Stiff By Mary Roach

Mary Roach’s humorous writing style brings some relief to the morbid subject of human cadavers.

RATING: 3.7/5



  • The human head is of the same approximate size and weight as a roaster chicken.
  • Human remain dogs can pinpoint the location of a corpse at the bottom of a lake by sniffing the water’s surface for the gases and fats that float up from the rotting remains. They can detect the lingering scent molecules of a decomposing body up to 14 months after the killer lugged it away. 
  • Car hoods are designed so that even in relatively minor accidents they completely jackknife, the idea being that the more the car crumbles, the less you do.
  • Without a functioning brain, a body will not breathe on its own. But hook it up to a respirator and its heart will beat, and the rest of its organs will, for a matter of days, continue to thrive.
  • The British investigators know what butchers have long known: If you want people to feel comfortable about dead bodies, cut them into pieces. A cow carcass is upsetting; a brisket is dinner.
  • It’s the reason we say “pork” and “beef” instead of “pig” and “cow.” Dissection and surgical instruction, like meat-eating, require a carefully maintained set of illusions and denial.
  • To quantify the “benefit” side of the equation, a dollar amount is assigned to each saved human life. As calculated by the Urban Institute in 1991, you are worth $2.7 million.

  • Whereas the larger caliber .45 Colt revolver bullets caused the cattle to drop to the ground after three or four shots, the animals shot with smaller caliber .38 bullets failed even after ten shots to drop to the ground.

See also:

Packing For Mars By Mary Roach

6 thoughts on “Stiff By Mary Roach

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