A blog explaining science and technology through the movies ... or explaining the movies through science and technology, depending on the point of view. English is not my first language, so I apologize for the mistakes you are likely to find in the posts

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Basic instinct 2: a wet body

Today we shall speak again about our old dear friend Catherine Trammell, whose new adventures were released on the big screen this year. We know already that wherever this woman passes by people start dying in a rather strange way, as happens at the start of Basic instinct 2. One poor guy sitting next to her in her car dies when the vehicle falls into the Thames: the police need to know whether the cause of the death was drowning, or if the man was already dead when he reached the water from an overdose of some substance not available in shopping malls.

This isn’t exactly a difficult question because it is very easy to know wether someone has died from drowning or was already before hitting the water: you only have to see if the body floats, or, since a drowned body is something quite unpleasant to see, just take a look at its condition. Human bodies float on water because our lungs are full of air. We can all check this if we let ourselves go and assume the dead man’s float position when we are swimming, especially in seawater, because it’s denser and it allows us to float more easily. A drowned man sinks instead, because his lungs are full of water. Even if someone falls unconscious into the sea or into a river and doesn’t make an effort to breathe, his airways will automatically become open wide when oxygen is lacking: swallowing water can’t be avoided. Liquid swells and dislocates our face and makes us heavier and sinkable. To make a long story short, the good murderer’s handbook includes a chapter explaining the need of attaching the victim’s body to a rock on the bottom of the sea if we don’t want it to float and be seen. However, all these precautions are less necessary with drowned people.


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