Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Could a Fungus Start the Zombie Apocalypse?

The phrase, "zombie ants" trended on Yahoo yesterday, as a new study provided details on how the fungus Ophiocordyceps unilateralis controls its victims. For those unfamiliar with Ophiocordyceps unilateralis, it is a fungus that propagates itself by infecting ants, filling the ant's brain with fungal cells, and then manipulating the ant's muscles so that it bites down on a leaf and doesn't let go until it dies. From here, the fungus can infect the leaf and therefore infect a new ant that eats the leaf. The fungus seems to use environmental cues to guide its infection of the ants, as the ants collectively bite down a leaves at noon, and die at sundown.

After learning of this study, the staff here at Burning Questions began to wonder if a fungus would be able to work similarly in humans, and thus cause the zombie apocalypse. Fungi that manipulate host behavior are found in other organisms, such as wasps, bees and crickets, and are thought to infect spiders as well.

However, my research has found that while this is certainly possible, the fungi would have to evolve over several thousand, maybe even millions of years. As the zombie apocalypse is imminent, it is likely that a virus will cause the zombie outbreak before a fungus ever gets a chance to. This is because of the fundamental differences in the way viruses and fungi work; multiply rapidly and have a high mutation rate, allowing them to evolve quickly. Fungi do not multiply as rapidly as viruses, meaning they do not evolve as rapidly, therefore they would be less likely to turn the human brain into mush before viruses can. It is likely that rabies will evolve to turn humans into carnivorous beasts before Ophiocordyceps unilateralis ever evolves to infect humans.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

What should I stock in my cellar for the Zombie Apocalypse?

This ain't no nuclear holocaust. We cannot prepare in the same way as such. We can't go with our neighbors shopping, laughing about the impending doom, not actually thinking it'll happen. Because this will happen. And we don't know who will be a zombie or what information from their past life the will retain. We must assume the worst, and that they may retain information about you. Similarly, in the event of the impending doom, sanity can and will fly out the window and fellow humans may resort to attacking each other. NEVER TELL ANOTHER PERSON WHAT YOUR APOCALYPSE PLANS ARE.

Build yourself a safe zone.Build it safe enough for several human-sized objects to be hurled at it without moving. Make it impenetrable to claws, bites, crowbars, vehicles, meteorites, earthquakes, tsunamis following earthquakes, monsoons, alien attacks, airborne syphilis, and just for shiggles, rabid bunnies. A large concrete dome with a steel door sounds about right. Preferably underground. Deep underground. Somewhere no one knows. No one. Like that cave you found with your buds that have all moved away since then and have died and/or have amnesia.

Now, Tallahassee from Zombieland may have had an undying and scary affinity for Twinkies, but they are not the best food to save up. Twinkies are high in fat and sugar and other bad things. However, fruits, veggies,  and other assorted healthy things will spoil and go bad, and could possibly be detrimental the the virus-ridden Zombies anyway. What you need to something with enough preservatives to be edible for a very long time. Similarly, you do not want preservatives to get into the zombies, and preserving their flesh will probably prolong their lifespan and therefor shorten yours.  By both harding preservatives and eating them, you will increase your chance of survival. STOCK UP NOW.

Weapons. Lots and lots of weapons. Bludgeon weapons are the hardest to hurt yourself with accidentally, and require the least amount of training. Guns are nice for range, but will always run out of ammo eventually. I'd advise a nice bat, mace, or sword, if you can find one. Keep it sharp.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

We Are Not Alone

In the fight against Zombies.

This very informative flier was found HERE. Please study and learn from this.

zombieinfographic.jpg (576×768)

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Where will the Outbreak Begin?

There are a few major centers where a newfound/newmade virus may appear in the world:

1) The Center of Disease Control (CDC). Location: Atlanta, Georgia, USA

Located in a major city, the CDC is a huge research/quarantine facility controlled by the US government. The large number of people in the surrounding area (Atlanta) would make it possible for the virus to take hold quickly and spread fast. Hartsfield-Jackson Airport, the busiest in the nation, would have the virus spread to the entire world in a very short amount of time. This is by far the most dangerous place for the virus to be created.

