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  • Hey, Vsauce. Michael here. And when you die,

  • what happens to your body? It can be buried

  • or cremated or donated to science,

  • but are those your only options? I mean,

  • what if I wanted to be taxidermied, like my friend here?

  • What if I requested to have my body stuffed and mounted in some hilarious

  • position, like

  • a permanent high five, so people could high five

  • my actual skin forever?

  • Well, it turns out to be quite complicated.

  • So let's begin with an easier and more flexible solution.

  • Cremation and ashes. Twelve

  • humans have walked on the Moon. But

  • 300 humans have been buried in outer space.

  • With the right connections and budget you can have a portion of your

  • ashes launched into space. The very first space burial

  • occurred in 1997, when a rocket deposited the ashes

  • of 24 people into orbit around Earth.

  • In 1999, human remains were first

  • buried on the Moon. A lunar prospector probe dropped some scientific

  • instruments

  • and some of the cremated remains of Eugene Shoemaker,

  • co-discoverer of the comet ShoemakerLevy 9.

  • But the first human to have their remains

  • leave our solar system will be

  • Clyde Tombaugh, the guy who discovered Pluto.

  • In 2006, some of his ashes were launched aboard the New Horizons probe,

  • which will arrive near Pluto in 2015,

  • take some recordings and pictures and then continue on

  • beyond our solar system. You don't need to get all

  • outer spacey to have fun with you ashes. Right here on earth

  • there are companies that will take carbon from your remains and expose them to

  • extreme heat and pressure

  • long enough that you wind up with a diamond

  • made out of you. It can be cut and polished. One woman even had it done with

  • the

  • ashes of "Meowy," her cat.

  • The point here is that you can be quite creative

  • with cremated remains. But ashes don't

  • look like you did when you were alive, so let's revisit

  • taxidermy. The shapes and combinations that animals have been taxidermied into

  • are quite creative. For instance, an actual

  • pig turned into an actual piggy bank.

  • A bird light fixture. A goat

  • that's also a bagpipe.

  • Doves turned into

  • shoes. And, of course, the guy who taxidermied his

  • cat into a remote-controlled quadcopter.

  • Taxidermy doesn't preserve

  • every part of your body. It is taxi

  • dermy - the arrangement of skin,

  • which is okay. I mean, taxidermy won't bother to preserve

  • all of your internal organs, but your skin

  • is your largest organ. Your skin comprises anywhere from 12 to 15 percent

  • of your total body weight plus it's an organ that people

  • see and recognize you by. But here's one of the problems.

  • When animals are taxidermied, their skin is removed and then mounted

  • on a mannequin. A shape that resembles the animal,

  • but is made of wood or wall and wire or foam.

  • That's fine for museums. But the use of a generic

  • mannequin can lead to an animal that looks generic.

  • All of the tiny, subtle, but very important features of the animals'

  • cartilage, fat, muscles are more difficult to recreate

  • after it's dead and all you have is its skin.

  • That's why many taxidermists hesitate

  • to taxidermy a person's beloved pet.

  • Because in order to satisfy the client, an immense amount of specificity is

  • required.

  • Even more so if you were trying to recreate a person.

  • So, taxidermy may not be the best way to preserve yourself

  • or your daddy or your mummy... Mummies.

  • What about them? Well, let's go back to the 19th century

  • and Jeremy Bentham. When he died, the philosopher requested that his body be

  • mummified as best as technology would allow and his body dressed up in clothes

  • and displayed at the University College of London. It periodically still

  • is, but the mummification didn't turn out perfectl, so he's really just

  • a skeleton dressed up in clothes and stuffed.

  • The head wound up looking a bit too wrinkled and the color was off

  • and so a wax head was made. You can check out a 3D photograph

  • of Jeremy Bentham online. And who could forget

  • the dried out mummified middle finger of Galileo?

  • We still have it and it's on display in Florence.

  • It's a great thing to visit if you want a pivotal historical figure

  • to flip you off. But we're looking for a way to preserve ourselves

  • realistically, as we appear while living.

