Thursday, October 11, 2007

Capital Idea

I was reading a charming little article at New Scientist, called "How Does it Feel to Die?", and came across the following passage:

Despite the public boasting of several prominent executioners in late 19th-century Britain, a 1992 analysis of the remains of 34 prisoners found that in only about half of cases was the cause of death wholly or partly due to spinal trauma. Just one-fifth showed the classic "hangman's fracture" between the second and third cervical vertebrae. The others died in part from asphyxiation.

Michael Spence, an anthropologist at the University of Western Ontario in London, Canada, has found similar results in US victims. He concluded, however, that even if asphyxiation played a role, the trauma of the drop would have rapidly rendered all of them unconscious. "What the hangmen were looking for was quick cessation of activity," he says. "And they knew enough about their craft to ensure that happened. The thing they feared most was decapitation."

I'm so proud of my school. If it weren't for this fine Western scholar, we'd all lie awake at night worrying about whether hanging victims were conscious while they were strangled to death.

Hanging ain't so bad after all. Crime, here I come.


SharkBoy said...

how many tests did they have to do about the lenght and measurement of the hanging rope to make sure that it only broke the neck and not remove the head?

What boggles me are the people that went to witness a hanging and were scandalized if the criminal's head came off... bad hangman, bad hangman!

I guess it was the performance art of its days

Pavel Chekov said...

Been thinking about death a lot lately. Thanks for the link to the article. Very interesting.

Phronk said...

Sharkboy: Yeah, I'm pretty sure a study on rope length and decapitation wouldn't get by an ethics board now.

Chekov: Please don't kill yourself.

Pavel Chekov said...

No, not thinking about it that way. Just been pondering the whole philosophical aspect of it. I was raised to believe that after I died, I'd be riding ponies with Grandma in heaven. I've been having serious doubts about that theory since I turned 8.

Phronk said...

Yeah, I think there are pretty good reasons to doubt that.

Here is a nice quote:

"Life is pleasant. Death is peaceful. It's the transition that's troublesome."
-- Isaac Asimov