Following on from yesterday’s Dead Island trailer, I started wondering whether zombies are scientifically possible or not. Funnily enough, there’s a HUGE amount of information on this topic (who would have thought?), so here’s a brief summary of my findings, along with a lot of links allowing you to read further, should you wish to be prepared for a zombocalypse!
One vital question to ask yourself first is simply “What exactly is a zombie?”. An easy question, you would think, but one that is actually quite complex when you get down to the science behind it. I could go into a lot of detail here, but the following article by Phil Plait, “Scientist uses his brains to explain how to make zombies plausible“, is both more detailed and better written than something I could do. He talks about how power hungry our brains are, and how they require the rest of our functioning body to provide them with enough oxygen and nutrients to survive. I especially like the following point he makes:
“I suppose, then, the only way to have a scientific zombie (and by that I mean a scientifically viable one, not a zombie in a white lab coat peering through a microscope) is for all the major organs to be working, so that the brain can get the energy it needs… but you may see the problem here. If all the major organs work, and the brain works, it’s not really a zombie, is it?“
Of course, the fact that zombies aren’t scientifically plausible doesn’t stop people from thinking of scientific ways that zombies could happen. The following article on cracked.com, “5 Scientific Reasons a Zombie Apocalypse Could Actually Happen” explains, well, 5 scientific reasons a zombie apocalypse could actually happen. Condensed, the 5 reasons are:
- Brain Parasites: Toxoplasmosa gondii takes over our brains, forcing us to lose our self-preservation & rational thought.
- Neurotoxins: Use a poison (such as tetrodotoxin from a fugu) to greatly slow down bodily functions to a death-like state, then use drugs like Datura stramonium (or other alkaloids) to bring them back to a trancy zombie-like state.
- Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease, aka “Mad Cow Disease“, causes zombie-like symptoms.
- Neurogenesis: Use stem cells to re-grow the dead brain stem of a brain-dead patient, resulting in a mindless body shambling around.
- Nanobots: microscopic, self-replicating robots, that can set up neural connections in the brain to replace damaged ones. By leaving the brain stem intact but destroying the cortex, they can effectively create a zombie.
All a bit far fetched, I’ll agree, but amusing to think about. On the flip side of the coin to the above 5 reasons, are cracked.com’s “7 Scientific Reasons a Zombie Outbreak Would Fail (Quickly)“. Much more logical reasoning. Makes you wonder why we worry in the first place. Or why researchers still ponder ‘zombie attack’. I find it all really rather amusing.
You’ve got red on you. Onwards!