Exploring The Improbability Of A Zombie Apocalypse

Author note: This post was inspired by a recent discussion I have had with friends. While I am a big fan of horror movies (and reading horror, as well); this zombie thing is just silly.


Zombies have obviously captured the imagination of the masses. I know that The Walking Dead television show is incredibly popular.  However, there isn’t enough science for me to capture my imagination.

First of all, there is some pathogenic cause to becoming a zombie.  The evolutionary success of a “zombie germ” would likely be:

  • fairly communicable
  • able to survive outside of a host
  • without any obvious or specific initial symptoms
  • debilitating, but not immediately fatal

So, being bloodborne is a fairly good start.  Getting bitten by a zombie has possibilities.  However, some strains are so virulent (28 Days Later, and 28 Weeks Later) that being splashed with zombie blood…and, at one point, having one zombie blood drop fall into a victim’s eye turns that person almost instantly.  Minutes before that scene, one person defends themselves with a baseball bat – that all sorts of blood splatters everywhere. Main characters must have a stronger immunity, huh?  The time between exposure and infection can vary, as well.  Probably having a lot to do with the significance of the role of affected character than actual immune response. It’s not clear on how long the zombie pathogen can survive outside the body.  Hoards of zombies roam the streets, at some point, which is an infectivity buzz kill.  The germ can’t mutate if it is no longer spread among hosts. Zombies, in theory, would just die off and take the infection with them.

Which brings us to the implausible anatomy and physiology of the zombie.  Anatomically, the zombie is an open mechanical system of muscle and bone.  The bone supports the frame, and the muscle provides the framework for movement.  But the system is leaking fluids, the skin is compromised, and the fluids are exposed to air. Things dry out, unless replenished. Muscle and bone without the fluid would become fibrous and immovable, at least, at some point. Physiologically, the system would also need a means of fuel – as well as the removal of the waste (as no energy generation is completely efficient) – needs to occur.  As decay has visibly set in, and open system would not support the energy exchange either.

So, with a great deal of embellishment and massive amounts of “suspension of disbelief;” zombies perpetually stumble around – but still manage to catch up with humans healthy enough to survive (Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs having been met, for the most part) can still get caught and infected.

Sorry. Zombies do not float my imagination boat.

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