of those lost at sea."
Q: We humans have many a way of dealing with our aches and pains, ranging from going to a doctor to cursing. But there's a hipper modality that needs no prescription, has no unwanted side effects and offends no one's ears. Hospitals are aware of this computer connection, helpful for coping with stress, improving memory and sleep, even speeding recovery after surgery. So, best not to write this one off ....
A: Right, it's blogging, the newest thing in the healing e-arts. Scientists (and writers) have long known about the therapeutic benefits of writing about personal experiences, thoughts and feelings, says Jessica Wapner in "Scientific American." A modern electronic version of ancient journal writing, blogging is basically a way of complaining to potentially like-minded people, and as such is self-administered therapy, a sort of personal placebo. This self-expression has even been found to help cancer patients, who feel markedly better both mentally and physically afterward, compared with those not writing. Hospitals have started hosting patient-authored blogs on their Web sites, encouraging a community of connected recoverers.
Q: My coworkers and I were discussing the recent purchase of Anheuser-Busch by InBev for $50 billion. Here's what we'd like to know. What would that amount look like if it were delivered in $100 bills packaged in suitcases (like they do in the movies)?
A Lyndhurst, Ohio reader
A: $50 billion in $100 bills figures to 500 million bills. Data from EHD.org (Endowment for Human Development) suggest 1,000 bills stack to about 4.3 inches, meaning the 500 million bills would stack to about 180,000 feet, or 35 miles. But that's a single tall stack, not suitcase stacks. Assuming a suitcase that is 18 inches by 12 inches, and a bill that is about 2 1/2 inches by 6 inches, then 2 rows of stacks at 7 across (14 stacks) could fit comfortably inside. Further assuming the suitcase to be 6 inches deep, the 14 stacks would total seven feet. Since the tall stack of bills tallies to 180,000 feet, and only 7 feet go into a suitcase, then 180,000/7 = about 25,000 suitcases to hold the entire $50 billion!Hey, how about updating those old movies and doing a monetary electronic transfer instead. That way everybody can get to their beers a whole lot sooner.
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