A scientific look at the “life” of a zombie.February 27th, 2012 |
I was reading an article on Live Science the other day about if it was possible to reanimate the dead or not. Although this article is about bringing someone who is clinically dead back to life, I have decided to take a look at the facts gained from it and examine the zombie condition.
The main point that the article argues is that although your heart may stop beating, and your breathing has ceased, there is still life inside a deceased corpse. The actual cells of your body can go on living for days after you have died. The article claims that if enough cells are still alive, the possibility to resuscitate the body may be possible. The real danger comes from the damage to brain cells after you die. It can only take up to 8 to 10 minutes of death before the cells in the brain become damaged enough to prevent resuscitation.
What does this mean for our beloved zombie? Well first thing that I gained from this is that in order for a zombie condition to be effective in the body, the condition would have to infect the brain either before the death of the victim, or within the first 8 minutes of death. Otherwise the damage to the neurons that fire to create movement in the body may be too damaged to move the body. Keep in mind that this would be considering a viral infection, as magic by definition may defy our laws of science. By this logic however there is no concern for the dead rising from their graves as it takes much longer than 10 minutes to burry someone, and then that much longer for them to unbury themselves. This would make graveyards a safer place during the zombie outbreak. Also assuming the virus does not restore life to to the brain tissue, the zombie may only be functional for about 10 minutes. This leaves a zombie attack to be slightly anticlimactic.
Second thing we can learn from this would be about the life span of a zombie. Lets assume that the brain tissue is somehow preserved by our zombie virus. The article described the actual way that cells die, by leaking out the contents of the cells themselves. This would be the start of the decomposition process for a corpse. Unless something drastic is done to preserve the cells (such as embalming or freezing), the majority of the cells in your body will completely die and literally ooze themselves out in a few days. What we are concerned with is not the organs or the skin, but the muscle tissue. Without muscle tissue, our body does not move. As long as something is controlling the muscles of the body, the body is free to bite, claw, scratch and even eat whatever it wants. But once those muscle cells deteriorate to the point of uselessness, our once fearsome zombie ceases to be an effective killer. At this point we have to have a knowledge of how the body decomposes to tell how long it will be before the mussels will be damaged enough to prevent them from being used.
Under normal, open air conditions, a decomposing body can be reduced to bone within two weeks. This time period can change depending on climate and other conditions such as availability to insects. But from this knowledge we can assume that between 5 to 10 days, under normal conditions the walking corpse should cease to be completely functional. This should bring heart to survivors, as assuming most, if not all infections will be done within the first two weeks of outbreak in a particular area, you are looking at dodging zombies in a single place for only about a month to a month and a halve to be on the safe side. Then, assuming proper disposal of remains and no re-infection occurs a place can be considered safe.
Now you will still have to be careful however, as bodies that are trapped in closed off buildings, underground, or in water will have a longer decomposition period. By rule, a body in water will decompose at halve the rate of one in the open air. One that is buried will decompose at about 1/8th of the rate of a body in the open air. One can only assume the rate of a body decomposing will be somewhere between the two rates. So I would give it at least 2 months before going near water, and 2 -4 months before I explored any large building.
One thing to keep in mind is that in places like a peat bog, the body can stop decomposing, and create a preserved body free of decomposition. Also dry environments will prevent decomposition as well. This makes areas like deserts, swamps and bogs very, very dangerous. The good news is that a lower majority of the population lives in places like these so coming across a preserved zombie will be less likely, but always be on your guard.
The point behind all this is that in most areas, the zombie threat will be reduced enough to be manageable within a few months. This can give you a time table as to when it will be safe to move back home.
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