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Science

The Science of Hugo Chavez's Long Term Embalming 215

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the beyond-the-grave dept.
Hugh Pickens writes writes "Discover Magazine reports that Hugo Chavez will apparently get an embalming job designed to keep him looking alive for decades similar to that of Russia's Vladimir Lenin, whose body still lies in a mausoleum in Moscow's Red Square, nearly 90 years after his death. So how do you preserve a human body for decades without it turning into a pile of melted tissue? First, get to work quickly. Upon death, the human body starts decomposing immediately. The way to stop it is with formaldehyde, a preservative used for the past century, which inhibits the enzyme decomposition as well as killing bacteria. 'You pump the chemical in, and as the formaldehyde hits the cells of the body, it firms up the protein of the cell, or fixates it,' says Vernie Fountain, head of the Fountain National Academy of Professional Embalming Skills in Springfield, Mo. 'That's what makes them stiff.' With a body that will have to be on display for years, it's likely to require a top-shelf, super-strong solution. 'If I were doing Hugo Chavez, I would strengthen the solution and use more preservative product,' says Fountain. Next, get a good moisturizer. Formaldehyde preserves, but it also dries out the body. Vaseline or other moisturizers can preserve the look of skin, according to Melissa Johnson Williams, executive director of the American Society of Embalmers. Finally keep cool. Heat decomposes a body so for long term preservation, the body has to be kept at the temperature of a standard kitchen refrigerator, somewhere in the mid-40s. Lastly, if Venezuelans really want to keep Hugo Chavez around forever, like many other world figures, there's only one solution that works, according to Fountain. 'The best form of preservation is mummification.'"
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The Science of Hugo Chavez's Long Term Embalming

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  • Plastination (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    They should really look into plastination.
    The whole process is specifically designed to put dead people on display.

  • Or be a saint (Score:5, Interesting)

    by michaelmalak (91262) <michael@michaelmalak.com> on Saturday March 09, 2013 @05:18PM (#43127849) Homepage
    Or be a saint, blessed with incorruptibility [listverse.com].
  • Super Cooling (Score:5, Informative)

    by pubwvj (1045960) on Saturday March 09, 2013 @05:23PM (#43127875)

    "the body has to be kept at the temperature of a standard kitchen refrigerator, somewhere in the mid-40s."

    No, store it at 27 degrees F which is -2.78 degrees C if you want to keep the meat fresh, not frozen and stop microbial action.

    This is the temperature that we store fresh meat at. It is below standard refrigerator temperatures. Meat freezes at 25ÂF which is below the freezing point of water because of the salts in the blood and cellular fluid. A lot of research has been done on this - initially regarding the storage of fish for Norway's trawlers and later for the storage of pork.

    For the absolute best results adjust this freezing temperature to account for the preservative solution which will likely change the freeze point downward - then stay just above that point of freezing for the meat.

    There is a lot of science behind this in the meat industry that could be applied to Hugo.

  • Does wonders for produce by killing the living heck out of bacteria... Not sure if there would be 'harmful' side effects though.
  • by BoRegardless (721219) on Saturday March 09, 2013 @05:32PM (#43127927)

    And gave it away to the likes of Cuba and Bolivia and Iran for influence, while the citizens who elected Hugo Chavez received no benefit and the petro industry in Venezuela degraded due to lack of upgrades.

    • by mabhatter654 (561290) on Saturday March 09, 2013 @05:57PM (#43128025)

      The petrol industry pays for their OWN upgrades... What Chavez did was increase the amount of rent the country charged to pump its oil... So the private industry retaliates by dragging their feet causing delays.

      Remember said industry tried to violate the laws of the country and depose him... They FAILED, do he has no reason to play fair and not convert his country to be as anti-budiness as possible.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Darinbob (1142669)

        In the same way that Chavez violated the laws of the country and attempted a coup of a lawfully elected government and failed at it. Oh the irony...

      • As an oil company, or any business for that matter, you don't invest in the infrastructure and expect to take a net loss because some dickhead want's to nationalize a resource for populist support. BTW, this isn't the first time Venezuela has pulled this kind of crap.

