Mary Roach

Author of Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers

Mary Roach

STIFF: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers; GULP: Adventures on the Food Canal, PACKING FOR MARS: The Curious Science of Life in the Void; and BONK: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex. Her latest book, GRUNT: War's Curious Human Science, will be out in June 2016. Mary has written for, among others, National Geographic, Wired, Discover, New Scientist, Clinical Anatomy Journal, and Outside. She is a member of the Advisory Board of Mars Institu... tes and the American Heritage Dictionary Usage Panel. Her 2009 TED talk made the Twenty Most-Watched To Date list of organizations in 2011. She was the guest editor of the 2011 Best American Science and Nature Writing, a finalist for the 2014 Royal Society Winton Prize, and a winner of the American Engineering Societies Engineering Journalism Award, in a category for which she was the sole entrant, let's be honest.READ MORE

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there is a photograph of zugibe and one of his volunteers in the aforementioned sindon article. zugibe is dressed in a knee-length white lab coat and is shown adjusting one of the vital sign leads affixed to the man's chest. the cross reaches almost to the ceiling, towering over zugibe and his bank of medical monitors. the volunteer is naked except for a pair of gym shorts and a hearty mustache. he wears the unconcerned, mildly zoned-out expression of a person waiting at a bus stop. neither man appears to have been self-conscious about being photographed this way. i think that when you get yourself down deep into a project like this, you lose sight of how odd you must appear to the rest of the world.

The way I see it, being dead is not terribly far off from being on a cruise ship. Most of your time is spent lying on your back. The brain has shut down. The flesh begins to soften. Nothing much new happens, and nothing is expected of you.

The human head is of the same approximate size and weight as a roaster chicken. I have never before had occasion to make the comparison, for never before today have I seen a head in a roasting pan.

Worry lives a long way from rational thought."---Self

I walk up and down the rows. The heads look like rubber halloween masks. They also look like human heads, but my brain has no precedent for human heads on tables or in roasting pans or anywhere other than on top of a human bodies, and so I think it has chosen to interpret the sight in a more comforting manner. - Here we are at the rubber mask factory. Look at the nice men and woman working on the masks.

Footnote: In 1998, a woman in Saline, Michigan received a patent for a Decorative Penile Wrap...The patent included three pages of drawings, including a penis wearing a ghost outfit, another in the robes of the Grim Reaper, and one dressed up to look like a snowman.

The paper does not provide the exact number of penises eaten by ducks, but the author says there have been enough over the years to prompt the coining of a popular saying: 'I better get home or the ducks will have something to eat.

It is astounding to me, and achingly sad, that with eighty thousand people on the waiting list for donated hearts and livers and kidneys, with sixteen a day dying there on that list, that more then half of the people in the position H's family was in will say no, will choose to burn those organs or let them rot. We abide the surgeon's scalpel to save our own lives, out loved ones' lives, but not to save a stranger's life. H has no heart, but heartless is the last thing you'd call her.

It is the mind that speaks a woman's heart, not the vaginal walls.

Death. It doesn't have to be boring.

All good research-whether for science or for a book-is a form of obsession.

Life contains these things: leakage and wickage and discharge, pus and snot and slime and gleet. We are biology. We are reminded of this at the beginning and the end, at birth and at death. In between we do what we can to forget.

Instead, I quietly excused myself and went to the bar, to commune with spirits I know how to relate to.

Here is the secret to surviving one of these [airplane] crashes: Be male. In a 1970 Civil Aeromedical institute study of three crashes involving emergency evacuations, the most prominent factor influencing survival was gender (followed closely by proximity to exit). Adult males were by far the most likely to get out alive. Why? Presumably because they pushed everyone else out of the way.

I agree with Dr. Makris. Does that mean I would let someone blow up my dead foot to help save the feet of NATO land mine clearers? It does. And would I let someone shoot my dead face with a nonlethal projectile to help prevent accidental fatalities? I suppose I would. What wouldn't I let someone do to my remains? I can think of only one experiment I know of that, were I a cadaver, I wouldn't want anything to do with. This particular experiment wasn't done in the name of science or education or safer cars or better-protected soldiers. It was done in the name of religion.

