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.