The Greenest Way to Die

We're a bit morbid here at mentalfloss lately (Miss C and her corpses; me and my serial killers), which today I've decided to just embrace and get on with it. To that end, I think we've all pondered at one time or another the best way to dispose of your body after you've shuffled off this mortal coil, and to my thinking, none of them sound very good. I could list the ways, but I really think Monty Python does an admirable job in their famous, gross-out "Undertaker" sketch:

With that in mind, you'll be happy to know that there's now an alternative to the nastiness burning, burying, "dumping" or eating your dead, (as outlined in the above sketch), and it's greener, too. Cremation uses somewhere on the order of 250 kWh of power, and is anything but emission-free; most burials in the western world involve a big clunky coffin sporting plenty of metals that aren't going to break down anytime soon; it's essentially littering! But the awesomely-named Magnus Hølvold over at Ecogeek just turned me on to a new way to die: resomation.

Basically, we're talking liquification. (I couldn't find a picture; you're welcome.) Here's how it works:

Within a tank called a resomator, the body is immersed in a 1:21 solution of potash lye and water. Gas-powered steam generators build up pressure within the tank as the temperature rises up to around 170 degrees celcius. Thanks to the pressure (and despite what the general news media would have you think) there is no boiling, only a chemical reaction that completely liquefies everything but the bone ash in our bodies. When the tank is opened, only the bone ash and any implants or prosthetics the person had remain.

If that still sounds gross and unpleasant (kinda reminds me of that scene in Silence of the Lambs ... oh, never mind), consider this: what results from the process, bone ash and amino-acid-rich person-liquid, is absolutely pollutant- and byproduct-free; a nutrient-rich soup perfect for fertilizing plants. Also, whatever expensive prosthetics the body in question had hiding in their knees or hearts can be removed and re-used, as they'll be undamaged by the process. And the whole shebang uses less than 100 kWh of power. (Above: bone ash. Below: a schematic of the resomator.
For more info (and bookings!) check out Resomation Ltd.

The Secret World War II History Hidden in London's Fences

In South London, the remains of the UK’s World War II history are visible in an unlikely place—one that you might pass by regularly and never take a second look at. In a significant number of housing estates, the fences around the perimeter are actually upcycled medical stretchers from the war, as the design podcast 99% Invisible reports.

During the Blitz of 1940 and 1941, the UK’s Air Raid Precautions department worked to protect civilians from the bombings. The organization built 60,000 steel stretchers to carry injured people during attacks. The metal structures were designed to be easy to disinfect in case of a gas attack, but that design ended up making them perfect for reuse after the war.

Many London housing developments at the time had to remove their fences so that the metal could be used in the war effort, and once the war was over, they were looking to replace them. The London County Council came up with a solution that would benefit everyone: They repurposed the excess stretchers that the city no longer needed into residential railings.

You can tell a stretcher railing from a regular fence because of the curves in the poles at the top and bottom of the fence. They’re hand-holds, designed to make it easier to carry it.

Unfortunately, decades of being exposed to the elements have left some of these historic artifacts in poor shape, and some housing estates have removed them due to high levels of degradation. The Stretcher Railing Society is currently working to preserve these heritage pieces of London infrastructure.

As of right now, though, there are plenty of stretchers you can still find on the streets. If you're in the London area, this handy Google map shows where you can find the historic fencing.

[h/t 99% Invisible]

Custom-Design the Ugly Christmas Sweater of Your Dreams (or Nightmares)

For those of you aspiring to be the worst dressed person at your family's holiday dinner, sells—you guessed it—ugly Christmas sweaters to seasonal revelers possessing a sense of irony. But the Michigan-based online retailer has elevated kitsch to new heights by offering a create-your-own-sweater tool on its website.

Simply visit the site's homepage, and click on the Sweater Customizer link. There, you'll be provided with a basic sweater template, which you can decorate with festive snowflakes, reindeer, and other designs in five different colors. If you're feeling really creative, you can even upload photos, logos, hand-drawn pictures, and/or text. After you approve and purchase a mock-up of the final design, you can purchase the final result (prices start at under $70). But you'd better act quickly: due to high demand, orders will take about two weeks plus shipping time to arrive.


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