The Roundup: Science behind the scares

Are you one of the many people celebrating Halloween with a horror movie night? A lot of our favorite creepy suspense films feature unnatural deaths — but how much do you know about the science behind the thrills?

Dr. Katie McEwen’s Autopsy class at Michigan State University set out to improve Wikipedia’s coverage of articles related to the various ways in which the human body has been examined, dissected, and displayed throughout history and across media. Thanks to the work of the 48 students in her class, Wikipedia has much better coverage of sinister topics you might want to know more about from the movies you love.

For example, students in the MSU class tackled the Dissection article on Wikipedia, adding around 1,000 words about the history of human body dissections globally. A Beating heart cadaver sounds like something out of The Tell-Tale Heart, but thanks to the student editors who tripled the size of the article, you can learn that it’s actually a life saving gift.

When you see investigators taking photographs of a crime scene on a TV show or movie, that’s Forensic photography. Students in Dr. McEwen’s class expanded the article on forensic photography to include examples of the considerations that go into crime scene photography.

Students in the class created a new article on Clinical empathy, emphasizing the need for medical caregivers to understand what patients are saying. The article focuses on the role of cadaver dissection in medical education, and how medical students achieve the right balance between clinical empathy and clinical detachment.

As you enjoy Halloween this year, think a bit about the science behind it — and read up on the topics, thanks to these student editors.

Image by Linking Paths (Flickr: Halloween 2008 Pumpkin workshop) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons


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