Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Planet of the Dead- Could I Be a Zombie Someday?

Their souls are gone but their bodies remain, mostly. We hear gut-wrenching reports like that of the man who was killed in Miami after eating the face off another man, or 21-year-old Alexander Kinyua who dismembered and ate the brain and heart of his roommate. In Canada, police are still searching for an ex- porn star that allegedly killed a fellow with an ice pick, then raped and ate flesh from the corpse. All of this is semi-old news, but throughout the media blizzard, did you ever stop and think about the sparks that ignited the zombie myth? I mean, sure, dead guys make the best Halloween costumes like EVER! But don't you know real flesh-eating zombies are nothing new? Or, the potential of a real form of zombieism that could take over? It's not as far fetched as the movies make it seem . . .

Zombie Origins: Haitian Voodoo Zombies

In the mysterious world of Haitian voodoo, zombieism has played a role for decades. Early explorers were completely spellbound by what appeared to be people raised from the dead, walking around in a corpse like state completely subject to the will of those around them. In 1982, Harvard-trained ethnobotanist Wade Davis decided to explore the folklore on a deeper level, providing a pharmacological case for the reanimated corpses. As it turns out, the zombie voodoo state can be achieved by mixing near lethal doses of two neurotoxins and applying them to a wound. The first toxin, found in a puffer fish is a dangerous neurotoxin that causes the victim to be in a death like state. The second toxin is a dissociative drug called Erowid Datura Vault, which causes the victim to lose any sense of identity and become malleable in the hands of their captor. Although some dispute Davis, no one can deny that there's some weird, half-alive people floating around Haiti doing who knows what.

Real Zombie Scenario 1: Brain Manipulating Parasites

What if there could be an organic form of zombieism? Something that evolves without human interference and wipes out the human race in the most disgusting way possible. It turns out, something like this totally exists in the form of a parasite called toxoplasma gondii. This nightmarish creepy crawly infests rats, but can only breed inside the intestines of a cat. In order to get from a rat to a cat, the parasite literally reprograms the host rat's brain to drive the rat in the vicinity of hungry cats.
This parasitic phenomenon isn't limited to animals either. In fact, it's estimated that half of the human population is infected with some sort of toxoplasmosis without even knowing it. Although the strain that affects us is notably less severe than that of the poor rats, studies have shown that parasites have a remarkable ability to manipulate their hosts. Toxoplasmosis also have a keen ability to evolve somewhat quickly, increasing in strength and numbers, making a parasitic-spawned zombie-like plague a possibility. If you start seeing your friends and neighbors engage in senseless activities without a sense of self-preservation, it's time to run.

Zombie Scenario 2: Nanobots

Nanobots have made appearances in the Michael Crichton novel “Prey,” and the PS2 game “Nano Breaker,” but are you familiar with the real world advancements in nanotechnology? As interesting as they are, they also definitely provide fodder for future nightmare zombie scenarios. Microscopic and self-replicating, these little fellows literally have minds of their own. Bucket loads of money are being poured into these invisible robots that can create or destroy essentially anything. Scientists have already created a nanocyborg that can operate for up to a month after their host is dead. Projection thinks that scientists will have nanobots that can weasel their way into your brain and create neural connections that re-wire the very fabric of your thoughts- within a decade.
Essentially, this means that you could someday have fully functioning non-bots controlling your brain after you die, operating limbs and some bodily functions, after your soul is long gone. Since nanobots are programmed to self-replicate, the death and destruction of a host means their demise. Just like any species, the nanobots will seek self-preservation via a new host. According to the humor site, “The last act of the nanobot zombie would be to bite a hole in a healthy victim, letting the nanobots steam in and set up camp in the new host. Once in, they can shut down the part of the brain that resists (the cortex) and leave the brain stem intact. They'll have added a new member to the unholy army of the undead.” As alarming as a soul-less army of non sentient rotting zombies may seem, at least you can console yourself with the fact that once you're afflicted, you won't know any better.

Michelle Patterson
Michelle is a writer/editor living in the San Francisco area with expertise in video and online gaming. She and her boyfriend, Oscar, have three flat-screen TVs in their living room where they rule the MMOG world.

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