At What Point is a Human Considered Officially Dead?

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Zoe-Anne Barcellos:

Legally, you are not dead until someone says you are dead.

You can be pronounced or declared dead. Each state in the USA has its own statutes that cover this. Typically a doctor or nurse can pronounce, and everyone else (police officers, EMTs, firefighters) will declare death.

One of the hardest parts of my job is estimating the PMI, or the Post Mortem Interval. This is the amount of time that has elapsed since a person's biological processes have stopped and they were pronounced dead.

We use several methods to determine this—rigor mortis, algor mortis, palor mortis, stage of decomposition, insect activity, etc. But they are all an educated guess, and most coroners or medicolegal death investigators will tell you “sometime between the last credible witness of when they were alive and when they were pronounced.”

But any estimate given is in a time span of several hours to days. It is not like TV and movies where they narrow it down to minutes.

But the time listed on your death certificate is the time you were pronounced. If you were in the hospital, this most likely will be at, or very close to, the time your biological processes stopped, i.e. your heart stopped beating or breathing stopped. It could also be when you are declared “brain dead.” Brain death requires several specific tests, and it usually has to be done by more than one physician.

If you are not in the hospital at the time of your death, then it will be when someone finds you.

This can cause some legal issues with regard to inheritance, but that is usually determined in court. The death certificate will not be amended, as your time of death is when you are pronounced.

For example, neighbors report to police the sound of a gunshot. Police go and find Joe Brown with a SIGSW (self-inflicted gun shot wound), he is still warm and it is obvious that this just occurred. Medics come in and declare the death at 07:30 hours. Police are investigating the scene and several hours later find his wife decomposing in the basement (or solidly frozen in a freezer). Police don’t even call in medics, they declare her at that time. The wife’s time of death will be on the same date at 10:45. Obviously she has been dead much longer, but the time of death on the death certificate is when she was found.

Now let us assume they are wealthy, and both have children from earlier marriages. Then you can have a whole legal battle on your hands!

This post originally appeared on Quora. Click here to view.

Will the Sun Ever Stop Shining?

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iStock.com/VR_Studio

Viktor T. Toth:

The Sun will not stop shining for a very, very long time.

The Sun, along with the solar system, is approximately 4.5 billion years old. That is about one-third the age of the entire universe. For the next several billion years, the Sun is going to get brighter. Perhaps paradoxically, this will eventually result in a loss of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere, which is not good news; It will eventually lead to the death of plant life.

Within 2.5 to 3 billion years from now, the surface temperature of the Earth will exceed the boiling point of water everywhere. Within about about 4 to 5 billion years, the Earth will be in worse shape than Venus today, with most of the water gone, and the planet’s surface partially molten.

Eventually, the Sun will evolve into a red giant star, large enough to engulf the Earth. Its luminosity will be several thousand times its luminosity at present. Finally, with all its usable nuclear fuel exhausted and its outer layers ejected into space, the Sun’s core will settle down into the final stage of its evolution as a white dwarf. Such a star no longer produces energy through nuclear fusion, but it contains tremendous amounts of stored heat, in a very small volume (most of the mass of the Sun will be confined to a volume not much larger than the Earth). As such, it will cool very, very slowly.

It will take many more billions of years for the Sun to cool from an initial temperature of hundreds of thousands of degrees to its present-day temperature and below. But in the end, the remnant of the Sun will slowly fade from sight, becoming a brown dwarf: a cooling, dead remnant of a star.

This post originally appeared on Quora. Click here to view.

Why Do So Many Airports Have Chapels?

Inside Our Lady of the Airways Chapel at Boston Logan International Airport
Inside Our Lady of the Airways Chapel at Boston Logan International Airport

There are only so many ways to kill time during a long layover. You might browse the magazines at a Hudson News or take the time to test out a travel pillow or two. If it's a particularly trying travel day, you may want to while away a few hours at an airport bar. But if you’ve killed enough time in enough U.S. airports, you've probably noticed that most of them have chapels tucked into a corner of the terminal. Some of them are simple, some of them are ornate. Some cater specifically to members of one religion while others are interfaith. So where did they come from, and why are they there?

The biggest surprise in answering the latter part of that question might be that airport chapels weren't originally built for airport passengers at all. According to Smithsonian.com, the first U.S. airport chapel opened in 1951 at Boston's Logan International Airport and was specifically created for the airport’s Catholic staff, largely to offer mass services for workers on longer shifts.

Dubbed “Our Lady of the Airways,” Boston's airport chapel concept was quickly embraced by Catholic leaders around the country. In 1955, Our Lady of the Skies Chapel opened at New York City's Idlewild Airport (which was renamed John F. Kennedy International Airport in 1963). Other Catholic chapels followed.

In the 1960s, JFK added both a Protestant chapel and a Jewish synagogue to its terminals. By the 1980s, Protestant chapels had opened in the Atlanta and Dallas airports as well.

Single-faith chapels dissipated for the most part during the 1990s and into the new millennium. In 2008, The Christian Index ran a story about the changing face of on-the-go religious spaces and declared "Single-faith chapels a dying breed at U.S. airports." As interfaith chapels became the new normal, this inclusiveness extended to the chapels' patrons as well. Instead of remaining gathering places for airport employees, the chapels opened their doors to the millions of passengers traveling in and out of their cities each year.

Today, more than half of America's busiest airports feature chapels, the majority of which are interfaith. Most existing chapels are welcoming to people of all faiths and often include multiple religious symbols in the same room. They have become important spaces for meditation and reflection. Many of them still offer worship services for each of their represented practices, including places like the interfaith chapel at Washington Dulles International Airport, which hosts a Catholic mass on Saturday evenings as well as daily Jewish prayer services. Though each airport chapel is unique in design and services, they all endeavor to offer a much-needed spiritual refuge from the hassle of air travel.

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