During a snow storm last year, several cows managed to wander into a ranger cabin where they have stayed ever since. Alas, the cows have not been playing house—they died in the cabin, and there they remain, dead and frozen. Rangers at Conundrum Hot Springs are now faced with removing several tons of dead, frozen cow from the remote mountain spot. If not, the slowly decomposing bodies could attract predators and cause contamination.
So here’s the dynamite idea they’ve proposed: blow ’em up to smithereens and radically speed up the decomposition process. Lucky for the rangers, the USDA happens to have a protocol detailing every step of this process—including diagrams of where to place the explosives.
Because this diagram is optimized for a horse, it includes species-specific pro tips like, “Horseshoes should be removed to minimize dangerous flying debris.” The full protocol also includes a second, more complicated diagram of where to pack explosives on a frozen animal such as these cows. It ends with this note: “Carcasses that have been partially obliterated will generally not show any trace of existence the next day.” Good to know.
[via Improbable Research]
In 2004, a street in Taiwan got showered in whale guts. The putrefying whale was on route to a necropsy when pent-up gas blew a hole in its body and entrails spewed onto unfortunate passersby. One hundred to 200 million years earlier, an ichthyosaur—a dolphin-looking marine reptile contemporary to dinosaurs—died and became a fossil. Since embryos were scattered around the ichthyosaur mother’s body, some paleontologists believed the decaying animal had met an end as explosive as the whale’s.
The exploding-carcass theory has been used to explain why so many ichthyosaur fossils have been found with embryos ejected or bones oddly scattered. But as with old bones, evidence is frustratingly thin: the theory was mostly based on exploding whales as proof of principal. Scientists who want to test this hypothesis today don’t have any ichthyosaur carcasses at their disposal…but there are a lot of humans around now, many of them dead. A new study measuring gas pressure in 100 bloating human carcasses found the pressure (0.035 bar) to be nowhere near high enough to cause an explosion underwater (more than 5 to 15 bar).