Image for After Life: The Strange Science of DecayNot currently available on BBC iPlayer

Duration: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Ever wondered what would happen in your own home if you were taken away, and everything inside was left to rot? The answer is revealed in this fascinating programme, which explores the strange and surprising science of decay.

For two months in summer 2011, a glass box containing a typical kitchen and garden was left to rot in full public view within Edinburgh Zoo. In this resulting documentary, presenter Dr George McGavin and his team use time-lapse cameras and specialist photography to capture the extraordinary way in which moulds, microbes and insects are able to break down our everyday things and allow new life to emerge from old.

Decay is something that many of us are repulsed by. But as the programme shows, it's a process that's vital in nature. And seen in close up, it has an unexpected and sometimes mesmerising beauty.

Last on

Thu 10 Oct 2013 22:00 BBC Four

  • What is After Life?

    What is After Life?

    After Life is a unique combination of television programme and public exhibit. It explores the hidden world of one of nature’s fundamental processes – decay.

    We held an exhibition over the summer at Edinburgh Zoo where a fully equipped kitchen and garden together with all the detritus from a typical family barbeque was sealed in a glass box. We followed the events as maggots, moulds, bacteria, flies and mushrooms transformed the contents beyond all recognition.

    Look out for the documentary coming to BBC4 soon.

    With stunning specialist photography we’ll reveal the exotic beauty of decay and uncover the science of a vital process without which life would not be possible.

  • Immerse yourself in the Rot Box

    Immerse yourself in the Rot Box

    Take a tour of the box. See it before and after it was left to rot.

    This 360 panorama lets you zoom in and see the detail of all the items we left to decay.

    What can you spot?

    BBC Scotland: Panorama Of The After Life Rot Box
  • BBC Learning - Rot Box Live

    BBC Learning - Rot Box Live

    See what happened when we invited an audience of school children to the box to experience the rot up close!

    Watch the stream of the webcast.
  • Behind the Scenes Secrets: How We Made 'After Life'

    Behind the Scenes Secrets: How We Made 'After Life'

    In this special podcast, Executive Producer Marcus Herbert, and Series Producer Fred Hepburn reveal the how the After Life documentary and exhibition were made.

    Find out about the challenges the team faced, hear more about the specialist photography, and uncover what makes a good scientific story.

    Podcast: How We Made 'After Life'


George McGavin
George McGavin
Series Producer
Fred Hepburn
Series Producer
Fred Hepburn
Executive Producer
Marcus Herbert
Executive Producer
Marcus Herbert


Rot Box - Webcast

After Life: The Strange Science of Decay

View the life cycle of a fly unfold before your very eyes and see microbes at work.

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