Thursday, June 30, 2011

Making a Zombie: Is It Plausible?



Come on, haven't you ever wondered if it's scientifically feasible?


In some magic-based practices, the process of making a zombie is taken as fact. With the right mix of ingredients, a person can ingest the concoction and go into a kind of stasis (think SciFi long-distance space travel). The body’s systems would shut down to almost a halt, maintaining just enough to keep and element of life present (yeah, like a glowing pilot light on a gas heater). There is no doubt this is possible. Every time we undergo anesthesia for a surgery, we are quieting down conscious brain function, but maintaining autonomic function so our hearts still beat and we still breathe. With anesthesia comes a dulling of pain senses and the creation of amnesia when it is over. Of course, this wouldn't make for a real zombie, just a dead-looking person. The zombie would supposedly occur when you reanimate the person. In the case of anesthesia or even primitive mixes of powders, it wouldn't make a zombie, it would make an awake person after deep sleep.

These logistics aside, the problem with creating a zombie is the basic knowledge that when you shut down body functions to the degree that breathing is not detectable, then not enough blood is reaching the brain. Even if you reanimate a person by say CPR means, if the person has been without oxygen for enough a period of time, the brain functions will not reengage. You will have anoxic brain injury and a vegetative state.

Saying you reanimate a person’s body, in order for them to be a walking eating threat, they would have to have some of the brain functions in order to still move about. The concept of a zombie being directed by its master to do tasks is absolutely impossible. It would be like telling a person in coma to sit up on the edge of the bed. So, in the case of this type of “zombie” they would not be able to perform the functions of wandering the streets. They would also be mortal and able to be killed.

So, let’s conceive of some situations in which a zombie-type creature could be created. It would take a few elements. There would need to be severe retardation of brain function to the point that the person is perhaps at the mental level of a 2-year-old and therefore understanding of commands, but not understanding of whether these commands are fair or unfair, right or wrong. In order to get this unfortunate person to eat flesh, it would take a condition of pica. Pica is a condition in which a person craves things to eat that are not eatable, such as clay, metal, soil, and the like. Along with perhaps an ongoing iron-deficiency anemia, this lame-minded host could potentially be talked into cannibalism. In this case, at best, you’d get a docile child-like person who could be talked into eating flesh but would not have the natural tendencies to go out and seek flesh to eat. They would also be mortal and easily killed.

Other considerations: There is a disease called Kuru. It attacks the brain in a sort of mad cow disease type of way. It was found in New Guinea to be caused by cannibalism and the eating of the brains of those infected. This disease kills usually within 12 months and is also called the “shaking” disease or the “laughing” disease because it causes uncontrollable shaking and outbursts of laughter. That would make for a much different zombie, as this one would walk and talk, but also shake and laugh uncontrollably. Probably not that threatening. They would also be mortal and able to be killed, but would die on their own within several months in an agonizing manner.

The true zombies of pop folklore are an interesting concept, but the reanimation of flesh would also include an anoxic body that would not be able to have a brain function to move about, think, desire to eat, or any other features we’ve come to know.

Just because zombies can’t physiologically exist in the manner shown in movies presently, there are other aspects of medicine upcoming in the field right now that could change the present impossibility. Doctors are working on a kind of patient stasis that would keep their body functions on the lowest level of existence until they can come up with cures for what ails them. This is different than “putting a head on ice” cryogenics. Still, these two forms of putting people in stasis and then reanimating them could very well create conditions we aren’t aware of. Certain parts of the brain could feasibly be revived while others die off creating an imbalance in behaviors and tendencies. This might be like a football head injury can make someone suddenly very angry when they were kind before. Still, this would be a mortal condition and able to be destroyed.

Ultimately, the only true flesh-eating, killing, ruthless, nearly indestructible zombie you could ever invent would involve some very savvy Japanese engineers. It would have to be robotic. This could be programmed in many ways and the thought is actually a bit more chilling than flesh and blood, shoot `em in the head zombies.

Whether zombies exist in the future or not, the concept of a person dead but walking, alive but soulless is one that continues to fascinate and repel.

22 comments:

  1. i think it is important not to do in a rush. Or zombie will turn to be like premature infant ,at greater risk for short and long term complications.

