Posts Tagged ‘Zombie’

Would we survive a zombie apocalypse?

// September 15th, 2010 // 2 Comments » // Science in the Movies

Brain CakeI have blogged about zombies before on this blog (real zombies and infection modeling), and generally I am pretty concerned about the impending zombie apocalypse. But today I stumbled upon the reasons why we WOULD SURVIVE such an event, and of course I had to share the good news with you. ‘Specially if you’re one of those people who secretly wish for a zombie apocalypse?

This information is from Cracked.com – 7 Scientific Reasons why we would Survive a Zombie Outbreak (Quickly.) I’m not going to rewrite their points. I’m not going to copy their jokes. I wish I had come up with this stuff myself, but I didn’t. So read the article and enjoy.

I disagree with Cracked on a number of points. If we accept that zombies are real, we can hardly impose on them the same limitations of the normal human body. For example, they said zombies would melt in the sun and get frostbite in the cold. It’s much like saying that zombies would have rigor mortise or would continue to decay… they’re not like normal humans because they are reanimated corpses. Hell, if the corspe can keep walking, who’s to say it will degenerate into putrefaction on a hot day?

Ditto the comments on zombies being unable to heal themselves and falling prey to insects or bears. Well, maybe bears, but they must be able to prevent maggot infestations. For us, we have kick ass immune systems that keep our bodies mostly clear of nasties. Maybe zombies have the same. Because they are cold and have less replicating cells they are probably unlikely to catch the flu. Maybe because their cells are dead, they have no B or T cells functioning. But I’m sure that complement, a non-living protein based section of the immune system would still work and is more than capable of emptying a can of whip-ass. Immunologists, correct me if I’m wrong.

However I do think they’re right, that we would pretty easily hole up in city high rises and just pick off zombies by throwing stuff on their heads. I guess it would depend on how long you could live in an upstairs office. Is there a kitchen? Is there still running water and enough food to last a month or so? How long do zombies live? Can you fashion weapons of mass decapitation out of desk chairs? All important questions to be answered.

As for biting being a crappy way to spread infection – Fair call. Sneezing is a much better way to transmit a disease. Carriers are also a great method, I think of them as Trojan Horses. They look innocent enough but they’re germilicious on the inside. People with the flu are most contagious in the first few days of having it, including just before they have serious symptoms. Zombies tend to be obvious, so infecting people on the sly is tricky business.

Although the article made me feel a bit better about the inevitable zombie apocalypse, I’m still continuing to check the radio for any sign of infection before I take my ship into port. One can never be too careful where zombies are concerned.

Zombification

// October 26th, 2009 // 4 Comments » // Drugs, How Things Work, Poisons, The Realm of Bizzare

Halloween is on the horizon. Today’s post is on the science of Zombies. Because Zombies, apparently, exist. In Haiti.

caribean_map

Haiti is located in the Caribbean, near Jamaica and Cuba. Ah… the Caribbean… Anyway, this story is not about cocktails served in coconuts with little umbrellas on the side. It’s more about mind control.

The guy mainly credited with this discovery is Wade Davis, who wrote two books on the subject The Serpent and the Rainbow, a bit of an adventure, Indiana Jones wannabe read and Passage of Darkness, a more scientific work. Davis went on location at Haiti, which has voodoo as part of their religion, and found evidence that zombies really exist – having met a man called Clairvius Narcisse whose death was reported in 1962 by hospital staff, and 18 years later claimed to be an escaped zombie.

Davis managed to get his hands on some ‘zombie powder’ by bribing some informants. The powder was found to have toxins from a variety of natural sources: Bufotoxin from toads, a neurotoxin released on the skin, and the reason why toad-licking can be psychedelic. Also the reason why many princesses took to kissing frogs to find a prince, in my opinion; and puffer fish venom – tetrodotoxin, which can cause muscle paralysis, low blood pressure, and a pseudocomatose effect, and which always reminds me of that Simpsons episode where Homer thinks he’s going to die because he ate puffer fish at a sushi restaurant.

Puffer fish Bufo alvarius

However, the amount of toxins in each of the samples Davis gathered varied wildly, and often the amounts were so trace as they would scarcely have any effect at all. Not to mention, getting the amount of toxins correct to make someone enter a death-like state without actually dying would be an extraordinary feat. We do a similar thing with anesthetics, but natural products tend to vary the concentration of toxin they have plant-to-plant (or toad-to-toad in this case) so getting it right would be trickier than teaching your parrot to swim. Davis’ answer to this is psychobiological – the idea that psychoactive drugs are effective not only because of what they do on a biological level, but also because of what we expect them to do and the cultural influences around us. If someone thinks a little bit of alcohol will make them giggly and relaxed, then they’ll giggle their way out of a goose egg after a mere drop of rum. In this case, if you think a powder is going to knock you out and make you appear dead, if you really BELIEVE it, then maybe it works even if the quantity of drug is a little low. It’s like the placebo effect, except with zombies.

Following the death-like state, the zombie is revived and kept in a submissive state by being given Datura stramonium, aka the Zombie Cucumber. Datura is both highly poisonous (NOT a party drug!) and psychoactive, and due to a mixture of toxins it contains it can cause severe anticholinergic delirium – read ‘off your face, probably in a bad way’. Again, part of the effects are probably due to mind and cultural influences. If someone just almost died, and then is given Datura and treated like a zombie – well that’s a pretty bad trip!

Datura

However, let me point out that if there are zombies as Davis suggests, there are not very many of them, and they don’t eat brains. Davis believed zombies either worked a farm as cheap labour, or more likely are turned into zombies by a Bokor (like a voodoo high priest) as an extreme form of punishment similar to a death sentence used by a secret society in Haiti called the Bizango. It’s interesting to note that creating a zombie in Haiti is considered illegal, and if a body is buried it is considered murder, whether the person dies or not. Good to know the law is on the side of the undead.

In essence, zombification may exist as a form of punishment by voodoo believers, and involves a seriously dangerous drug cocktail (not the kind served with a paper umbrella) whose action is probably assisted by mental and cultural influences. Turning people into zombies is against the law in Haiti, and totally not cool anywhere. Cross me and I might make you walk the plank, but I won’t turn you into no brain-craving undead.

References:
http://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2004/12/09/1260445.htm
http://paranormal.suite101.com/article.cfm/real_zombies_exist_in_haiti
http://science.howstuffworks.com/zombie.htm
http://www.webster.edu/~corbetre/haiti/bookreviews/davis1.htm
http://social-anthropology.suite101.com/article.cfm/zombie_from_haiti_to_halloween






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