Here's the other thing I think about. It makes little sense to try to control what happens to your remains when you are no longer around to reap the joys or benefits of that control. People who make elaborate requests concerning disposition of their bodies are probably people who have trouble with the concept of not existing. [...] I imagine it is a symptom of the fear, the dread, of being gone, of the refusal to accept that you no longer control, or even participate in, anything that happens on earth. I spoke about this with funeral director Kevin McCabe, who believes that decisions concerning the disposition of a body should be mad by the survivors, not the dead. "It's non of their business what happens to them whey the die," he said to me. While I wouldn't go that far, I do understand what he was getting at: that the survivors shouldn't have to do something they're uncomfortable with or ethically opposed to. Mourning and moving on are hard enough. Why add to the burden? If someone wants to arrange a balloon launch of the deceased's ashes into inner space, that's fine. But if it is burdensome or troubling for any reason, then perhaps they shouldn't have to.

Religion says that your soul goes to heaven or possibly to a seven-tiered garden, or that your soul is reincarnated into a new body, or that you lie around in your coffin clothes until the Second Coming. And, of course, only one of these can be true. Which means that for millions of people, religion will turn out to have been a bum steer as regards the hereafter. (13)

In the words of the late Francis Crick...You, your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules. (13)

You do not question an author who appears on the title page as "T.V.N. Persaud, M.D., Ph.D., D.Sc., F.R.C.Path. (Lond.), F.F.Path. (R.C.P.I.), F.A.C.O.G.

You are a person and then you cease to be a person, and a cadaver takes your place.

Sharing a room with a cadaver is only mildly different from being in a room alone.
They are the same sort of company as people across from you on subways or in airport lounges, there but not there. Your eyes keep going back to them, for lack of anything more interesting to look at, and then you feel bad for staring.

A bright light at the end of a tunnel can seem warm and inviting, or it can seem mysterious and terrifying. People of the world "all working on their arts and crafts" can seem like heaven or, if you're me, hell.

One young woman's tribute describes unwrapping her cadaver's hands and being brought up short by the realization that the nails were painted pink. "The pictures in the anatomy atlas did not show nail polish", she wrote. "Did you choose the color? Did you think that I would see it? I wanted to tell you about the inside of your hands. I want you to know you are always there when I see patients. When I palpate an abdomen, yours are the organs I imagine. When I listen to a heart, I recall holding your heart.

Ka was the essence of teh person: spirit, intelligence, feelings and passions, humor, grudges, annoying television theme songs, all the things that make a person a person and not a nematode.

Hormones are nature's three bottles of beer.

Yes, the money could be better spent on Earth. But would it? Since when has money saved by government redlining been spent on education and cancer research? It is always squandered. Let's squander some on Mars. Let's go out and play.

Anne Marie's beauty and style belie a down-and-dirty education in the particulars of practical AI (artificial insemination). She has miked a boar of his prodigious ejaculate--over two hundred milliliters (a cup), as compared to a man's three milliliters--and she has done it with her hand. For, unlike stallions and bulls, boars don't cotton to artificial vaginas. (in part, because their penis, like their tail, is corkscrewed.) AI techs must squeeze the organ in their hand--hard and without letup--for the entire duration of the ejaculation: from five to fifteen minutes. "You should see the size of their hands," she says, of the men and women who regular ejaculate boars.

Sexual desire is a state not unlike hunger.

In my experience, the most staunchly held views are based on ignorance or accepted dogma, not carefully considered accumulations of facts. The more you expose the intricacies and realtities of the situation, the less clear-cut things become.

Dogma   Facts   Science   Spook

There, just beyond his open palm, was our mother’s face. I wasn’t expecting it. We hadn’t requested a viewing, and the memorial service was closed-coffin. We got it anyway. They’d shampooed and waved her hair and made up her face. They’d done a great job, but I felt taken, as if we’d asked for the basic carwash and they’d gone ahead and detailed her. Hey, I wanted to say, we didn’t order this. But of course I said nothing. Death makes us helplessly polite.

the act of vomiting deserves your respect. It's an orchestral event of the gut.

