Sep
19
2008

CSI: The Experience will open here at SMM on October 15.

One aspect of crime scene investigation is forensic entomology: the use of insects found on or near a body to help determine the time, manner, and location of death.

And we're fortunate that Valerie Cervenka, the first female board certified forensic entomologist, lives here in St. Paul. She's our Scientist on the Spot right now, so you can read about her work and get her answers to your questions.

And, Buzzketeers, do we have something "special" for you... Lots of forensic entomology studies are done using pigs, because (according to Jessica Snyder Sach's Corpse:

"The soft, near-hairless skin of a domestic pig closely duplicates that of a human, and that the torso of a luau-size porker parallels that of a 160-pound man."

Pig, @2pm, 9-18-08: Our pig, fresh from the freezer.
Pig, @2pm, 9-18-08: Our pig, fresh from the freezer.Courtesy Liza Pryor

That is, the skin, muscle/fat ratio, and other characteristics of pigs are reasonably good approximations of humans'. In death, what happens to a pig, and when, is pretty similar to what happens to human corpses. (If you think that's unpalatable, consider that the other way we can calibrate insect evidence is to do controlled studies at places like Tennessee's "Body Farm," where researchers observe what happens to people instead of pigs. You can search Buzz for the term "body farm" if you're interested in that: we've done a few stories.)

So we've obtained a young pig. (Don't worry: the pig died of natural causes.) And we've put it in a cage, with a webcam, and we're letting it decompose. The camera records a still image every 15 seconds, and we'll eventually turn all those photos into a time lapse, which Val Cervenka will help us interpret. Pretty cool. Pretty gross. And all in the interest of science.

Why didn't we wait for the exhibit? Well, insect activity slows dramatically or even drops off to nothing once the outside temperature gets to about 50 degrees. To follow the pig through most of its stages of decomposition, we had to get it going now.

Want to see what's going on with the decomposing pig right now? Click here. But don't say we didn't warn you. It's graphic.

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

Thor's picture
Thor says:

Boy....I hope they don't have pork chops as a special at Elements Cafe this fall!!!

posted on Mon, 09/22/2008 - 2:32pm
Petey28's picture
Petey28 says:

thats kinda gross!!!

posted on Wed, 10/15/2008 - 11:07am
jorge sanchez's picture
jorge sanchez says:

this not cool

posted on Wed, 10/15/2008 - 11:09am
hannah's picture
hannah says:

why would someone video tape this!!!???

posted on Fri, 10/17/2008 - 12:10pm
JGordon's picture
JGordon says:

Because it's awesome, Hannah!

We get to see how bodies naturally decompose—it's a little gross, but good for learning about what happens to things after they die.

posted on Fri, 10/17/2008 - 12:21pm
KMR's picture
KMR says:

wow! it's really moving along....

posted on Fri, 10/17/2008 - 1:30pm
JP's picture
JP says:

Yes, KMR, it sure is!

posted on Fri, 10/17/2008 - 1:40pm
plee057's picture
plee057 says:

Its Fantastic! Especially because it's right out side of the muesum.

posted on Thu, 10/30/2008 - 5:55pm
plee057's picture
plee057 says:

Its Fantastic! Especially because it's right out side of the muesum.

posted on Thu, 10/30/2008 - 5:55pm
plee057's picture
plee057 says:

Its Fantastic! Especially because it's right out side of the muesum.

posted on Thu, 10/30/2008 - 5:55pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

its nasty how the pig changes....

posted on Fri, 10/31/2008 - 10:11am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

Oh my god! that is still horrible!!! Let it rest in peace.

posted on Fri, 11/07/2008 - 12:23pm
JGordon's picture
JGordon says:

Well... it is pretty peaceful.

Or did you mean that we should burn it? Or throw it in the trash? Or bury it, where it will continue to be broken apart by tiny organisms?

If it's only a matter of the indignity of being seen like this, maybe a good place to start is to try not to think of it as "horrible." Everything happening to the pig is as natural as any other part of life, and as essential as any other part of life.

I mean, it is a little gross, but you know...

posted on Fri, 11/07/2008 - 12:41pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

What is the point of this ? Very bad !

posted on Fri, 02/13/2009 - 2:24am
trappingboy's picture
trappingboy says:

It is a litttle gross but without decomposers that world would be a stinking smelly place. They may be gross but we need them!

posted on Sat, 04/25/2009 - 2:53pm

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