Science and the vampire/zombie apocalypse

It seems like every time I turn on the TV, which only occurs when I’m in the exercise room, there is a show that involves either zombies or vampires. From my small sampling, it seems that the more recent incarnations try to invoke scientific explanations for these conditions that involve a viral or parasitic etiology. Popular entertainment reflects societal anxieties; disease and pandemics is to the twenty first century what nuclear war was to the late twentieth. Unfortunately, the addition of science to the zombie or vampire mythology makes for a much less compelling story.

A necessary requirement of good fiction is that it be self-consistent. The rules that govern the world the characters inhabit need to apply uniformly. Bram Stoker’s Dracula was a great story because there were simple rules that governed vampires – they die from exposure to sunlight, stakes to the heart, and silver bullets. They are repelled by garlic and Christian symbols. Most importantly, their thirst for blood was a lifestyle choice, like consuming fine wine, rather than a nutritional requirement. Vampires lived in a world of magic and so their world did not need to obey the laws of physics.

Once you try to make vampirism or zombism a disease and scientifically plausible in our world, you run into a host of troubles. Vampires and zombies need to obey the laws of thermodynamics, which means they need energy to function. This implies that the easiest way to kill one of these creatures is to starve them to death. Given how energetically active vampires are and how little caloric content blood has by volume, since it is mostly water, vampires would need to drink a lot of blood to sustain themselves. All you need to do is to quarantine all humans into secure locations for a few days and all vampires should either starve to death or fall into a dormant state. Vampirism is self-limiting because there would not be enough human hosts to sustain a large population. This is why only small animals can subsist entirely on blood (e.g. vampire bats weight about 40 grams and can drink half their weight in blood). Once, you make vampires biological, it makes no sense why they can only drink blood. What exactly is in blood that they can’t get from eating flesh? Even if they don’t have a digestive system that can handle solid food, they could always put meat into a Vitamix and make a smoothie. Zombies eat all parts of humans so they would need to feed less often than vampires and thus be harder to starve. However, zombies are usually non-intelligent and thus easier to avoid and sequester. It seems like any zombie epidemic could be controlled at very early stages. Additionally, why is it that zombies don’t eat each other? Why do they only like to eat humans?  Why aren’t they hanging around farms and eating livestock and poultry?

Vampires and sometimes zombies also have super-strength without having to bulk up. This means that their muscles are much more efficient. How is this possible? Muscles are pretty similar at the cellular level. Chimpanzees are stronger than humans by weight because they have more fast twitch than slow twitch muscles. There is thus always a trade-off between strength and endurance. In a physically plausible world, humans should always find an edge in combating zombies or vampires. The only way to make a vampire or zombie story viable is to endow them with nonphysical properties. My guess is that we have hit peak vampire/zombie; the next wave of horror shows will feature a more plausible threat – evil AI.

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2 thoughts on “Science and the vampire/zombie apocalypse

  1. I keep my TV on at night because everytime i turn it off the vampires come out. This began a few years ago when i was getting my phF in ‘protesting’ (i didnt realize at the time this was an unacredited diploma mill so it didnt lead to employment–i had been told a phF was better than a D and would lead to eternal bliss.

    i’d come home, and wake up and see all these people having meetings in my place—i would turn on the tv and they dissapeared. turn it off and they were back again. I didnt remember inviting people to come in here to hold meetings and would ask them when they were leaving. i also saw new species of animals in my place–i figured i’d try to catch some –but do it later after a nap. when i woke up they were gone. damn. took my TV too so i used a light to regulate the population of animals and meetings. i didnt remember bring a TV in here either.

    this went on for a week. i called my brother and mentioned this (also that i could no longer walk to the store or barely at all) and they showed up and he took me to hospital–almost called the cops to break down my door. (Turned out i had pneumonia, and then an allergic reaction, so i was in there 6 weeks).

    I finally got a job thanks to this experience from CDC running this http://www.fwza.org We study the evolution of vampires and zombies, their ecology, social behavior, etc. Its an emerging field. (creative disease creation—we make personalized ones for everyone –sort of like a universal basic income, or things made using 3D computers—incidivualized design, controlled deconstruction, etc) .Some of our work is on youtube—‘time of the season’ (zombies) and ‘bela lugosi is dead’ (bauhaus).)

    we are now funded by NFSF (natl fake science foundation–science has also evolved, and gone extinct but there’s a new form. First thing that had to go was laws of thermodynamics, especially 2nd law–eg the no free lunch theorem. Also had to get rid of time —its easier just to view it as a space coordinate, or wick transform it away )

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