  • So, let's take a look at embalming. Not

  • all corpses are embalmed before they're buried, but embalming

  • is a great technique for preserving a body,

  • slowing down decomposition, so it can stay above ground and

  • be displayed a little bit longer. Now, if

  • a body is embalmed really really well it can be preserved

  • longer than you might think. Abraham Lincoln was embalmed so well

  • that even though his coffin has been moved 17 times

  • since he was buried and the casket opened five times,

  • on each of those occasions, including the most recent in 1901,

  • people said "yeah, still looks like Lincoln."

  • On an even more extreme scale are the bodies of people like Mao

  • and Lenin, which continue to be on display

  • to this day. The bodies require special treatments multiple times a week.

  • The exact techniques and embalming fluids used to preserve Lenin

  • are kept secret, but they've kept him preserved for more than

  • 80 years. Well embalmed bodies can be displayed

  • before being buried in more positions than just

  • lying down in a coffin. For instance, leaned up against a wall

  • or riding a motorcycle.

  • Wow. But embalming

  • doesn't last for ever, and if you try to make it last forever

  • be prepared to spend a lot of money and time.

  • One method that could be used on humans and has become popular with pets

  • is similar to instant coffee. Freeze-drying.

  • The process involves freezing the animal,

  • so that all of its water solidifies. And then using a partial vacuum with the

  • pressure so low

  • that the solid water instantly turns into vapor

  • and escapes away, leaving a much much lighter

  • freeze-dried pet.

  • Unfortunately, when it comes to preserving a human

  • body, as realistically as possible after death,

  • these methods - freeze-drying, mummification,

  • taxidermy, long-term embalming are either

  • unsatisfactory or impractical.

  • With the exception possibly of a slightly newer method -

  • plastination. It's the method used to prepare bodies for exhibits

  • like Body Worlds. Essentially plastination involves a specimen

  • soaked in a volatile solvent and then placed in a

  • polymer solution. In a low-pressure environment

  • the volatile solvent leaves the specimen and

  • the empty space is filled with the polymer solution.

  • The specimen is flexible and can be put into a pose

  • and then the polymer hardened by using special gases.

  • Human bodies that have been plastinated last a very long time,

  • even at room temperature. But here's the crazy thing.

  • It's free. You can quite easily donate your body

  • to the Institute for Plastination. It counts as donating your body to science.

  • But here's the thing: you won't necessarily have control

  • over what's done with your body,

  • because at the end of the day corpses are legally

  • not property. No one owns

  • a corpse. Because a corpse

  • is not legally a piece of property, no one can just

  • do whatever they want with it. Your options are severely

  • limited and even if you you specifically have requested,

  • say, that your body be taxidermied and all of your surviving can agree and

  • want it to happen,

  • it's very unlikely that a mortuary would allow that to happen,

  • and, historically, the law sides

  • with the mortuary. For example,

  • in 1994, David Eugene Russell requested that when he died

  • his body be skinned, his skin tanned in the leather

  • and that leather used to bind a book of his writings.

  • He wanted this to happen, as did his surviving widow.

  • But the mortuary refused to do it and the court sided with the mortuary. So,

  • even if you have a really cool idea for how your body could be

  • embalmed forever and displayed in a funny, weird or

  • bizarre way, you're not going to get permission to do so.

  • Plastination winds up being one of your only options, but you won't have a

  • lot of control over

  • what happens to you once plastinated.

  • But hold on a second. In 1998,

  • Anthony-Noel Kelly was arrested for stealing anatomical specimens from the

  • Royal College

  • of Surgeons. Now, he claimed that he was not guilty of theft,

  • because a corpse is not a piece of property. He was merely guilty

  • of the mistreatment of a corpse. But the judge ruled

  • that because these anatomical specimens had been especially prepared by

  • licensed and skilled workers at the college,

  • they had become property. So here's something really strange.

  • If you found a way to get your body taxidermied,

  • for the benefit of medical science,

  • in doing so you may actually become

  • a piece of ownable property. So, in a way,

  • bean taxidermied may be the best