When we asked audience members to submit questions for our new series, Glad You Asked, we expected some interesting results. But Helle, a viewer from Norway, sent us on a journey to explain one of the greatest existential questions we face as a society: What happens when we die?
Glad You Asked is produced and hosted by Joss Fong, Christophe Haubursin, Cleo Abram, and me. In each episode, we seek to explain a question through rigorous reporting and by learning from those who have firsthand experience of our topic.
Early into this quest, I got obsessed with a Soviet-era film that appears to show dogs that are brought “back to life” by a cutting-edge machine. At the time, the scientists who conducted these experiments believed they had achieved the impossible.
Of course, they hadn’t — but they did help change the definition of when, exactly, one is dead. Knowing where that moment is is crucial to understanding the moments before it, so we also meet a doctor who was struck by lightning and had an out-of-body experience, which helps shine a light on that moment. And we visit a hospice that is tracking the end-of-life dreams and visions of men and women in their final days.
This exploration won’t be our last. There are four more episodes available today if you have YouTube Premium. In those episodes, Joss, Christophe, Cleo, and I head off into the worlds of crying, Mars, meming, and playing video games. But if you don’t have Premium, don’t worry; those episodes will be coming out once a week for free over the next four Tuesdays.
And if you’re hoping to learn more about what we found in our quest to understand death, here are a few key sources that informed my research:
Sergei Brukhonenko’s autojektor
Defining Death, Presidential Commission for the Study of Ethical Problems in Medicine and Biomedical and Behavioral Research