2) The Amazon Rainforest. Location: South America
It is said that the cure to every disease can be found amoung the flora of the Amazon. The fact it, most of the rainforest in a mystery to biologists and scientists. There are large expanses of unexplored wildlife that could be and is hiding something from the rest of the world. Similarly, the constant deforestation is forcing whatever is hiding in there to come out and show its ugly face with the world. And once it does, we are doomed.

3) Vietnam. Location: Southeast Asia

The evidence is not in favour of Vietnam. Gonorrhea came from Vietnam, brought over to the Americas by GI's fighting the war and cheating on their wives. Gonorrhea. Now, with our Global Community, we have far more contact with the people of this nation than simply having sex with their women and demolishing their villages. We communicate, travel; we hire their children in sweatshops and have their descendants paint out toenails. If and when a new virus is discovered, it will wipe out millions ridiculously fast.

4) The Congo Rainforest. Location: Africa
Now, I know what you are thinking. Sure, blame Africa. Pick on them because of the whole AIDS thing. But that's not it at all. First of all, everyone knows that HIV was created by the US government, in the CDC, to kill the homosexuals and the poor people. Africa was their perfect scapegoat. Africa is the victim here.
Now, the Congo is the perfect breeding ground for a new virus to form. Carcinogens such as oil, intense sunlight, and a large quantity of sexual reproduction all converge on this rainforest, making the Congo capable of producing almost anything. Not to mention the amount of evolution having to occur to overcome AIDS and  malaria, which is aided by the same carcinogens. Zombiism is bound to appear in a year or less.

5) Northwest Territory. Location: Northern Canada
While researching, we noticed that this was a rather alarming place, but we put it out of our minds, because its Canada. Nothing ever happens in Canada. But after some looking into, we have discovered several reasons why this is the most threatening place in the world.
-No one lives in Northern Canada. Those few strange people that do are already skilled at fighting off rabid bears and moose and beavers and other cold-weather mammals.The cunning survive and these people have already fought the wilderness, and are best suited to fight off the zombies.
-Zombiism has been described as 'The Rage' (28 Days Later). It seems as though the virus causes the body to heat to a temperature that causes the brain to melt (hence the obsession with brains). This, accompanied by the fact that outbreaks seems to occur during the summer months leads us to believe that the virus needs warm conditions. Any person in the Northwest Territory would be safe, as it is a frozen tundra up there.
-Canada has been awfully quiet for the last few decades. I have often heard/been the subject of jokes indicating the uselessness of Canada. And they have taken it with very little complaint. It is my belief that they are attempting to not bring attention to themselves, so their secrets (the virus) will not be exposed before the apocalypse happens.
-In April of 1998, the Northwest Territory was split roughly in half and the new Provence of Nunavut was created.Not only would it make sense that they would be upset at the new lack of land and want to get it back, with interest. If the entire world's population is gone, the people of the Northwest Territory can then take over all the land and rebuild from the shambles. They are strong; they are creative; they will survive.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Why Do Zombies Crave Brains and Flesh?

You've probably heard stories about people craving weird foods. There is actually a show devoted to it on TLC called My Strange Addiction. Pregnant women are also famous for having some serious cravings to bizarre foods such as toilet paper and dirt in addition to actual foods such as meat, salt, chocolate, etc.
The gener
al theory surrounding cravings is that the body craves foods that are high in certain nutrients it is deficient in. Therefore a pregnant woman who thinks the soil in the garden looks tasty is perhaps deficient in phosphorus while the lady on My Strange Addiction that
eats toilet paper is probably just weird.
Now, as you may not know the brain is made up largely of fat, due to myelin, a fatty substance that surrounds nerve cells and insulates them to prevent cross talk with other cells. Fat is important in basic body functions, especially the functions of a zombie. Fat stores energy (which is important because we speculate that zombies burn a lot of energy very quickly), helps maintain body temperature, and cells need it to function (and since a zombie's cells can not undergo division it is imperative that they protect the ones they have).
Flesh is a really creepy sounding name for the skin, fat, and muscles of a human. Muscles are made up of protein which, as most people know, is a source of energy. The Zombie must consume flesh for energy. Things such as Red Bull or Monster simply cannot compete with the pure intense energy provided by Normals.

DISCLAIMER: This is NOT an argument for cannibalism. College students, overworked coal miners and old people should NOT revert to eating their friends and family to keep going. A Zombie is more adept at burning human flesh than a Normal. Cannibalism is not socially acceptable.

