What happens when you die? | I Love Science

What happens when you die?

What happens when you finally kick the bucket, so to speak? Despite our mostly science-grounded views on death these days, it seems many of us believe in life after it.

In 2014, UK citizens were polled by the Telegraph, and just under 60 percent of respondents said they believe some part of us lives on. In the U.S., still a very Christian nation, Pew Research in 2015 asked people what happened after you die. The survey found that 72 percent of Americans believed you go to heaven, which was described as a place “where people who have led good lives are eternally rewarded.” 54 percent of U.S. adults replied that they believed in hell, which was described as a place “where people who have led bad lives and die without being sorry are eternally punished.”

With that in mind, welcome to this article, What happens when you die?

It seems a lot of people do believe that after death we might be ensconced in some cloud-strewn paradise, or conversely, if we haven’t adhered to the ethics prescribed to us by our chosen religion or denomination of that religion, we might be faced with eternal hellfire and the prospect of groveling to a bearded red man who hardly ever puts down his pitchfork.

But let’s start with some empirical realism and what actually happens to the body when we die.

Physicians know your dead because the heart stops beating and there is no longer any electrical activity in your brain. Brain death equals dead, although machines can keep you going a little bit longer. You can also have what’s called a cardiac death, which means the heart stops beating and blood no longer flows through your body.

The strange, even wonderful thing is, people that have suffered cardiac death but have been brought back to life have said they were aware of what was going on around them. Others have talked about walking towards a light in such a near-death experience.

You can be brought back from what we call clinical death, but you only have a grace period of about 4-6 minutes. But let’s say you get to the light and pass through; this is what we call biological death – game over, the final whistle, dead as a dodo.

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