Culturing Science – biology as relevant to us earthly beings

The Biology of Zombies

Night of the Living Dead (1968)

I am that girl who is the least fun to watch movies with (or the most fun, I guess, depending on your idea of fun). I love science fiction and respect artists and writers who alter the science of our world to tell stories — but I’m still going to want to have that talk at the end that starts with, “But it wasn’t actually that realistic when…”

For about a year now I’ve been interested in doing some writing about the biology of zombies. They’re ubiquitous in modern culture and stories tend to take a half-assed shot at the science, as if they feel they need to provide a mechanism for the spread of flesh-craving, but they can’t quite figure out how to make it work.

So when Krystal D’Costa of the fabulous blog Anthropology in Practice brought up Zombie Awareness Month last week on twitter, I couldn’t help but throw some ideas out there. And when she suggested that we do some organized zombie blogging, I couldn’t resist. She has a great post up about the anthropology of zombies — check it out here!

And then when I got down to research … I had so much that I wanted to say that one post was not going to be nearly enough. So get ready for a fun-filled week of zombie science!

What I’m mostly interested is the science fiction aspect of it — not trying to make up my own theory for how zombies could actually exist (though that is obviously part of the fun of this analysis!), but rather exploring the theories of different stories. I’m going to write about several causes of zombie-ism (bacteria, chemicals and viruses) focusing on a particular work or two, plus a day for zombie neuroscience and one for zombies in nature. I’ll update this post with links as the week goes on.

I’d love to hear your thoughts, especially comparisons to other books/movies/television, since I have not come close to exhausting the possibilities.

Don’t forget to visit Anthropology in Practice to learn about the public fascination with zombies.

 Other zombie science resources (to be updated all week chronologically so tell me about yours!)

  • “The zombiesm bacterial story is central to Left 4 Dead — the first person shooter” (tweet from Troy Christiensen, @ShalimarTroy)
  • The Strain — “The vampirism in that book is caused by a virus carried by parasitic worms” (tweet from Matt Henry, @greenideas)
  • James Byrne of Disease Prone has two great posts up: The first contemplating whether zombies are technically alive and the second enumerating zombies in nature
  • Zombie Neuroscience expert (seriously) Bradley Voytek answers a question on Quora: What are some ways to survive the zombie apocalypse?
  • Bradley has also given a talk about zombie science at Nerd Nite San Francisco which is posted on his blog along with some lovely words about why he cares about zombie neuroscience

Written by Hanner

May 17, 2011 at 12:53 pm

10 Responses

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  1. […] If you didn’t know, May is Zombie Awareness Month, and to celebrate, blogger Hannah Winters is doing a week-long, five-part series on the Biology of Zombies. […]

  2. I’ve written on the intersection of zombies and neuroscience as it relates to theology for Religion Dispatches. Good to see someone doing it on the scientific side of the equation.

    John W. Morehead

    May 17, 2011 at 10:16 pm

  3. […] The Mary Sue on The 10 Greatest Vampire Archetypes. Culturing Science on The Biology of Zombies, Part 1 and Part 2. Stuart Clark on What conversation about ebooks? Jeff VanderMeer reviews Embassytown by […]

  4. Great article
    i’m just a normal zombie obsessed person and its great to see some one put some sense behind it all!
    please keep the posts coming!


    May 24, 2011 at 7:09 pm

    • Thanks! WIll do — I have them all planned out and researched but just need the few hours to write em. Check back in early June!

      Hannah Waters

      May 25, 2011 at 3:41 pm

  5. […] wiszenschafts- und kulturblogs gelesen hab. nur mal als appetizer empfehle ich dem leser die zombie-biologie-sessions auf culturingscience und anthropology in practice, präsentiert von der unermüdlichen hannah waters und krystal […]

  6. Still anxiously awaiting the next one!

    Ken Burke

    June 22, 2011 at 10:32 am

    • I’ll be back next week — thanks for your patience, Ken! (And for remembering, haha)

      Hannah Waters

      June 22, 2011 at 10:35 am

  7. I think you will find that I am legend by Richard Matheson is a vampire novel not zombie!


    June 21, 2012 at 9:00 pm

  8. im a zombie freak i’ve seen avrey zombie movie and show and im only 12 years of age


    October 19, 2012 at 8:49 am

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