Can Zombies Feel Pain?

This is probably the most important question we can ask, which is why we must address it so soon. When fending off a Zombie, it is imperative to know precisely what is effective.

The rules presented in the film Zombieland offer plenty of good advice. We are going to examine rule number 2, Double Tap. The rule simply states to never, never ever , EVER, shoot once and assume the target is dead. Always make sure the subject has been thoroughly defeated. Such as the subject of an infinite number of horror films, the target simply will not die, or be rendered incapacitated, by normal means.

From this we must see that a simple wound, lost limb, festering gangrene or severe splinter does not affect their ability to attack. The Normal is still chased by the Zombies until the zombie can be sufficiently destroyed. However, I am unconvinced that this means they cannot feel pain.

My theory is simple--a Zombie's hunger for flesh/brains is so completely absolutely ridiculously strong that is overpowers all other feeling. A Zombie's human body is trying to expel the virus from the body; the immune system is in such an overload that the body needs a constant source of nourishment. One rich in protein. The body craves it with such a burning intensity, that is overrules all other sensations of the body. We shall call it, the Jordan Hierarchy of Zombie Needs.

Now, Zombies have a tremendous need for flesh. TREMENDOUS. it is almost unfathomable how much flesh one has to devour until it starts caring for its safety. But we notice, the longer a Zombie has gone without feeding, the more desperate it gets. It sinks farther and farther to the bottom of the pyramid. The farther into a movie one gets, the more Zombies attack the heroes. This is because the Normal population has decreased exponentially, and fewer Zombies can feed. Fewer Zombies care about pain and their safety.

We know that pain must be felt because fire has an effect of Zombies. Fire may not destroy the entire body; it is still possible to move while covered in burns. Most people refrain from doing so, because it hurts like hell. Pardon the pun. However, if a Zombie is hungry enough, its deteriorated nervous system will forgo any thoughts of avoiding said pain and charge on forward to consume whatever it can.

Unfortunately, this shows us that a well fed Zombie has the ability to hide. THIS IS EXTREMELY DANGEROUS. A Zombie that can hide is a Zombie you night not see. More Normals will be wiped out at the beginning of the Apocalypse by hidden Zombies because they let their guard down. Once the Survival of the Fittest kicks in, and the Zombies have demolished the weak, the remaining Normals will have an easier time traveling (Zombies will not be able to hide), but will have to rely on the Double Tap.

The important thing to remember is this: Underfed Zombies = can't feel pain. So be careful!

The Definition of a Zombie

Before we ask any questions it is important to define exactly what a zombie is so that our answers can be more scientific. Traditionally, a zombie is deceased human that has somehow become reanimated. Movies such as Dawn of The Dead use this type of zombie. However zombies differ greatly from movie to movie. In some cases zombies move slowly, in other cases they move with super human speed. Zombies generally lack most higher cognitive functions however there are some instances in which zombies can use technology. In recent films such as 28 Days Later and Zombieland, zombies are humans that have become "undead" because of a virus. This differs from the traditional zombie because they go straight from human to zombie; they never die. So is a zombie dead, or alive? Does it matter when they are attacking you? YES IT DOES.

But we must wonder about the nature of this virus. A virus is a simple, essentially lifeless bit of DNA and protein. The proteins that encase the DNA, once they eject their DNA, become prions, which have been known to have malignant effects on the human form. We must question what exactly this virus will do to the subject. Will it simply deteriorate the human mind and body? Or will it do something more to the body, such as change the nature of cells in the human body?

To keep things constant in this blog we will be using a zombie prototype. For our purposes a zombie is a human that has become undead due to a virus. These zombies are slow-moving, lack higher cognitive function, and crave flesh. The virus attacks their nervous system making them aggressive, inhuman, and animal-like, no matter how it affects the body. Because zombies are still able to move and eat it can be assumed that their organ systems are relatively unaffected, which implies that they have a beating heart and blood flow (organs need blood flow to function.) However, it can also be assumed that zombies cannot create new cells which is why they begin to fall apart in many movies (limbs fall off, wounds do not heal, etc.)

With that in mind, we will now begin to ask, research, and answer questions we have always wondered about zombies. If you have a burning question about zombies feel free to ask.