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IRL – When would be the Zombie apocalypse ?

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The Walking Dead returns this week and we put the spotlight on it through an IRL about a possible… zombie apocalypse !

From Resident Evil to 28 days later, passing by The night of the living dead and even World War Z, zombies invaded, recently, pop culture through numerous films, books, video games, cartoons and series. The idea that beings vacillating between life and death, hungry for human flesh, spread and create a true Apocalypse seems to attract many writers and directors, and a public increasingly broad. This week, to mark the return of season 7 of The Walking Dead, let’s return to the essence of zombie, and the possibility that a catastrophe like this can happen someday…

First, let’s take time to redefine what a zombie is. Dear Wiki (him, again ?) tells us that a zombie is also called living dead and that he is "an individual infected with a harmful virus in certain parts of the brain" (sure we are talking about infected but we can link them to zombies because they are very similar). Also, science fiction has also taught us that the zombies are all creatures whose motor functions are in perfect working order but not necessarily the brain. In itself, a zombie is a bit like when a human being gets up at around six in the morning to go to work after a drunken night ...

But -and this is where the problem of our friendly zombies is- if their motor functions are still active, the digestive system is in constant operation, so the zombie needs to be fed. With what, you say ? Well, for an unknown reason, the zombie is a keen supporter of animal and plant cause, and greatly prefer human flesh to any other food. But it happens that sipping their prey, zombies infect, and thus create more zombies, in an endless spiral.

Nicholas Hoult dans Warm Bodies

Also, a Zombie Apocalypse happens quickly, since all infected is likely to bite / eat other humans and to pass on their virus and so on. Moreover, according to the works you watch, the virus is more or less powerful, more or less easily transmitted. Indeed, when in some movies, zombies must bite you to give you their virus, with some other undead you just need a direct contact with their blood (which generally does not remain in the body for very long, as they become zombie being bitten / eaten by other infected ... you follow?). Thus, according to the movies, becoming a zombie is more or less a big challenge ...

But the real question is, is a zombie Apocalypse possible? And if yes, how ?

1-Parasites that take control of our brain

For once, we will not talk about Resident Evil or even another film about the undead, but a real scientific fact. There are indeed, in nature, tiny parasites that can take control of other living beings. Ants, for example. These parasites are called liver flukes and must lay their eggs in the sheep liver, but these eggs cannot hatch in the liver, also, flukes must be born in the wild. But once developed, flukes must find a way to return to the sheep liver to lay new eggs. Also, the these parasites have found the perfect solution in order to reinstate the liver of sheep : to control the ants, and bring on high grass, so they are eaten by sheep. For this, several flukes settle in the legs and thorax of an ant when one occupies the brain. From that point, the behavior of the ant changes completely, and flukes can control his new host, making it eaten by a sheep, then go start its infernal circle again.

Resident Evil : chapitre final

Recently, scientists have found the same process in the toxoplasmosis development. Indeed, that parasite needs to be in a cat’s digestive system to grow, and so must be ingest by a feline. Then, toxoplasmosis cells take control of rats, and especially of their brain, in order to make them meet their natural predator. They change rats’ emotions, and especially fear and attraction, to make the rat confuses the cat with a female rat. In that way, the rat will follow the cat and not run away from him. Scientists are still wondering how this complex system works, and think that toxoplasmosis cells create a dopamine overproduction in order to modify the rat’s behavior (it’s a bit the same process with drugs, actually).

The most frightening about it it that toxoplasmosis also hist human being and create, sometimes, behavior disorder such as schizophrenia or obsessive-compulsive disorder. We aren’t still eating our friends but knowing that a small cell like this can control and change rat’s behavior, and even human’s behavior is really scaring…

So we are talking about tiny parasites, able to take control of small insects we care a little about. But if nature has created such systems on microscale, could it not create similar, on our scale ..? Then we will become a zombie for a smaller living thing, which would use us as a host to achieve a specific purpose that it cannot achieve alone ...

Orgueil et Préjugés et Zombies

2-A virus

What? What do you say? The T virus? Rabies? Nay, my friends, let us focus on a virus that have already presented characteristics similar to zombification : mad cow, for example. BSE, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy for short, is a disease that affected a large majority of cattle in the UK, about twenty years ago. If it created a health and economic crisis on the meat market, we will focus instead on the disease itself, and its effects on the animal. Wiki gives some details about it : "[Symptoms] occur at the beginning by a modification of the animal's behavior, which can sometimes give kicks, show apprehension and hypersensitivity to external stimuli (noise, touch, glare) and isolated from the rest of the herd. The affected animal usually sees its milk production and weight decrease, while her appetite is not reduced. [...] At the final stage of evolution, the animal has real problems of locomotion. He frequently loses balance, sometimes without reaching rise. " In sum, we are not in complete zombification, with cows savagely devouring other cows, but all infected cattle had increased violence towards others, and some even came to bite other cattle. In addition, we are taught that their behavior changed, they struggled to move ... Does this not remind you of our dear zombies? Also, if a strange virus could develop in cattle only twenty years ago, there is no reason that a similar virus does not grow one day with humans. Moreover, I do not know about you, but I tend to believe that the theory discussed in World War Z about the virus is really interesting and realistic. Nature defends herself, and she always finds a way to do it. It is not excluded that, one day, she will seek for a way to destroy beings who have been consuming her for years...

World War Z


3-A bacteriological weapon

In this theory, I confess that we have a lot fewer tracks. While the greatest geniuses of literature or cinema have often imagined that our governments would decide one day to go to war with viruses and bacteria, causing huge epidemics or pandemics, it is nothing yet. However, this remains an interesting theory, and it is not excluded that tomorrow’s humans, probably much more advanced than us technologically and scientifically, will have this kind of weapons to resolve conflicts between nations ...

Nevertheless, I have to tell you today that a zombie cell has already been created, not for military purposes, but for scientific purposes. Indeed, nearly three years ago, researchers from Sandia National Laboratory and the University of New Mexico have created the first zombie cell. To do this, "they covered mammalian cells of a silica solution to form a kind of permeable shield around the membrane of living cells." explains the magazine Maxi Sciences. "The aim was to compare the cells to extreme temperatures and pressures at which a living cell can not normally resist.” Scientists then heated the cell to extreme temperature, so that the organic material evaporates, while leaving only a replica of the cellular DNA in the silica.

28 jours plus tard

The most surprising is that even dead this cell was still able to perform some of his former duties. "Our zombies cells provide a bridge between chemistry and biology by creating cells that not only look like two peas in themselves but are also able to work hard," then said Dr. Bryan Kaehr who led the research.
Thus, we have here the first cell zombie in the world, but it is used only for scientific purposes for the moment : it could improve the performance of products in environmental sectors and decontamination. Nevertheless, it is real, and could easily be used for other purposes ... Moreover, it seems to look more like modern zombies that we have, able to run and being much stronger than us, than zombies we had in old movies, walking very slowly and being easily destructible ... it's scary, isn’t it ?

So, dear friends, here are the three most possible and realistic causes of a zombie Apocalypse. Fortunately, these are theories, and days when we’d run day after day, armed to the teeth, looking for survivors, eliminating here and there undead are still far ! Or at least, we sincerely hope ...

I hope this article have pleased you, and you will, like me, keep following The Walking Dead this weekend! Meanwhile, friends, I suggest you to always try to broaden your curiosity, your culture, your knowledge, while remaining aware that we are… totally ignorant !

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