        And as a Texan living in Houston, fuck CITGO for flying the American flag half-mast in his (Chavez) honor. I refused to pump gas at one of those places, now I'm going a step further and recommending that no one else pump there too. It's anti-Am

        • by Uberbah (647458)

          As an oil company, or any business for that matter, you don't invest in the infrastructure and expect to take a net loss because some dickhead

          Less profit is not a loss. Dickhead.

          And as a Texan living in Houston, fuck CITGO for flying the American flag half-mast in his (Chavez) honor. I refused to pump gas at one of those places, now I'm going a step further and recommending that no one else pump there too. It's anti-American to support CITGO!

          Did you vote for McCain/Palin in 2008? Cuz you do know that Pali

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      "while the citizens who elected Hugo Chavez received no benefit"

      They disagree.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by phantomfive (622387)
      Yeah, that's the great tragedy of Hugo Chavez. A charismatic leader who entered the scene with wild popularity in his country and could have done so much to change things in his problem-plagued country. Instead he squandered the opportunity.
      • Paraphrasing the best obituary I have read - "Chavez was neither as evil as his critics claim, nor as benign his supporters claim. He will be remembered in the same light as his personal hero Simon Bolivia, a man who asserted South American independence".
    • Cutting poverty in half is no benefit? You mean the rich received no benefit.
      • by u38cg (607297)
        Giving out free champagne is fun until the hangover kicks in. The worst thing about Chavez dying now is that it will cement his cult, because all the good things are conveniently coming to an end after his death.
    • A. This was done openly.
      B. The guy was popular and never lost an election.

      Maybe the citizens of his country value different things to the citizens of your country. Which I can see might be a problem if one of the things valued in your country is telling everyone else what they should value.

  • Until the current "left wing" populist government falls will suffice. The "Right" will promptly bury him. Then when the revolution comes again the "Left" can dig him up and put him back on display, nicely (or nastily) mummified.

    Perhaps they should build a pyramid...

    • I'm surprised they didn't cast him in a giant bronze statue with the citizens wailing in front of him like a fallen demigod. Chavez must have envied the Kim dynasty of N. Korea. That mans lust for power and fame was ravenous!

  • Embalming, shudder (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Ol Biscuitbarrel (1859702) on Saturday March 09, 2013 @05:38PM (#43127949)

    In high school the essay Behind the Formaldehyde Curtain [hartlandhighschool.us] made a big impression on me; embalming was described as really creepy and artificial, which I suppose it is in any instance, but do they really need to circulate three to six gallons of dyed and perfumed solution of formaldehyde, glycerin, borax, phenol, alcohol and water through the stiff? It was much like when I found out that "milk" on the breakfast cereal on TV was actually glue. We're being scammed! Sort of.

    Dumping all that junk into the ground doesn't seem very good for the environment, either - I imagine in the years since (late 60s) the essay was published a bit of attention has been paid to making embalming a bit less toxic - or was that not an issue in the first place? At any rate, cremation for me, thank you - although after losing both parents I've found out that isn't cheap, either.

    • That's why you are buried in a steel box, inside a waterproof concrete box... So you don't leech into the soil

      • Since when are coffins made of steel?

    • by ChrisMaple (607946) on Saturday March 09, 2013 @07:19PM (#43128315)

      Post-death processing is heavily regulated in most states, and like most regulation it tends to drive up prices and limit entry into the field. It is a splendid example of Fascism. My experience is in Connecticut: you can't process the estate to hand out inheritances until you have a death certificate. Only funeral homes can originate death certificates.

      Disposing of a corpse should probably cost about $200. In Connecticut, it's over $6000 (year 2009).

      • by ultranova (717540)

        Post-death processing is heavily regulated in most states, and like most regulation it tends to drive up prices and limit entry into the field. It is a splendid example of Fascism.

        Actually, no it isn't. In fact it has nothing to do with fascism whatsoever. It might, however, be an example of regulatory capture.

        Do you just use words like "fascism" randomly with no understanding whatsoever of their meaning?

        • Do you just use words like "fascism" randomly with no understanding whatsoever of their meaning?

