Could a Zombie Apocalypse Really Happen?
Our culture is teeming with stories of zombies roaming the Earth, from Tv shows, comics, movies, to religion.
Yet, many people who pay attention to such tales never actually believe it could happen.
It is, after all, a fiction of the imagination, right? How can a dead body even survive?
If you are enthusiastic about the Tv creation The Walking Dead, the zombies are presented as having neurons charging up the brain such that the body is reanimated to only look for food.
A dead body may not do this, but some diseases can leave its patients with zombie-like attributes.14% of Americans think there is a slim chance of this apocalypse taking place.
Some segments of the population link politicians, reality stars, and investment bankers to current representations of zombies.
Science has backed several zombie-scenarios including:
One way that can lead to a zombie apocalypse is a virus or a disease that significantly alters the behaviors of humans.
A good example of this is the rabies virus, which seeks to survive by spreading through an extensive region in as little time as possible.
The virus is deadly because it infects many hosts via such bodily fluids as saliva. It also lacks a complex lifecycle.
Rabies spreads through animal bites, and symptoms appear after ten incubation days.
The symptoms include restlessness, salivation, uncontrolled perspiration, pupil dilation, hallucinations, and confusion.
Other worrying symptoms of rabies is a significant increase in aggression and agitation which make infected animals prone to bite and spread the disease.
The infected animal will likely fall into a coma and die days after showing the symptoms.
It is possible for humans to get the virus through animals although there is yet to be a recorded case of this transmission.
The danger lies in the possible mutation of the virus such that its incubation period reduces substantially and it becomes airborne in addition to shortening its fatality rate to encourage more time to spread.
The virus can be re-engineered by a criminal party as a form of a biological weapon where its acute symptoms would transform infected people into mindless carriers.
The virus would not affect metabolism and motility and only cause the desire to bite other people so it spreads widely.
Another disease that affects human behavior is called encephalitis lethargica.
The symptoms include hallucinations, seizures, fever, tremors, and psychosis.
The victim eventually assumes a catatonic state where they remain motionless and speechless.
Even if they survive the effects of the disease, they never quite return to the normal state.
Oliver Sacks, in his book Awakenings, observed that these patients remained indifferent to their surroundings and were as passive as zombies.
The mad cow disease is another illness that turns its victims into mindless slaves.
The brain targets the brain and spinal cords of a cow to influence its behavior. When the virus inhabits the body of a human, it is known as Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease with symptoms that include changes in gait, lack of coordination, seizures, dementia, and hallucinations.
Although the disease in humans is rare, it would take an evolved version of it to have real effects in humans.
Despite being in this demotivated state, patients have been recorded to violently react to such innocent stimuli as a pat on the shoulder.
Although the viruses cannot trigger a zombie apocalypse now, all it would take was a mutation of the virus.
Viruses are continually mutating naturally making some of them like Ebola as fatal as an outcome of biological weapons.
There are numerous parasites in nature that render their victims into mindless slaves. One of them is called toxoplasmosa gondii which infects rats.
The parasite is aware that it should get the rat eaten by a cat so it controls the rat to seek out the hiding place of cats.
The rats are programmed to gets themselves eaten.
The scariest part about the parasite is that half of the population in the world is infected with the parasite.
Studies further reveal that victims reflect changes in their personality and are more likely to go insane.
Rats are commonly used in experiments for testing human drugs.
A mutated version of toxoplasmosa would cause similar or more intense symptoms in humans and erase rational thought.
A fungus from the Ophiocordyceps reprograms the brains of ants.
Ants under the influence of the fungus are overcome with the desire to climb to great heights and clamp down on a branch and leaf at which point the fungus which has been thriving inside it, explodes and starts a new lifecycle.
Another horrifying example is a hairworm with grasshoppers as its victims.
The worm programs the nervous system of a grasshopper and leads it to kill itself by jumping into water bodies after which the fungus explodes from its host to extend its life cycle in water.
The Dicrocoeliumdendriticum liver fluke also survives by programming its hosts.
It typically inhabits the livers of grazing mammals.
The initial host is such land-roaming mollusks as snails where it is left in the slime trails as the snail moves along.
After being ingested by an ant, it triggers a desire to climb to the highest leaf blade in the ant at night.
Upon reaching the destination, the fluke encourages the release of tetanus in the ant, such that it bites down hard on the leaf and is rendered immobile to be eaten along with the grass by the mammal in the morning.
Thorny-headed worms also use host-manipulation to move from its intermediate host the gammarid to birds.
Gammarids seek the dark underwater regions of water ponds once they sense a disturbance on the water surface.
The worms reprogram their behavior to seek the light once they detect surface movements where they are consumed by birds.
The worms triggera strong immune system reaction that releases significant amounts of serotonin to disrupt the signals between the brain and eyes and confuse the gammarid on upwards and downwards directions.
Several kinds of parasitoid wasps are masters at reprogramming their hosts.
One type of these wasps thrives in the Costa Rican rainforests targets the Anelosimusoctavius spider species.
The spider normally weaves knotted webs of haphazard threads.
Infected spiders, however, commit to a different design with a platform coated by webbing sheets as a protection from the rain and an unusual opening at the end of the platform.
The wasp emerges after the web is done and kills the spider and inhabits the platform.
