You're going to think that I'm becoming a little obsessed with death. In my last post, I wrote about using an "online locker" to preserve your digital heritage after you've shuffled off this mortal coil. Now, I've run across the idea for a coffin that can be screwed, yes screwed, into the ground. See, that's you up there (well, your empty shell of a body) being put into the screw-like coffin. The idea is that coffin would then be torqued into the ground, either by machine or even by hand. California inventor Donald Scruggs came up with the idea, and now has a patent for it. From the patent application: "[the] burial containers...provide low cost internment methods with hermetic sealing, security locking, plaque and memorial markers and built in flower and flag receptacles." Nice.
But you're screaming, "Why?" Good question. Again, from the patent application: "[the coffins] greatly reduce excavation labor and burial costs...they also decrease the land space required for each burial and provide for burials in normally unused areas within the cemetery."
The patent application didn't mention that the screw-in would also provide a number of great jokes at the deceased's expense, but it's one of the reasons I'm giving this a thumbs up. You can read more about it, courtesy of Treehugger.
The screw-in coffin also got me wondering about other interesting ways one might go about disposing of oneself. Here are five for your consideration, in order of my own personal preference.
5) Turn Yourself Into Goo with Alkaline Hydrolysis. All it takes is lye, several hundred degrees of heat and a big stainless steel cylinder that, essentially, acts like a pressure cooker. You are, in essence, melted down into what's described as a brown, syrupy residue. Yes, you're flushable. Some medical centers in the United States already use this method to dispose of donated cadavers. Warning: friends and family may not like this option too much. You can visit the BioSAFE Engineering website to learn more about the cylinder used, which is called a "tissue digestor." Ick.
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4) Go Out Sustainably with the "Ecopod." Our friends over at Treehugger put me onto this a few years back. It's a coffin made, according the Ecopod website, "by hand from recycled newspapers, and finished with paper made from 100% mulberry pulp." Yep, it biodegrades over time, not unlike your good self. There's also an urn, for those who prefer cremation. Oh, and they are available in a variety of colors. Remember, though, for the environment's sake, do not take your iPod with you into your Ecopod.
3) Gone Without a Trace, Almost. Memorial markers are expensive. So why not do away with all that gilded marble? Indeed, but how will love ones know how to find you? Ah, GPS of course! A natural burial park in Sydney, Australia will have no gravestones. Instead, a GPS device will be put in each coffin, so that loved ones can home in on your eternal signal. The cemetery is not, presumably, responsible if the satellites aren't aligned in the heavens correctly.
2) Frozen in Time. Forget about cremation, with all of that heat and pollution. You can go the opposite direction, and freeze yourself to dust, courtesy of a Swedish company called Promessa. Your corpse is frozen down to -18 degrees Celsius. Then, coffin and all, get lowered into liquid nitrogen. Inside the coffin, according to Promessa, your body "becomes very firm and brittle." Then body and coffin are subjected to "light vibration," and...well, dust to dust (55 to 65 pounds, in fact) as they say. You then get a coffin made from corn and/or potato starch. You and your coffin will compost in six months to a year. Promessa recommends planting a tree above the grave, as it will "absorb the nutrients given off."
1) Quickest Way Back to the Food Chain. You can talk high-tech and chemistry all you want, but for my money, I've always liked the idea of getting my atoms back into the food chain ASAP. If you're with me, then you'll want to check out the whole idea of a sky burial. It's popular in Tibet, where wood for coffins is historically scarce, and where it's impossible to dig down very far because of frozen earth. You ritualistically cut the corpse, then leave it out on a mountaintop for the critters to have at it. It's a practice known as jhator, or "giving alms to the birds." Who's with me?
(Screengrab from Donald Scrugg's patent application)