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Leonard Betts
 Science File Information:
  • This episode begins with a decapitated body breaking out from a morgue locker and walking away. Is this unheard of in nature? Nope. Cockroaches can live for about a week after they lose their head. Apparently the only reason that they die after this long is from dehydration; they have no way of drinking water!

    For other interesting facts about the amazing cockroach, check out http://www.nj.com/yucky/facts/, a page of Roach Facts from New Jersey Online's Cockroach World.

  • Mulder and Scully find Leonard Betts' decapitated head disposed in a watery tank of biological waste. Scully explains that the organic waste will be sterilized with microwaves and ground up for safe and easy disposal. Yes, believe it or not, this is an actual process. The technologies and procedures for microwave incineration were developed at NASA's Ames Research Center, and as far as I know, are not yet in widespread use.

    For more information on microwave incineration of biological waste, go to http://ctoserver.arc.nasa.gov/TechOpps/micro.html, a page from the Ames Research Center.

  • While Mulder decides to search for clues in Leonard Betts' apartment, Scully prepares the head for autopsy. She decides to postpone cutting when the head opens it's eyes, blinks, and opens its mouth. She calls it "post-mortem galvanic response," but similar occurrences in lizard decapitations have also been so misconstrued. When a reptile is decapitated, its head may try to bite things placed in range, and its eyes will focus on different objects, usually for quite some time after losing its body.

    To read about why decapitation is not a good form of reptile euthanasia, read Melissa Kaplan's herpetological warning at http://www.sonic.net/~melissk/decap.html.

  • Scully is a little shaken by the autopsy attempt, so she has the head coated in a clear resin that will allow her to cut it into very thin cross-sections for analysis. The agents take one of these "slices" down to a doctor practicing Kirlian photography. Kirlian photography captures on film the electrical "corona discharge" that occurs when an object attached to a Tesla coil is placed on photographic film. "New Age" practitioners of pseudoscience have asserted that this natural phenomenon is actually the "life force" of the object, manifesting itself as an "aura," but it's just a simple property of the combination electricity and photography. (I've looked around quite a bit, but I still haven't found any conclusive evidence that the "phantom leaf" phenomenon ever occurs, for that matter....)

    To learn about the Visible Human project, an ambitious undertaking to digitize the anatomy of two cadavers, one 1mm-thick section at a time, check out http://www.madsci.org/~lynn/VH/.
    For more information on Kirlian photography, go to http://www.gentech.com/~employee/david/skeptic/kirlian.htm, or go see what the Mad Scientist Network had to say about it.

 File #:

Basic Plot:
A man has become a living cancer, feeding off others' tumors, and able to regenerate body parts.

Synopsis URLs:
Synopsis @ Official X-Files Site
Synopsis @ Deep Background

Title means:
"Leonard Betts" is an alias of the suspect in this episode.

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