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Scientists Build a Better Corpse-Sniffer

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Relying on the powerful stench of decomposing flesh, scientists have found a better way of finding quicksand victims and mafia informants.

Decaying hands spiked through loose earth notwithstanding, finding buried corpses can be hard work. Even now, bloodhounds and radar have been the best solution when seeking out a body, but neither method was very effective in locating a cadaver underneath concrete -- e.g. those who discovered any clever bookkeeping within a construction company.

But scientists at National Institute of Standards and Technology have stumbled upon a new way of sniffing out the unique smell of decomposing flesh. reports:

"The process uses an alumina-coated, porous layer, open tubular (PLOT) column with a motorized pipette that pulls in air samples at ambient temperatures. The device detects trace amounts of ninhydrin-reactive nitrogen (NRN) that collects in air pockets above and close to gravesoil. Previously, this process involved the tedious and expensive process of solvent extraction of soil samples. Now, a simple probe slightly thicker than a human hair can be inserted into the ground to detect decaying flesh."

As such, the process can be applied to various sorts of makeshift grave composition, be it soil, concrete, or a lethal weight of corn. But there still might be some kinks to work out as the process has only been used with dead rats.

Rodents. Not the mafia kind.
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