Down on the Body Farm

A "body farm" is a facility for research on decomposing bodies. It can also be a training ground for criminal investigators. The fifth body farm in the US is preparing to open in Pennsylvania, which will give researchers a new environment to study.
"It's so environment specific," said Dr. Richard L. Jantz, Professor Emeritus and Director of the Forensic Anthropology Center at the University of Tennessee. "In east Tennessee, it's not humid in the summer and it doesn't get that cold, but in the southwest, it's hot and dry all the time and things proceed differently."

Cold weather generally slows the rate of decomposition, while heat, direct sunlight, and high humidity all accelerate it. A buried body, exposed to fewer elements, will decompose more slowly than one on the surface, but acidic soil and high soil moisture can work to speed up the process. The California University of Pennsylvania body farm, to be located in the southwestern corner of the state in a humid continental climate, will be subject to hot, humid summers (with an occasional heatwave); cold, snowy winters; and regular precipitation throughout the year. These climatic conditions, distinct from those in Texas, North Carolina and Tennessee, will likely affect corpses in undocumented ways and provide ample opportunity for new research.

Over 100 people each year donate their bodies for research on the farms. Read more about body farms at The Atlantic. Link -via Not Exactly Rocket Science

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The first time I ever heard about a body farm was when I read Patricia Cornwell's book 'Body Farm'... and for me- that's exactly what came to mind when I read this post. I think it is a good thing to do with your body, though, if you want to donate it to something- they've learned a whole lot about death and forensics from places like this.
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I plan on donating my body to a body farm. I don't want to be embalmed so hopefully I'll die in a state that has a body farm since most states require embalming for a body to moved across state lines.

And to themonkey -- every body is documented and very well accounted for so if someone was to dump a body there, they would know as soon as they saw it there. Everything is extremely organized to the point that if anything is amiss, they see it immediately.
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My first impulse is why would anyone want to donate their body to something like that...!?

But then again, if you're dead you're not going to care where your body is, and, assuming you don't get cremated (or pickled), you'll be rotting anyway, whether you're at the body farm or the traditional hole.
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I read about these in the book Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach. It's a very interesting book about funeral rituals in different cultures, all the things people do with their bodies, etc. Her writing style is very funny, sort of dry and colorful like David Sedaris', so it's an easy read.
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