photo: iStockPhoto You may find company among zombies and the living dead this Halloween, but the science of the real dead might be just as bloodcurdling.
Pathologists and medical examiners piece together how and when a person likely died. Fleshing out these details clue investigation teams into whether a person succumbed to natural causes, an accident or by the actions of someone else. But to make accurate estimates of time of death, they need to understand the science behind body reactions once the heart stops beating.
Though there are many factors to consider, livor mortis, a phenomenon involving the shift of blood in the body, is often examined alongside other types of clues such as rigor mortis, or muscle stiffness.
Every second, a living person's heart pumps oxygen-rich blood through the entire body in an extensive network of veins, arteries and capillaries. Blood gives organs and muscles the nutrients and warmth they need to work properly.
But what happens when the heart stops pushing blood throughout the body, and why does it matter to scientists?