Death is sometimes personified as the Grim Reaper, and the hooded skeleton with his scythe has made appearances in everything from Longfellow poems to Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels. The saying goes that nothing in life is certain except for death and taxes. What do you know about death? Take a look at the next page to get started.
The death penalty, or capital punishment, has been abolished in some countries, but not yet the United States. Here, the conspirators in the plot to kill President Lincoln hang from the gallows in the yard of the Old Penitentiary at the Washington Arsenal on July 7, 1865. Next, see the most common form of death penalty in the United States today.
The United States became the first country to use lethal injection as a means of carrying out capital punishment. It's the most common method today. Often, it's a dose of three different drugs, but in December 2009, the state of Ohio executed someone with just one drug. The person on the next page is thought to have killed the most people.
Genghis Khan is thought to have killed between 30 and 100 million people during the Mongol Conquests. Next, see what event caused the the highest death tolls in one day.
On Aug. 6, 1945, the U.S. military dropped an atomic bomb on Japan, killing approximately 70,000 people in Hiroshima instantly. See the deadliest natural disaster next.
The 1931 Central China floods killed nearly 4 million people. After a drought, heavy snow melt followed by heavy rains flooded the Yellow, Yangtze and Huai Rivers. The most deaths from an epidemic is on the next page.
AIDS continues to be a worldwide epidemic. More than 25 million people have died of AIDS since 1981, and it's estimated that 33 million people were living with HIV/AIDS in 2008. On the next page, learn what happens during an autopsy.
Autopsies are performed when someone dies suddenly and unexpectedly while in apparently good health. Sometimes a person's cause of death isn't apparent. They can also be performed at the request of the family of the deceased. Next, learn how the body is embalmed.
Embalmers work to keep bodies looking their best for a viewing. The body is washed with germicidal soap, then the embalmer drains the blood and gases before injecting embalming fluid. On the next page, see one way a body might be disposed of after the viewing and funeral.
Cremation is one option after death. An average human body takes from two to three hours to burn completely and will produce an average of 3 to 9 pounds (1.4 to 4.1 kilograms) of ash. Or, a more traditional approach is on the next page.
Burial in the ground or in concrete vaults often requires steel-lined wood caskets. North America uses as much steel in caskets per year as the amount used in the Golden Gate Bridge. See a greener, more sustainable option next.
Green funeral practices are as varied as traditional methods, but all the details of the process feature biodegradable materials, like the bamboo coffin shown here. Embalming fluid is also replaced with refrigeration or dry ice, both nontoxic. Next, see a famous coffin that is 3,000 years old.
King Tutankhamen's golden coffin is rumored to have a curse due to the tragedies that have happened since its opening. In modern day, memorials are more commonly erected for famous leaders, like the one on the next page.
At the Lincoln Memorial, visitors can take educational tours or attend lectures. The original design was for a 12-foot statue of the Civil War president surrounded by six large equestrian and 31 pedestrian statues, but a lack of funding derailed the initial project. See a world-famous memorial made of marble next.
Completed in 1653, the Taj Mahal was erected by the Mogul ruler Shah Jahan to honor the memory and enshrine the body of his favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who died in childbirth. Today most people are likely to die from the cause on the next page.
The most common cause of death in the United States is heart disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). To boost your heart health, stick with these tried-and-true tips: Eat a healthy diet and get some exercise. The next most common cause of death in the United States is on the following page.
In the United States, cancer is the second most common cause of death. But certain types of cancer are deadlier than others; the most common is nonmelanoma skin cancer, but it's rarely fatal. Causes of death vary worldwide depending on income level, as we'll see on the next page.
The World Health Organization divides causes of death worldwide by income level. In high-income countries, coronary heart disease is the leading cause of death, while in low-income countries, it's lower respiratory infections. People living in middle-income countries have to be on the lookout for cerebrovascular disease and stroke, which concern blood vessels and the brain. Is there a worst way to die? See the next page.
Burning alive is a pretty bad way to go -- which makes this Buddhist monks' protest of the Vietnam War by publicly burning himself to death all the more significant. Awareness of the type of death and fear of the unknown can also make one kind of death more grisly than another. If you want to extend your life, try living in the country on the next page.
The country with the longest life expectancy is Andorra, a tiny mountain nation in the Pyrenees between France and Spain. Residents there are expected to live to the ripe old age of 83.5.