Drink me! - Ashes in your cup

If anyone is interested in being cremated while alive and you have £47 to burn, the Samadhi Death Simulator exhibit opens this week in Shanghai, China. Get strapped to a conveyor belt for 2 hours and you too can experience all the joys of being cremated. Fun for the whole family! What will they think of next?

So ten years from now will we see a trend of “event cremations” a la wedding proposals, where the about-to-be-deceased try to outdo the just-recently-deceased by planning more and more outlandish and elaborate demands on their mourners regarding the handling of their cremains?

Party ideas:

  1. Ash brownies

  2. Cremenemas for everybody!

  3. Arena Party: Partygoers are given a variety of chemicals, a hollow tube, rocks and flint, and the first one to create a gunpowder that incorporates the cremains gets to shoot a slow-moving man in a lizard costume.

  4. Woodworking: Everybody is given a sheet of sandpaper on which the cremains have been glued as grit, and gets busy stripping the stain off of the deceased’s favorite piece of furniture so that it can be restained in a new color for its next owner. Kind of a statement about the circle of life, but for furniture! Could be used to redo the marriage bed if the surviving spouse already has a lead on the deceased’s replacement.

Most heavy metals experience bioaccumulation, so the higher up the food chain, the more you probably have in you, all else being equal. With mercury in particular, it’s stored largely in fatty tissues like the brain, making cuts like beef jerky safer than a cow as a whole.

Also, burning tends to concentrate certain elements. Things like carbon and oxygen burn off into the exhaust, so the leftover ash is going to have a different elemental composition. Here’s one resource on what’s left behind. 85% of what’s left is phosphate, calcium and sulfur, a much higher percentage than a person has when alive.

Mercury is pretty low on that list, but the less-than sign sets an upper bound which is still about 5 times higher than levels found in fish like tuna.

The <0.00001 states the detection limits of their procedure or equipment, and they couldn’t actually detect mercury at that concentration level. So while it does place an upper bound of 0.00001, there’s nothing to indicate the actual concentration is near that. It could be 0.000009%, 0.000000000000000000000000000000000005%, or even less. Even if the concentration is 5 times higher than that found in fish, I doubt any human is ever going to be ingesting cremains at a similar level as they do fish.

The legal concerns in the United States are land use issues. Scattering on public lands is mostly “not allowed,” but it’s also mostly treated as “don’t ask/don’t tell.”

My friends own an 80 acre parcel of land in the Sierra’s. We’ve already scattered 4 different sets of cremains and it’s where I hope to end up as well, when my time comes.

As for the physical aspects of “cremains,” in my limited experience, you’d want to run them through a ball mill first to grind them down. Lots of stuff way too big to be comfortable swallowing, health concerns aside.