The Science of Zombies

Are zombies real? Could some form of parasitic infection turn the whole world into a nightmare of the undead, a Zombie Apocalypse of disturbing proportions? Answer: probably.

In various parts of the world, there is evidence that it may have already happened, in some form or other. But my question is this: If a global zombie apocalypse actually occurred, how would it go down? And could it wipe out humanity entirely?

For years now, I’ve thought that the age-old and much adored zombie movies were getting it wrong. These slow-burning, groaning misfits sleeping during the day and shuffling through the streets at night searching for any surviving, non-dead human to either ‘turn’ or feast upon.

And then along came 28 Days Later and I thought, Yes, now we’re getting somewhere. This is much more like it. These zombie bastards were closer to the mark as far as my idea of the undead went. But it still wasn’t quite right.

The way I see it, a zombie-like infection would remove your inhibitions, which would effectively mean the following:

  1. You’d be fast
  2. You wouldn’t care about self injury
  3. You’d be violent
  4. You would kill indiscriminately.

Let’s break these down for discussion.

You’d be fast

None of this shuffling, shambling arms-aloft kind of thing that’s slow and awkward. If whatever parasite or brain disease that infected you slowed you down, you wouldn’t survive for long. You’d end up vegetating in a corner until your body decomposed enough to render you useless in any apocalyptic nightmare vision of the future.

If you’re hungry, and let’s face it, zombies appear to have one hell of an appetite, you’re going to run for your dinner. The faster you are, the quicker you’ll eat.

You wouldn’t care about self injury

Pretty self-explanatory. Your mind is on that next kill, that’s all you know. Nothing will stop you, not even a broken arm or missing leg. Maybe you just don’t feel the pain. You’d slam hard into walls, lampposts, but you’ll plough through it, you’ll carry on regardless. A sucker-punch ain’t gonna stop this zombie. World War Z got this one down to an art.

You’d be violent

Face it, this virus that’s fucked with your head is going to make you lash out in a rage. In fact, in my view, the violent rage will far outweigh the need for food. You’ll eat, of course; that part of your brain will still scream for sustenance, but it’ll be rats and dogs and anything else you can get your hands on. Killing is going to be a sport for you. In a violent fit, you’re going to claw, bite, tear and rip until there’s nothing left of your opponent. Which leads us to:

You would kill indiscriminately

Killing indiscriminately is, in my view, the main point of what I’m trying to say here. It won’t be us against them. It’s going to be every man for himself. When confronted with another zombie, you’re going to want to kill it. It won’t matter that he’s ‘one of you’. And if you’re still a human, still normal? You won’t care either. You’re going to shoot first, ask questions later, because there won’t be time for smalltalk. If someone approaches you and he is a zombie, you’re already toast. There will be a significant amount of human casualties caused by other non-turned humans.

Could a Zombie Apocalypse Wipe Out Humanity?

It’s a likelihood. If the virus is airborne, it will spread quickly. It’s what viruses want: total domination. The implication is clear: an airborne virus will turn everyone in its contamination range. Wiping out the whole world might be tricky, but it would only take one person in the early stages of infection to board a plane and spread the disease to another country. Destination: Zombieville.

Viruses mutate. This is a known fact. They become stronger and adapt to the environment. As quickly as we work on an antidote, the virus may have already changed beyond recognition and we’d have to start again.

The End?

Eventually, a zombie’s body will start to decompose. It’s not getting the right nutrition and, subject to survival, will collapse from within. And if zombies were killing indiscriminately, as we’ve already established, they’d wipe themselves out in time. If it’s become a global catastrophe, if the whole world has become infected, eventually there’ll be only one zombie left, per vicinity.

No one will be breeding any more so there’ll be no more children to rebuild civilisation. Humankind will be reduced to one infected person in each town or city or possibly even country: the one zombie that was strong enough to outlast all the others he came up against. And then? He’d die. He’d have no food – the world will be depleted of all its resources – and sooner or later his body will cave in and his decomposition will be complete.

Humanity, infected or otherwise, would no longer exist.

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