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Gory Details

The bizarre side of science

Erika Engelhaupt

Gory Details

Gory Details

For Halloween, Gory Details favorites and farewell

feet with toe tag

A post on a study of the microbes that live inside human cadavers kicks off Erika Engelhaupt's list of favorite Gory Details posts.

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Halloween is a Gory Details goldmine. Each October, science writers find their e-mail inboxes stuffed with tips on the science of spiders, “zombies” and other creepy-crawlies. This year's holiday even brings the first-ever National Bat Week. (A fine move by chiropterologists — bat scientists — to involve the public in saving animals endangered by white-nose disease.)

So it's hard to leave much of the creepy fun to my fellow bloggers this Halloween. In July, just as I wrote my last Gory Details post at Science News, I accepted a job at National Geographic as their first online science editor. So this is my final post for Science News. While I plan to keep writing about the dark side of science, the details are still in the works. Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, I've found that spider stories rocket to the top of the web-traffic charts at National Geographic, too. Creepy thrills, it seems, are universal. For this Halloween, here's a roundup of a few of my favorite, and scariest, Gory Details posts.

Best zombie reference: Getting to know the real living dead

In this case, the living dead is the necrobiome, the waves of microbial life that take over a body after death. A great example of how much we still have to learn about the biology of death.

Kept me up at night: In a nuclear attack, there's no avoiding the brutal math

Here's a genuinely scary thought: What would you do in a nuclear attack? My look at how scientists calculate the odds of survival had me checking the Science News basement's viability as a nuclear shelter.

Gory reality checkThis is what happens when you pee in the pool

Even after I had begged colleagues to stop e-mailing me pee stories, I couldn't pass up the chance to debunk fears about the deadly mix of urine and chlorine.

Scary movies: The most (and least) realistic movie psychopaths ever

Apparently people can't get enough of psychopaths. This was the most popular Gory Details post ever, and even months after it was picked up by other blogs and websites, people kept commenting with their own opinions about real psychopath behavior. 

That's just a sampling, but all the Gory Details posts have been a blast to write. Thank you to Science News for letting me turn a few stomachs, and I hope to keep shining light on those topics we too often leave unexplored.


Why was Marius, the euthanized giraffe, ever born?

By Erika Engelhaupt 3:00pm, February 18, 2014
The problem of ‘surplus’ zoo animals reveals a divide on animal contraceptives.
Biomedicine,, Clinical Trials,, Science & Society

Introducing the first bank of feces

By Erika Engelhaupt 5:28pm, February 12, 2014
A new nonprofit called OpenBiome is hoping to do for fecal transplants what blood banks have done for transfusions. It’s a kind of Brown Cross.

Some animals eat their moms, and other cannibalism facts

By Erika Engelhaupt 8:14am, February 6, 2014
A new book surveys those who eat their own kind, revealing some surprises about who’s eating whom.
Science & Society,, Numbers

In a nuclear attack, there’s no avoiding the brutal math

By Erika Engelhaupt 9:00am, January 29, 2014
Knowing a few key numbers could help save your life if a nuclear bomb drops.
Animals,, Evolution

Animals were the original twerkers

By Erika Engelhaupt 8:00am, January 24, 2014
From black widow spiders to birds and bees, shaking that booty goes way back.

The most (and least) realistic movie psychopaths ever

By Erika Engelhaupt 1:08pm, January 14, 2014
A forensic psychologist spent three years watching 400 movies to trace portrayals of psychopaths.
Ecology,, Science & Society

New Yorkers should relax about new roach species

By Erika Engelhaupt 10:30am, January 2, 2014
Japanese roaches may be able to survive in the cold, but the added competition and their decreased allergic potential may mean the roaches’ arrival isn’t all bad.
Animals,, Evolution

A gory 12 days of Christmas

By Erika Engelhaupt 4:31pm, December 13, 2013
Insects and spiders are among the biggest gift-givers, often as part of mating, and anything from cyanide to a wad of saliva can be a present.
Ecology,, Animals

Cannibalistic mantis invades New Zealand, eats natives

By Erika Engelhaupt 3:30pm, November 27, 2013
Native male New Zealand mantises try to mate with females of an invasive species, only to find out the hard way that those females eat their mates.

Almost-lifelike hands perceived as creepy

By Erika Engelhaupt 4:32pm, November 22, 2013
Devices have to be very realistic to the escape uncanny valley of eeriness.
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