The book “The Lost Symbol” by Dan Brown contains a chapter on some amazing experiments on the weight of the soul. According to the author, our soul is a material substance that can exist outside the body and can have weight. Therefore, it can be weighed.

One of the characters in the book, Katherine Solomon, was able to weigh the human soul. She placed a dying man (he had donated his body for scientific purposes) in an air-tight capsule, fitted with very sensitive micro weight detectors. While the man was alive, the scales showed a figure of 51, 4,534,644 kilograms. And after the old man’s death, the micro scales showed a decrease in body weight.

Brown does not specify this difference in the weight but makes a general comment: “This difference, though microscopic, is quite measurable.” This experiment allowed Brown to stipulate that the human soul does exist.

Is there any actual scientific evidence for the weight of the soul?

Dr. Duncan MacDougall from Haverhill (Massachusetts, USA), was the first scientist to conduct this kind of experiment in 1906, as reported by the New York Times on March 7, 1907. McDougall “detected” the change in the body weight when the person died.

The measurements were performed on a special bed, which was also a gigantic scale with high precision, and have a difference in the weight before and after death was 22.4 grams. Another weight measurement of the “transient substance” was done almost 80 years later, in 1990, by another researcher – Lyell Watson from the University of New York. In his experiments, the deceased became 2.5 – 6.5 grams lighter.

And almost identical results were obtained by Doctor of Science Eugenyus Kugis from the Institute of Semiconductors of the Lithuania Academy of Sciences in 2006. He found that at the time of death, the person loses between 3 to 7 grams of body weight.

Sam Parnia’s research

However, all these results don’t necessarily mean that the difference in weight can be attributed to the soul. The question of the existence of the soul remains open. The research into the possibility that the soul exists has now been conducted in 25 clinics in the U.S., Canada, and the UK. Dr. Sam Parnia is in charge of these experiments.

He came up with an idea to test the hypothesis of the human soul escaping the body after death, the phenomenon which has been persistently described by individuals who had experienced clinical death and is referred to as a near-death experience. Dr. Parnia and his assistants place cards with written notes in intensive care wards, in places not visible to the patients from their beds – on the ceiling, for instance. The patient who experiences a clinical death will need to read the words written on cards and then tell them to physicians.

If one of the patients reads the word correctly, then it is possible to say that consciousness is separated from the body during death. According to Dr. Parnia, this might be the human soul. The experiment will end at the end of 2013, and the separation of consciousness from the body will be observed in 1,500 patients.

Skeptics’ opinion

Russian scientist, the head of the intensive care unit and resuscitation, Nikolai Gubin, doesn’t believe that these changes have anything to do with the weight of the soul. He said:

“My colleagues and I conducted experiments on mice to determine when and how weight loss occurs when a living organism dies. Four newborn mice weighing 4 and 5 grams were injected with strychnine. After that, two of the mice were placed in the laboratory containers without lids. And the other two mice remained in tightly sealed special containers.

When the mice were later weighed, it was found that the weight loss (possibly meaning the “soul” separating from the body) occurred in the first two test subjects, which were dying in the open air. Their weight decreased by 3 and 6 mg. The mice, isolated from the outside world, had their weight unchanged.

It turns out that this possible weight loss during the process of dying can be attributed to natural physical processes (water losses during respiration, heat, and evaporation losses), and their effect on the difference in body weight can be eliminated by sealing the test subjects undergoing the process of dying.”

In addition, it has been long known that a decrease in body weight can be recorded during sleep. In an experiment by Swiss scientists, 23 volunteers laid in bed, outfitted with ultra-sensitive scales, and went to sleep. At the time when an individual transitioned from being awake to falling asleep, a weight loss between 4 and 6 grams had occurred.

So after all, these differences in the weight may have to do with physiological processes and not the weight of the soul.


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