Every mode of travel has its signature mental aberration.

No one is excluded from the astronaut corps based on penis size.

The nobility of the human spirit grows harder for me to believe in. War, zealotry, greed, malls, narcissism. I see a backhanded nobility in excessive, impractical outlays of cash prompted by nothing loftier than a species joining hands and saying I bet we can do this. Yes, the money could be better spent on Earth. But would it? Since when has money saved by government red-lining been spent on education and cancer research? It is always squandered. Let’s squander some on Mars. Let’s go out and play.

Borman's dumping urine. Urine [in] approximately one minute." Two lines further along, we see Lovell saying, "What a sight to behold!

As when astronaut Mike Mulhane was asked by a NASA psychiatrist what epitaph he'd like to have on his gravestone, Mulhane answered, "A loving husband and devoted father," though in reality, he jokes in "Riding Rockets," "I would have sold my wife and children into slavery for a ride into space.

My interpreter Sayuri is folding a piece of notebook paper. She is at step 21, where the crane's body is inflated. The directions show a tiny puff besides an arrow pointing at the bird. It makes sense if you already know what to do. Otherwise, it's wonderfully surreal:
Put a cloud inside a bird.

I remember watching Morin walk away from me, the endearing gait and the butt that got lubed for science, and thinking, 'Oh my god, they're just people.

I am very much out of my element here. There are moments, listening to the conversations going on around me, when I feel I am going to lose my mind. Earlier today, I heard someone say the words, "I felt at one with the divine source of creation." Mary Roach on a conducted tour of Hades. I had to fight the urge to push back my chair and start screaming: STAND BACK! ALL OF YOU! I'VE GOT AN ARTHUR FINDLAY BOX CUTTER! Instead, I quietly excused myself and went to the bar, to commune with spirits I know how to relate to.

The suffix 'naut' comes from the Greek and Latin words for ships and sailing.
Astronaut
suggests 'a sailor in space.'
Chimponaut
suggests 'a chimpanzee in sailor pants'.

Many people will find this book disrespectful. There is nothing amusing about being dead, they will say. Ah, but there is.

Space doesn't just encompass the sublime and the ridiculous. It erases the line between.

NASA might do well to adopt the Red Bull approach to branding and astronautics. Suddenly the man in the spacesuit is not an underpaid civil servant; he's the ultimate extreme athlete. Red Bull knows how to make space hip.

There wasn't an anhydrous lacrimal gland in the house, writes the author in all seriousness describing a memorial service for a medical school's cadavers.

We are biology. We are reminded of this at the beginning and the end, at birth and at death. In between we do what we can to forget.

To the rocket scientist, you are a problem. You are the most irritating piece of machinery he or she will ever have to deal with. You and your fluctuating metabolism, your puny memory, your frame that comes in a million different configurations. You are unpredictable. You're inconstant. You take weeks to fix. The engineer must worry about the water and oxygen and food you'll need in space, about how much extra fuel it will take to launch your shrimp cocktail and irradiated beef tacos. A solar cell or a thruster nozzle is stable and undemanding. It does not excrete or panic or fall in love with the mission commander. It has no ego. Its structural elements don't start to break down without gravity, and it works just fine without sleep.
To me, you are the best thing to happen to rocket science. The human being is the machine that makes the whole endeavor so endlessly intriguing.

I began thinking about my skeleton, this solid, beautiful thing inside me that I would never see.

Entomologists have a name for young flies, but it is an ugly name, an insult. Let's not use the word "maggot." Let's use a pretty word. Let's use "hacienda.

Gravitation is the lust of the cosmos.

Viagra isn't the only drug being prescribed off-label for women with arousal problems. Los Angeles urologist Jennifer Berman told me some doctors are prescribing low doses of Ritalin. Drugs like Ritalin improve a person's focus, so it stands to reason that it would make it easier to stay attuned to subtle changes taking place in one's body. 'It enables a woman to focus o the task at hand,' said Berman, managing, though surely not intending, to make sex sound like homework.

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