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After Life: The Strange Science of Decay

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You’ll need a strong stomach to sit through this, as biologist Dr George McGavin shows what would happen in a typical kitchen and garden if everything were left to rot. He set up a glass box in Edinburgh Zoo and filled it with foodstuffs and plants, and left it to the natural forces of decay for eight weeks. There are many shots of writhing maggots, putrid flesh, mould-encrusted bread and swarming flies – be thankful it isn’t in Smellyvision. If you can get past your revulsion there are many revelations about decay and how the process is vital to life on Earth, with enough moments to make you shake your head in wonder. And there is a certain beauty to the time-lapse photography of rotting fruit.


Entomologist George McGavin explores the science of decay in an experiment at Edinburgh Zoo, using microscopes and time-lapse cameras to investigate what happens when the contents of a typical kitchen and garden are left to rot for eight weeks. He reveals how moulds, microbes and insects break down foods and everyday objects, and explains why these processes are vital in nature.

Cast & Crew

Presenter George McGavin
Executive Producer Marcus Herbert
Series Producer Fred Hepburn


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