Suppose there is a culture on earth that sees dead bodies as holy items and letting them decompose is a sin. I have seen many examples of mummies preserved so well that they almost look like their just sleeping like this girl

enter image description here

The question

Using modern technology, is it possible to build a machine to preserve someone who died to the point that they look asleep but otherwise you wouldn't know that they had died?

Addition info

  • No embalming fluid or preservative fluids of any kind

  • All internal organs and fluids must remain intact

  • The machine must allow for viewing of the entire body at all times through either glass or any transparent material that would best allow for the conditions to work properly

  • Body must feel like a living person ( skin is still somewhat elastic and soft, blood is still liquid)


after further consideration I have allowed for interference with the body to be allowed only internally

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ I'm aware of approaches that allow you to meet some of these conditions and to pick and choose among them to some extent, but not of any approaches that preserve all of them simultaneously. The last condition is particularly hard while maintaining the others. The closest thing would be leaving someone in a vegetative state on life support indefinitely. $\endgroup$ – ohwilleke Nov 16 '16 at 22:03
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    $\begingroup$ "Machine" that would make human body non-edible for microorganisms without changing composition of the body and without introducing any preservative fluid? Not possible. Machine that would, remotely, destroy all germs but spare human cells? Without introducing any fluid into the body, so without interaction with cells to see what is what? Not possible. Your requirements are contradictory. $\endgroup$ – Mołot Nov 16 '16 at 22:05
  • $\begingroup$ What tech level are we allowed in our answers? Current tech a la 2016 or tech as of 1900 or tech in 2100? $\endgroup$ – Green Nov 16 '16 at 22:36
  • $\begingroup$ modern as in 2016. 1900 isn't modern and 2100 is future $\endgroup$ – totally not rick sanchez Nov 16 '16 at 22:43
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    $\begingroup$ As many have pointed out, you cannot preserve a body without altering it so that you cannot tell it is being altered. Killing the germs? May require a fluid. Freezing the body? Feels cold. With modern technology (you said in another comment, 2016) you may not adhere to the first 3 terms while also following the 4th. Consider removing it to improve answer quality $\endgroup$ – Zxyrra Nov 17 '16 at 3:29

Closest thing I can think of is heavy irradiation to zap all the decomposition microorganisms, followed by storage in a sealed sterile case. Not sure that would meet your last requirement though.

see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Food_irradiation for more info - it doesn't mention how long things keep, but does say

"Depending on the dose, some or all of the pathogenic organisms, microorganisms, bacteria, and viruses present are destroyed, slowed down, or rendered incapable of reproduction. Some foods are irradiated at sufficient doses to ensure that the product is sterilized and does not add any spoilage or pathogenic microorganisms into the final product.[1]"


"Irradiated food does not become radioactive."

Not sure if it stops any enzyme related processes though

  • $\begingroup$ No it does not (I was studying nuclear physics, I got to learn). It can't damage protein too much as it would render food useless. It mostly damages DNA and some mechanisms in cell membranes. $\endgroup$ – Mołot Nov 16 '16 at 22:37

The mummy pictured was from high altitude and low temperature, and was full of alcohol (had drunk alcohol before being sacrificed). So, that combination works.

You might want to look into the mechanisms of natural mummification, and run with a machine that replicated one of the documented natural processes. Aside from the low-temperature, dry mummifaction in this picture, there is desert mummification (high temperature, dry), and peat bog mummification (definitely not dry).

The problem I think you will find is that there isn't a viable method for keeping the skin soft without interfering in some way. If you dropped that requirement (I mean, they are in a glass case - who is going to touch them, anyway?), you could probably come up with something that ticks all your other boxes.


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