Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Zombies do Exist!

From  the early days of childhood nightmares, to the now present day block buster horror films, zombies have been a popular subject of terror. A zombie is defined as a creature that appears typically as a reanimated dead or a mindless human being. Although now commonplace in most horror books and movies, stories of zombies originated in the Afro-Caribbean spiritual belief of voodoo.  However, the undead reached popular modern day objects of terror largely in part due to  the overwhelming success of Romero’s film Night of the Living Dead  release in 1968.  A trailer of the infamous movie can be seen at the link below. (1)


Although zombies, still dominantly reside in horror stories, a group of scientists in Canada have actually conducted a study showing what would happens if zombies were to attack modern day civilization. This may seem like a ridiculous study however it is a valid experiment that ultimately demonstrated if zombies actually existed, an attack by them would lead to the collapse of civilization unless they were dealt  in both an aggressive and rapid manner. (2) 

The study conducted was based primarily on a mathematical exercise carried out by the Canadian researchers.  The study even led to the publication of a  scientific paper in the book Infections Diseases Modeling Research Progress. The basis of the study started with the researchers’ fascination with the zombies of common films, video games, and stories in which they can turn healthy individuals into zombies by biting them. Although this study may seem rather ridiculous, there is some science behind it.(2) 

Much like the movie “ I am Legend”, a zombie type plague is in ways similar to a lethal and rapidly spreading infection.  Thus the researchers claim that although in this study the use of the mathematical model was for humor zombie hypothesis , the model could be used for aiding scientists model the spread of unfamiliar diseases through human populations.(2) 

The entire study was conducted at the University of Ottawa and Carleton University and was based on the question “If there was to be a battle between zombies and the living, who would win?”  In order to make the seemingly idiotic question applicable to science, Professor Robert Smith indicated that the zombie attack theory analyzed with the model was based on “ biological assumptions based on popular zombie movies.” Thus the zombie model was born.(2) 

In the model the researchers made the zombies slow moving rather than the more agile zombies of recent horror films. Scientists indicated slow-moving zombies were used in order to give the living individual in the model a fighting chance.  The analysis revealed that  if a strategy like that of “I am Legend” was taken in which  zombies were captured or cured would still lead to a zombie win. The only way that the researchers sited in their scientific paper for the living to win the war would be to "hit them [the undead] hard and hit them often". They also went on to add that  "It's imperative that zombies are dealt with quickly or else... we are all in a great deal of trouble."(2)

To further give the study credit, Professor Neil Ferguson, a chief advisor for the UK government,  noted that the study did have parallels with some infectious diseases such as the recently spread swine flu provided its difficulty in eradication. Professor Smith went on to add that "When you try to model an unfamiliar disease, you try to find out what's happening, try to approximate it. You then refine it, go back and try again."(2) 

When relating the zombie model to how the data could be related to actual usable science the researches noted that the main difference lied in the fact that in the spread of real infections, individuals don’t come back to life like zombies do.(2)

Therefore as can be seen, although the study seemed rather silly and pointless, it can be useful in understanding how infections can quickly spread through populations when eradication becomes a difficult task. In regards to the zombies, the researchers left us with one bit of advice. According to zombie biology if you manage to decapitate them, then they are dead forever. So moral of the story,  a zombie will kill you unless you cut their head off first.(2) 




*all images from here*


1 comment:

  1. This reminds me of the game my bother plays at BW: Zombie Tag. The zombies team infect the humans team with the "H1ZI virus".
    Anyway, I have seen lots of science-ish people say that with the right kind of infectious virus, a "zombie apocalypse" could actually happen.
    If I Am Legend starts to turn into a reality, meet me at the sporting goods section in Walmart. I'll stock up on shotguns and then hit the home improvement section for chainsaws.