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
For other interesting facts about the amazing cockroach, check out
a page of Roach Facts from New Jersey Online's
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
For more information on microwave incineration of biological waste, go to
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
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
For more information on Kirlian photography, go to
or go see what the Mad Scientist Network had to say about it.