Tuesday, 18 August 2009

If zombies attack

More from the how-do-you-write-this-with-a-straight-face department.

This from the science correspondent of the BBC. Brilliantly done. I'm sceptical here, but I commend these researchers for brightening up my dull day. This is how the story starts:
If zombies actually existed, an attack by them would lead to the collapse of civilisation unless dealt with quickly and aggressively.
If. Well no harm in being prepared, I reckon.
That is the conclusion of a mathematical exercise carried out by researchers in Canada.
So whose childhood dream to be a comic book artist was crushed by highest levels of education?
They say only frequent counter-attacks with increasing force would eradicate the fictional creatures.
I'm sure the President of the United States of America as portrayed by a Martin Sheen look-alike in Day of the Zombies (The Undead Walk the Heart of Manhatten. Coming soon) would be happy to have that on a memo on his desk. Did one of those researchers take a moment to stop to hear themselves?

The scientific paper is published in a book - Infectious Diseases Modelling Research Progress.

In books, films, video games and folklore, zombies are undead creatures, able to turn the living into other zombies with a bite.

But there is a serious side to the work.

Oh is there? Who'd have thunk it. Glad to see Science doing its bit to save the world.
In some respects, a zombie "plague" resembles a lethal rapidly-spreading infection.
I'm sure there's a strip somewhere in PhD comics about trying too hard to make research seem relevant.
In their study, the researchers from the University of Ottawa and Carleton University (also in Ottawa) posed a question: If there was to be a battle between zombies and the living, who would win?
Good question. Let's ask Buffy.

Oh and here's the best part:
Professor Robert Smith? (the question mark is part of his surname and not a typographical mistake) and colleagues wrote: "We model a zombie attack using biological assumptions based on popular zombie movies.
"The question mark is part of his surname and not a typographical mistake." Brilliant!! I knew this needed a man with imagination! Like Russell Peter's !xobile with a click in his name!! And his explanation:
On his university web page, the mathematics professor at Ottawa University says the question mark distinguishes him from Robert Smith, lead singer of rock band The Cure.
And just when you were being amused by all this comes the inevitable prophesies (this time backed by Science) of doom and gloom.
To give the living a fighting chance, the researchers chose "classic" slow-moving zombies as our opponents rather than the nimble, intelligent creatures portrayed in some recent films.

Even so, their analysis revealed that a strategy of capturing or curing the zombies would only put off the inevitable.
A fighting chance. That's the best thing about humanity, isn't it? Aliens, vampires, Godzilla, killer tomatoes - they may rip out the heart and guts of the hero's left-hand-man and leave his right-hand-man crippled (but with his sense of humour intact), but we'll always squish them.

In their scientific paper, the authors conclude that humanity's only hope is to "hit them [the undead] hard and hit them often".

They added: "It's imperative that zombies are dealt with quickly or else... we are all in a great deal of trouble."

According to the researchers, the key difference between the zombies and the spread of real infections is that "zombies can come back to life"

Which genius did it take to figure that one out.

But they say that their work has parallels with, for example, the spread of ideas.
Ideas come back to life as well??
The study has been welcomed by one of the world's leading disease specialists, Professor Neil Ferguson, who is one of the UK government's chief advisors on controlling the spread of swine flu.
Is someone calling the zombies pigs? Way to make them annoyed.

"The paper considers something that many of us have worried about - particularly in our younger days - of what would be a feasible way of tackling an outbreak of a rapidly spreading zombie infection," said Professor Ferguson, from Imperial College London.

I'm not afraid. Buffy will save me. And on her day off I call the Ghostbusters.

However he thinks that some of the assumptions made in the paper might be unduly alarmist.

"My understanding of zombie biology is that if you manage to decapitate a zombie then it's dead forever. So perhaps they are being a little over-pessimistic when they conclude that zombies might take over a city in three or four days," he said.

Today I should feel safe in the knowledge that there are smart men who Understand zombie behaviour. I'll demand to have a 'Break this in case of zombie attack' installed in my building.

Till then, I aim to Know My Enemy, and Be Prepared.

Creative Commons License
This work is licenced under a Creative Commons Licence.