The Science of Zombies

Written by: Captain Skellett // August 28th, 2009 // How Things Work, Just for Fun

Zombies represent a serious threat to human civilisation.

Brains Brains Ooh Shoes Brains

At least, they would if they were real.

This one has done the blog-round over the past couple of weeks, and it was just to brainy and delicious to turn down! Entitled “When Zombies Attack!” it is a mathematical modelling of an outbreak of zombie infection, similar to what we do to study diseases like the flu to anticipate how infection will spread, and how best to prevent it.

But it’s about ZOMBIES! You can read the whole thing here.

The paper is bleak in outlook, and says that the collapse of civilisation is likely unless aggressive eradication attempts are made early on. I must say I disagree. As a Captain, I am not overly concerned by zombies… my dreams are haunted by the ghostly visage of the white whale and the many tentacles of the giant squid which wrap around my neck until I bolt awake in cold sweat to find the bed clothes wound around me. Zombies to my knowledge do not swim, and there are many sweet secluded spots on islands many miles from the mainland which I highly doubt would feel the cold sting of infection on their virginal shores.

First up, all zombie movies have shown that while infection may run rampant, some small group of survivors remain to one day repopulate the race. Society may collapse, but zombies are unlikely to wipe out humans altogether. Take for example I Am Legend (if you haven’t seen it, well, Will Smith takes off his shirt and it’s awesome so go rent it), in which some people were naturally resistant to infection. Secondly, the world is a big place and the incubation period of zombification is short, so infection would hopefully be restricted to one continent a la 28 Days Later (and not 28 Weeks Later).

Actually the paper doesn’t deal with the infected in 28 Days Later, who are not considered real zombies because they move too quickly and can carry out planned attacks to hunt humans. Shame, because 28 Days Later is my favourite zombie flick, and as a homage to the genre I’m considering getting one of these garden ornaments. Cute, right? He’s life-sized.

Garden Zombie Available for Purchase

This ain’t the first time people have taken the science of zombies seriously, plenty of people have analysed in detail possible neurochemical and biological reasons why zombies behave the way that they do. Click through to read how a Harvard psychiatrist explains zombie neurobiology, or try the Federal Vampire and Zombie Agency for information on zombie sociology and the virus which causes infection.

The literature on zombies is plentiful, and could best be enjoyed with one of these aptly shaped cupcakes. Remember that knowing is half the battle, and always be prepared.

Captain Skellett

I be Captain Skellett. Me blog started in April 2009 when I was working full time and didn’t get a chance to talk science. Now I have changed jobs and talk science all the time, but that doesn’t stop me blogging. More About Captain Skellett   Google


5 Responses to “The Science of Zombies”

  1. gem says:

    that picture is seriously disturbing. i wouldnt be able to sit in your garden ever again.

  2. Andrew Kellett says:

    Pretty nifty equilibria, only problem is the ‘removed’ group is constantly resurrected into fresh zombies, but removed group is comprised of natural deaths, beheaded zombies, mercy killed infected, and such. Most of this removed group has already had the zombie killed out of it once. Doomsday appears so likely because this recursion is continually pumping out reanimated zombies regardless of earlier shotguns to the head, chainsaws through the chest, or flares to petrol tankers. For accuracy needs to be adjustments to the functions or an additional ‘eradicated’ group full of useless bodies.

  3. zali says:


  4. gem says:

    can you do a post about assisted reproduction? im doing an assignment on it and i would love to hear your views are 🙂 also – jess asked me to request something about the possibilities of creating a baby using only genes from two women. is it possible? what would the complications be, you know, apart from all the babies being girls?

    Captain Skellett Reply:

    Sure dude, post on it’s way 🙂

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