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  2. R&S; So true, we don't want to invent a half-baked zombie. We might have to do a new rendition of the movie "What's Eating Gilbert Grape?" Answer: His zombie mother!

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  3. I always figured if zombies were to walk to the earth it would be more like a 28 Days Later or The Crazies scenario where some type of pandemic screws with people's heads turning them into mindless psychos rather then flesh eaters.

    When your dealing with a pandemic especially if it's airborne containment would almost be impossible and you would have hordes that could be killed but would be so massive they would simply overrun any defenses by shear number. The only good side to this would be that it would be short lived. It would burn itself out in a couple of months.

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  4. TW; I agree. I think that the most likely concept would be something of a flesh-eating disease like the one in the post. You'd almost have to flesh that was affected, like Mad Cow disease, and then get this kind of brain-affecting disease. I doubt it'd be air-borne, in that I would figure that illness would be more viral and this might be more parasitic. Any way you look at it, people gone crazy would be self limiting to a population that partook of uncooked flesh most likely.

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  5. Agree with The Wolf. That is completely believable and could potentially be realistic..and it wouldn't take much!

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  6. Yes. I think we'd all be tackling that one by wearing masks and carrying guns. Scary scenario. Sounds like a giant holdup.

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  7. Maybe nanobots. Injected by scientists to repair the body, the bots continue to function after dead. Bwahahahahahaha

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  8. See, the nano-aspect I could totally buy. Send the little boogers into the human body and they take over the controls. They could pump more oxygen to the necessary places to enhance muscle power and stimulate the parts of the brain more on the animal-aspect of humans and less on the memory or conscience. Hmm.. You just might be able to commandeer a human body as a host for a little nano-directed zombie.

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  9. Of course, the nanos much replicate as part of their programing so people must die. *evil bwahahahahaha*

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  10. Barry, you got some kind of creepy lab I don't know about?

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  11. Can you imagine the promise of nanobots giving you perfect health and longevity. What could possibly go wrong?

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  12. As crazy as it sounds I do think that some form of virus or whatever will make people zombies of some sort. :P

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  13. Zombie; It sounds a helluva lot better than bird flu. I'd much rather go by zombie flu.

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  14. Barry;
    I do like the idea of them working hard inside me to keep things healthy, but can they please do something about my undereye circles? It'd be fun to be able to reprogram them to have a new hair color every day. They said some day you can have a wall like that. Paint it with the nano parts in it and change it to any color you want any time. What a world!

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  15. Of course zombies are possible - Jesus proved that LONG ago!

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  16. Yeah, but why are Christians the ones eating his flesh and drinking his blood? Shouldn't it be the other way around?

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  17. yeah, i'd like to play god sometime... but the whole zombie deal has been done already. Isn't Nature , according to zombie definition is zombie itself?

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  18. This got me looking into the whole zombie thing. There actually a real life zombie fungus. The fungus affects ants by growing inside the ant and releasing chemicals that control and alter it's behavior forcing them to find leaves where they clamp onto and die. Then the fungus grows out of the ant to fire off more spores to infect other ants. It's creepy stuff here's the link

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2010/aug/18/zombie-carpenter-ant-fungus

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  19. Wolf--you are brilliant and that sounds like a follow-up movie plot for "Them!"

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  20. I like my zombies the old fashion way. Voodoo!

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  21. I agree with Mr. Black. While I enjoy the modern iteration of Zombies as much as the next guy, it has gotten a bit...done of late and I look forward to the voodoo ones making a comeback. To that end, they are the only scientifically proven zombies thusfar: victims of tetradotoxin poisoning who have been revived -- often with impaired mental faculties -- and have been kept drugged and enslaved as workers or just to prove the power of the houngan or mambo who created the poor creature.

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  22. Blowfish poison, eh? I would hazard a guess that the reason their brains aren't firing on all jets is anoxic brain injury. More than about 4 minutes causes permanent harm, but really nothing to create a mindless follower. You know, somewhere in an underground bunker in the US, perhaps even Montauk, they are right now experimenting with zombitization--animals no doubt, and then humans. It would be an ideal military, wouldn't it?

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