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PostPosted: Mon May 07, 2012 3:52 pm 
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For hard sf settings like Eclipse Phase, High Colonies, Terracide and the like, space stations are the norm. But space stations are closed systems* in terms of mass and biomass, apart from the odd visiting ship. So anyone got any suggestions as to what gets done with poor old Auntie Gladys when she pops her clogs?

Burial in space deprives the station's 'life support' of a significant amount of biomass - plus all those coffins floating about would be a navigation hazard, unless you burn them up by firing them into the atmosphere of a nearby Venus/Jupiter.

I get the feeling that you'd need to 'recycle' Auntie Gladys in some way. But it has to be a way that doesn't offend or horrify her grieving friends and relatives. So the Judge Dredd idea of Resyk is probably a bit grim, as is Soylent Green. Any ideas? Cremate Auntie but don't give the relatives the leftover bits? Dissolve Auntie in a vat of goo and pump her to sewage reclamation or hydroponics? Is that latter still too close to cannibalism?


*Earth is a closed system too (mostly), but it is a very BIG closed system, so turning several tens of million years worth of jungles into the Coal Measures, doesn't threaten 'life support' or biomass as a whole.


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PostPosted: Mon May 07, 2012 8:08 pm 
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Unless the space station is in deep space far from any system,
the planets of the system - even if only rockballs - will almost
certainly provide all the elements required to enable the stati-
on's life support system to produce a sufficient amount of bio-
mass in bacteria tanks or algae tanks to replace the lost bio-
mass of a deceased member of the station's population (other-
wise any pregnancy of a female inhabitant of the station would
have to be aborted because the station's life support system
would be unable to produce the additional biomass of the gro-
wing child ...).
As for Auntie Gladys, I suspect she would be sent on a long
last voyage towards the system's sun, stardust returning to a
star.


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PostPosted: Mon May 07, 2012 10:44 pm 
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Location: Northern California
Human sentimentality is always a powerful factor in things, but how that sentimentality is expressed can and will change. While burying people in coffins is the common Western image of burial, other cultures have other ways of dealing with their dead. For instance, I've had the somewhat dubious honor of attending a few funerals in Japan lately, where the dead are cremated. The dead are put into furnaces to be cremated. There's usually some bone fragments remaining (I suspect intentionally), and these are put into an urn which is then interred. With urban land in Japan becoming so expensive, there's been a move to even get rid of graveyards where these urns are put. Customs, even long-held ones, can change when faced with reality.

Most of these space station seem to have a premium on space, so customs might change because of that. People's feelings towards their departed have to be changed. For instance, most space stations seem to have no troubles with power generation so their dead may be cremated so they take up less space with the argument being that your departed loved ones will be always close by instead of just flung into space. In a culture where a large number of "belters" or something operate from a space station, carrying your loved ones as diamonds might come into the vogue as a compact way of carrying your feelings for the departed.


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PostPosted: Fri May 11, 2012 8:01 pm 
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epicenter wrote:
There's usually some bone fragments remaining (I suspect intentionally), and these are put into an urn which is then interred

Ah, no. The bone fragments are a feature of Western cremations too. It's just that the crematorium then thoughtfully puts your loved one's fragments through a bone grinder to reduce them to the same consistency as the rest of the ash.

I'd forgotten the diamonds thing. I can see a culture developing a habit of doing that - family heirlooms with a difference. Thanks.

Quote:
Unless the space station is in deep space far from any system,
the planets of the system - even if only rockballs - will almost
certainly provide all the elements required to enable the stati-
on's life support system to produce a sufficient amount of bio-
mass in bacteria tanks or algae tanks to replace the lost bio-
mass of a deceased member of the station's population (other-
wise any pregnancy of a female inhabitant of the station would
have to be aborted because the station's life support system
would be unable to produce the additional biomass of the gro-
wing child ...).


Actually, I'd say that a lot of space stations might have to have population control, because they are (compared to planets) very small and will have a maximum biomass that they can support. Unless the engineers who designed a station are bonkers, there will be plenty reserve capacity in the system though - so that if a ship of 500 crew stops off for shore leave, the station life support won't notice. But if all those 500 crew decide to stay and have 5 children, who then have 5 children of their own, and so on, then at some point the system will be unable to cope. If everyone is living 6 to a room before that happens, however, then they are more likely to move to another station than to breed the life support into collapse.


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PostPosted: Sat May 12, 2012 3:34 pm 
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Graveyard space in Hong Kong is usually rented for a time, after which the ashes are stored either at home or in a columbarium. One thing I've often wondered about is why you only ever see granny and grandad's urn on the shelf - what happened to great-gran and great-grandad? So, I don't think storage itself will become much of an issue. Instead, a science fiction setting should focus on society's way of dealing with the dead. In many western cultures, for example, it is now perfectly acceptable to compost the dead in a wicker basket buried underneath a sapling tree. Admittedly not as close to cannibalism as using them to fertilise the vegetable patch, but our descendants will still be breathing them. I like the diamond idea, but how much of a diamond would you get out of a human? would it be too small to be practical? Alternatively, you could use the ashes as a filler together with resin and produce all manner of objects.

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PostPosted: Fri Feb 01, 2019 8:20 am 
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I read an article on the BBC this morning about new alternatives to burial and cremation.

There's composting, which if well managed ought to be able to reduce an body to a skeleton in about three months. That's what the fithp did on their generation ship in Niven & Pournelle's Footfall, but I don't see it taking off.

Then there is "alkaline hydrolysis". The body is put in a sort of combination pressure-cooker and washing machine, where the temperature raised to 152 °C and then pressure is kept high enough to prevent boiling. Pumps circulate a solution of potassium hydroxide at a pH of 14 through sprinklers and sprayers. After about an hour and a half the bones and any medical implants are left on the tray: everything elese has been saponified and dissolved. If the amount of KOH has been calculated properly the liquid is fit to put through municipal wastewater treatment. The bones can be pulverised and kept or scattered just like cremains.

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