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What happens with the electrical energy within the body when we die?

  1. Mar 19, 2012 #1
    What happens with the electrical energy within the body when we die?

    I've been thinking about this for weeks, and even though I'm not that great at it,
    I find anything scientific interesting. I truly have compulsive documentary watching disorder :p
    I watch new ones every day, and if I don't have a new one, I'll just rewatch ones i have.

    But back to my question..
    Even though I'm probably way off in terms of the science, here's what I was thinking. Since energy cannot be created nor destroyed it has to go somewhere, right?
    Well where does it go? Of course the actual body will most likely be incinerated and turn into heat energy, but what about the electrical energy in our brains? Electricity can't be incinerated? Makes me think about Duncan MacDougall for some reason :p
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 19, 2012 #2
    What do you think happens when lightning strikes a mountain? Compared to that, the amount of electrical energy in our bodies is miniscule.
     
  4. Mar 19, 2012 #3

    Drakkith

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    A couple of things.

    1. "Electrical Energy" is created in our body by chemical reactions that occur when we are alive. When the body dies these reactions stop and no more energy is created. The energy is used right after it is created to perform different actions.

    2. Our bodies take in food and oxygen and through chemical reactions is transformed into other forms that are then either used or stored as fat, sugar, etc. So there is no electrical energy just floating around or anything like that. The sugar and fat is taken in and used to power the reactions that create the electrical energy.

    3. Electricity is a vague term that doesn't really say anything specific. When speaking of electrical effects, we talk about electric current, potential, resistance, and other things. It is commonly viewed that all of these concepts fall under the "category" of electricity. So when you ask about electricity being incinerated, it's not really a valid question. If i were to burn a corpse, the atoms and molecules that make it up take their chemical potential energy and use it to re-organize themselves through chemical reactons into different molecules. This uses up the energy. Since your body doesn't store electrical energy, but instead stores chemical energy, this energy is used up after you die when you decompose and such.
     
  5. Mar 19, 2012 #4
    Interesting. Thanks for the reply :)
     
  6. Mar 19, 2012 #5
    The electricity in the body is stored as membrane potentials. That is, ions of a certain sign are pumped through a cell membrane so that a difference in potential exists, somewhat like a battery. After death the pumping stops and the charge dissipates.
     
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