          Link [econlib.org] for the GP.

    • I decided long ago that after I no longer need my body I'll hand it to some med students. Maybe they can learn something from my mistakes.

    • Personally, my plan is to stay alive until we achieve cybernetic immortality and then just live until the heat death of the universe. But if you want to die, that's your choice I suppose. More energy for me.

      Anyway, need to? Of course not. But some people find seeing the deceased one last time comforting. Having it the very next day isn't feasible, and having an obviously rotting corpse is not comforting.

      I've never been to a funeral where an open casket did anything besides creep me out. Two of t
  • And he looked plastic/waxy to me. So he may be preserved .. but lifelike only goes so far.

  • Just make a really good wax head and a fake body, like Madame Tusseau's. Seal the fake up in a thick glass coffin and who will be able to tell the difference?

  • by Grayhand (2610049) on Saturday March 09, 2013 @05:47PM (#43127997)
    I'm up to single malt whiskey now and plan to switch to Everclear by my 70s. If I drop in my 80s they should be able to prop my corpse in the corner and use it as a coat rack.
  • by Bearhouse (1034238) on Saturday March 09, 2013 @06:22PM (#43128105)

    I've been lucky enough to have travelled around the world, including Moscow and Peking.
    Never felt the need to visit the chemically-preserved remains of "great" men there.

    Can anybody please cite me a truly humane, visionary leader who was embalmed in modern times, for public display?
    How about "despots"?
    Candidates should include Tito and Ataturk?

    Nope, not one. They did not need it, and neither did the population they left behind.

    • Good old Jeremy Bentham [ucl.ac.uk] makes an entertaining visit...

    • Wanting to have this thing done to their corpse is a clear sign of having a personality disorder.
    • Chavez has done a lot of good for his country and for getting Latin America out from under the thumb of US domination, he was loved by many, but yes embalming seems a bit over the top, I can see no reason to do this. Keep the spirit of what he was trying to achieve alive, this will be a much better way to honor his memory than by putting his body on display.

      Oh and for anyone interested in an in-depth and more balanced story about Chavez than the sound-byte propaganda put out by the mainstream media, read th [thenation.com]

    • Can anybody please cite me a truly humane, visionary leader who was embalmed in modern times, for public display?

      Nine words too many.

    • It ain't all that different from having their likeness carved as a statue or even naming an airport or highway after the person. It is the same instinct at work. I think they are all excessive though.

    • Well, Samuel Dinsmoor seems to have been a nice guy. Not sure I would call him a leader, though
    • Nikolay Pirogov https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nikolay_Pirogov [wikipedia.org] comes to mind, but, well, for him the embalming was probably more of another scientific experiment.
    • by unixisc (2429386)

      Precisely!!! He claimed to be a 'Bolivarian' Socialist, whatever that means. Did his self-proclaimed hero, Simon Bolivar, feel the need to do that? Then why did he?

      At any rate, if he felt the need to be embalmed, his successors could get their Russian friends to send them to Mars, where the temperature is pretty much fixed, have a TV camera sent attached to it, and have a 24/7 broadcast like the one in Baghdad after the ouster of Saddam. Those so inclined can turn on their channels to it, and watch it

  • by NotSoHeavyD3 (1400425) on Saturday March 09, 2013 @06:43PM (#43128179)
    After they have him stuffed they fit him with animatronics so he'll jump up every so often to scare the shit out of tourists.
    • by nbauman (624611)

      After they have him stuffed they fit him with animatronics so he'll jump up every so often to scare the shit out of tourists.

      Didn't they do that with Ronald Reagan?

    • After they have him stuffed they fit him with animatronics so he'll jump up every so often to scare the shit out of tourists.

      They would need a bobsled ride going through the mausoleum so that he could jump out as the trains go by. I can hear it now, "Permanecer sentados por favor".

  • Taxidermy!

  • Formaldehyde is a gas a room temperature. The substance used in labs and embalming is formalin, a room temperature liquid of water and formaldehyde.

    For a geek site, you should get these sort of things right to start with.

  • ... of formaldehyde. Like this [dvdbeaver.com].

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