• Question: when you die does your the energy from the cells and matter get transfered, where does the energy go?

    Asked by harriettmay to Alastair, Emma, Hywel, Keith, Vicki on 21 Jun 2010 in Categories: .
    • Photo: Keith Brain

      Keith Brain answered on 21 Jun 2010:

      The energy stays as energy, and the matter stays a matter. The remaining chemical energy is mainly converted, slowly, into heat. This is true for most forms of energy – they all tend to end up as heat.

      We’re made up of lots of water, which will tend to evaporate and re-enter the earth’s water cycle (eg. clouds to rain to river to seas, where it evaporates once more), and much of the carbon in our bodies will be converted to carbon dioxide by microorganisms – this will enter the atmosphere to be enter the earths “carbon cycle” – there’s a good chance that it will end up in trees or plants.

      Regarding the rest of the matter, it depends on what is done with the body after death. Many people are buried, which means that there bodies will decompose, mainly being broken down by microoranisms which attack our bodies when our immune system stops working. Ultimately, the matter will probably become part of the soil.

      Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust, is about right!

    • Photo: Emma Carter

      Emma Carter answered on 21 Jun 2010:

      The energy in the cells of your body is a form of chemical energy. Some of this may be converted to heat energy as the body decomposes but the rest will remain as chemical energy in the ground.

    • Photo: Vicki Stevenson

      Vicki Stevenson answered on 21 Jun 2010:

      I think this depends on how your body is treated when it dies. If a body is buried the energy from your body breaking down goes into the soil. Plants can take advantage of this.
      On the other hand if you are cremated a lot of energy is used to incinerate the body and I guess the energy from your body contributes to the flames.

    • Photo: Alastair Sloan

      Alastair Sloan answered on 21 Jun 2010:

      Cool question Harriett.

      Energy in the body is chemical energy and known as ATP. When you die, some of the energy will be converted to heat as the body decomposes and if you are buried then some of the chemical energy will be transferred to the ground and become part of the environment.