Feeds

Can a corpse burp?

Excuse me?

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

Also in this week's column:

Can a corpse burp?

CAN A CORPSE BURP?

Asked by Gail Akami of Birmingham, United Kingdom

No, if one means "burp" in the usual sense of the belch of a living human.

"Corpse burping" confusion may come from one of two sources. First, in 1998, much attention was paid to the case of a supposed "burping corpse". According to the report, particularly popular in the US tabloid press at the time, allegedly the embalming of a Los Angeles man named Henry Galestor was postponed due to the mortician's observation that the dead man's stomach "was convulsing every six or seven minutes".

He supposedly described the convulsing as "burping". This observation was confirmed by a forensic scientist who supposedly wished to study the corpse. The story rather quickly achieved the status of urban legend.

Second, those familiar with what happens when the human body dies are well aware of the fact that a decomposing body will undergo a liquefaction process as tissue breaks down by a combination of bacteria and enzyme action. These liquefied substances of a decaying body can be highly volatile. They can create gases. Under the right circumstances, these gases can cause a small explosion.

Knowing this, the funeral industry uses seals of the casket designed to give way somewhat before enough pressure builds inside a casket to cause an explosion. In the funeral industry, this action of the seals giving way is sometimes euphemistically called "burping". No, a corpse does not "burp" - or say "excuse me" afterwards.

Stephen Juan, Ph.D. is an anthropologist at the University of Sydney. Email your Odd Body questions to s.juan@edfac.usyd.edu.au

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
Antarctic ice THICKER than first feared – penguin-bot boffins
Robo-sub scans freezing waters, rocks warming models
Your PHONE is slowly KILLING YOU
Doctors find new Digitillnesses - 'text neck' and 'telepressure'
SEX BEAST SEALS may be egging each other on to ATTACK PENGUINS
Boffin: 'I think the behaviour is increasing in frequency'
Reuse the Force, Luke: SpaceX's Elon Musk reveals X-WING designs
And a floating carrier for recyclable rockets
The next big thing in medical science: POO TRANSPLANTS
Your brother's gonna die, kid, unless we can give him your, well ...
NASA launches new climate model at SC14
75 days of supercomputing later ...
Britain's HUMAN DNA-strewing Moon mission rakes in £200k
3 days, and Kickstarter moves lander 37% nearer takeoff
prev story

Whitepapers

10 ways wire data helps conquer IT complexity
IT teams can automatically detect problems across the IT environment, spot data theft, select unique pieces of transaction payloads to send to a data source, and more.
Why CIOs should rethink endpoint data protection in the age of mobility
Assessing trends in data protection, specifically with respect to mobile devices, BYOD, and remote employees.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Business security measures using SSL
Examines the major types of threats to information security that businesses face today and the techniques for mitigating those threats.