Why Legislators and Doctors Don’t Always Agree on the Definition of Death

While Patients' Families Think Life Ends With Your Last Breath, 50 States Point to Brain Activity

How can you truly know when someone is dead? Historically, death was determined by holding a mirror up to a person’s mouth to see if they were breathing. But this method was not foolproof, so safety coffins outfitted with a string attached to a bell were used to allow someone who woke up after burial to easily send out a distress signal.

Today, the most commonly accepted definition of death is irreversible cardiopulmonary arrest—when a person no longer has a palpable pulse, an audible heartbeat, or sounds of breathing. …

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My Modest Proposal to Make Property Tax Breaks Live Forever

Rich Old Homeowners Are California's Future, so Why Shouldn't We Take Our Subsidies to the Grave?

MEMO
To: California Association of Realtors
Re: Death and Taxes

Barring some wild technological advance, all Californians eventually will die.

But why can’t our property tax discounts live forever?

That’s the question …

The 1918 Flu Pandemic That Revolutionized Public Health

Mass Death Changed How We Think About Illness, and Government's Role in Treating It

Nearly 100 years ago, in 1918, the world experienced the greatest tidal wave of death since the Black Death, possibly in the whole of human history. We call that tidal …

When You Live Online, Will Anyone Know When You Die?

Public Grieving on Social Media Hides a Darker Private Reality

I suspected that something was wrong on the Sunday morning when I saw the beginning of a Facebook post in my newsfeed sidebar that said, in French, “Our dear AJ …

Goodbye to the Dirty Harry of Pruning

My Grandmother Knew That Things Grow So Fast in California, You Always Have to Be Cutting Back

She left us only recently, and already San Mateo has gotten way too leafy.

As I drove through that fine Peninsula city in the Bay Area on the way to my …

How the Skull Is an Ally in Art

When the Ultimate Symbol of Death Serves as Muse, It Can Force Us to Confront Our Own Mortality

You walk through the darkness of the crypt, with choral music playing from hidden speakers. All around you, human bones are arranged in patterns, tiling the walls, divided by femurs, …