Some types of poisons can slow the biological functions of humans to the point where they are considered dead.
The toxins from the Japanese blowfish (fugu) is capable of initiating this.
The victims can be brought back by the impact of alkaloids or drugs like datura stramonium that leave a person in a trance-like situation with no memory.
Other than eating and sleeping, the victim can shamble around moaning.
Scientists conduct endless experiments, some of which have contributed to breakthroughs and some of which have dreadful results.
One way of triggering a zombie apocalypse would be to alter the brain to diminish fear and anxiety and to encourage a predatory response.
Experiments like this have been carried out on mice to produce horrifying results.
A study by two Yale neuroscientists and a student from Sao Paulo University sought to identify the localities of the brain responsible for specific motor responses in the animal by evaluating the brain functions that regulate predatory behavior.
The focus of the evaluation was the region of the brain called amygdala which controls emotional responses and apparently contains the motor regulations for capturing and killing prey.
The experiment targeted the neurons that govern predatory hunting including chasing, capturing, and killing prey.
The neuroscientists wanted to see if they could encourage predatory hunting behavior in the mice.
They used light to manipulate the neurons, using a technique called optogenetics.
The heads of the mice were fitted with light-emitting optic fibers with the mice having been genetically engineered to react to blue light.
The mice we calm with the lights turned off, but they become killing machines as soon as the light was turned on. They bit anything that was in their way, and they seemed to have superior biting strength.
The scientists uncovered two responses from the amygdala, where one induced the desire to hunt down prey.
The other reaction controlled the muscles in the neck and jaw to deliver a powerful bite.
The violent reaction interestingly varied from predator to predator.
Hungry mice responded more aggressively than fed mice.
The animals did not, however, turn on each other or attack anything significantly large.
It is apparent that altering this part of the brain uncovers some sort of hidden behaviors that are typically blocked by the amygdala.
Considering that people also have the same organ in their brains, it is conceivable that this witch’ can be manipulated to turn humans into mindless lunatics.
Such a situation can prove useful for military purposes.
Stem cell research has been plagued with controversy, and for a good reason.
Stem-cells can fundamentally re-generate dead cells.
Neurogenesis is an interesting concept since it can help scientists re-grow brain tissue.
Science can commonly save several parts of the body.
A new kidney can replace a non-functioning one.
Even heart transplants are now possible thanks to science.
When it comes to the brain however, once it’s dead, nothing can be done.
Or can it?
Neurogenesis makes it feasible to re-grow the brains of head-trauma patients in a coma until they can awaken and walk again.
An additional ability to maintain a dead person in a state of suspended animation to be brought to life eventually can further make it possible to bring back the dead.
Reanimating a person however does more harm than good.
The brain dies from the outside in, with the outside part being the cortex that makes humans, well, human.
The part left behind is the one that regulates basic motor activities and primitive instinct.
It turns out you do not need the cortex to survive as the stem will keep you mindlessly walking.
This is the scenario that plays out when chickens round around after they have been beheaded.
The basic procedure would be to take a brain-dead person, use scientific techniques to re-grow the brain stem to present a mindless body without any personality or thoughts.
Every legal system on Earth terminates all rights and responsibilities of a person once they are dead.
There is no legal way to, therefore, claim people who have been brought back to life via scientific methods.
All it would take is an individual or an organization with resources to create a mindless workforce.
Nanobots are another technology poised to possibly induce a zombie apocalypse.
Vast resources are being channeled into nanotechnology, and the results are interesting.
A microscopic silicone chip is fused with a virus to make a nano-cyborg.
The cyborgs can operate for a month after the demise of the host. Studies project that it will take only a decade to have these nanobots inside the human brain to replace damaged neural connections.
A lot can go wrong with these chips.
If they are re-programmed to self-replicate, they will need to seek another host once their host dies.
The last act of a host will, therefore, be to attack a healthy victim.
The chips can shut down the regions of the brain that are rational and leave the brain stem untouched.
Are You Ready for a Zombie Apocalypse?
A zombie apocalypse would have two primary elements: the extinction of humans and a pandemic.
These two concepts are scientifically plausible.
On the website of the Strategic Command in the US, there is CONPLAN 8888-11 which was detailed by junior officers during training.
The plan accommodates several disclaimers including one which informs readers that it is based on an unrealistic situation.
The strategy would be to isolate and neutralize the infected people and protect the healthy population.
Roads would be barricaded and blocked at various checkpoints.
Evacuation would be the last resort.
Another tactic would be to use substantial force to destroy large groups of zombies and then hunt down for the remaining communities.
Surviving a zombie apocalypse, however fictional, is similar to surviving any other apocalyptic event.
The first necessity is go-bag supplied with food, water, medications, flashlight, multi-purpose tool, radio, copies of essential documents, sanitation products, extra cash, maps, and cell phone with chargers.
Every family member should be encouraged to have such a bay for preparedness.
How do you survive a zombie apocalypse?
Surviving a zombie apocalypse, however fictional, is similar to surviving any other apocalyptic event.
What skills do you need to survive a zombie apocalypse?
3. First aid skill
4. Fire building
5. Map Reading
6. Water safety skill
What would cause an apocalypse? (Zombie)
4. Lab Zombies