A zombie (Haitian Creole: zonbi;North Mbundu: nzumbe) is an animated corpse brought back to life by mystical means, such as witchcraft. The term is often figuratively applied to describe a hypnotized person bereft of consciousness and self-awareness, yet ambulant and able to respond to surrounding stimuli. Since the late 19th century, zombies have acquired notable popularity, especially in North American and European folklore.
Intimately tied to the conception of the modern zombie is the "zombie apocalypse", the breakdown of society as a result of zombie infestation, which has emerged as a prolific subgenre of apocalyptic fiction and been portrayed in countless zombie-related media post-Night. In a zombie apocalypse, a widespread (usually global) rise of zombies hostile to human life engages in a general assault on civilization. Victims of zombies may become zombies themselves. This causes the outbreak to become an exponentially growing crisis: the spreading "zombie plague/virus" swamps normal military and law enforcement organizations, leading to the panicked collapse of civilian society until only isolated pockets of survivors remain, scavenging for food and supplies in a world reduced to a pre-industrial hostile wilderness.
According to the tenets of Vodou, a dead person can be revived by a bokor, or sorcerer. Zombies remain under the control of the bokor since they have no will of their own. "Zombi" is also another name of the Vodou snake lwa Damballah Wedo, of Niger–Congo origin;it is akin to the Kikongo word nzambi, which means "god". There also exists within the West African Vodun tradition the zombi astral, which is a part of the human soul that is captured by a bokor and used to enhance the bokor's power. The zombi astral is typically kept inside a bottle which the bokor can sell to clients for luck, healing or business success. It is believed that after a time God will take the soul back and so the zombi is a temporary spiritual entity. It is also said in vodou legend, that feeding a zombie salt will make it return to the grave.
The idea of zombies is present in some South African cultures. In some communities it is believed that a dead person can be turned into a zombie by a small child. It is said that the spell can be broken by a powerful enough sangoma.
It is also believed in some areas that witches can turn a person into a zombie by killing and possessing the victim's body in order to force it into slave labor. After rail lines were built to transport migrant workers, stories emerged about "witch trains". These trains appeared ordinary, but were staffed by zombie workers controlled by a witch. The trains would abduct a person boarding at night, and the person would then either be turned into a zombie worker, or beaten and thrown from the train a distance away from the original location.
Wade Davis, a Harvard ethnobotanist, presented a pharmacological case for zombies in two books, The Serpent and the Rainbow (1985) and Passage of Darkness: The Ethnobiology of the Haitian Zombie (1988). Davis traveled to Haiti in 1982 and, as a result of his investigations, claimed that a living person can be turned into a zombie by two special powders being introduced into the blood stream (usually via a wound). The first, coup de poudre (French: "powder strike"), includes tetrodotoxin (TTX), a powerful and frequently fatal neurotoxin found in the flesh of the pufferfish (order Tetraodontidae). The second powder consists of dissociative drugs such as datura. Together, these powders were said to induce a death-like state in which the will of the victim would be entirely subjected to that of the bokor. Davis also popularized the story of Clairvius Narcisse, who was claimed to have succumbed to this practice.
The process described by Davis was an initial state of death-like suspended animation, followed by re-awakening — typically after being buried — into a psychotic state. The psychosis induced by the drug and psychological trauma was hypothesised by Davis to re-inforce culturally-learned beliefs and to cause the individual to reconstruct their identity as that of a zombie, since they "knew" they were dead, and had no other role to play in the Haitian society. Societal reinforcement of the belief was hypothesized by Davis to confirm for the zombie individual the zombie state, and such individuals were known to hang around in graveyards, exhibiting attitudes of low affect.
Davis' claim has been criticized, particularly the suggestion that Haitian witch doctors can keep "zombies" in a state of pharmacologically induced trance for many years. Symptoms of TTX poisoning range from numbness and nausea to paralysis — particularly of the muscles of the diaphragm — unconsciousness, and death, but do not include a stiffened gait or a death-like trance. According to psychologist Terence Hines, the scientific community dismisses tetrodotoxin as the cause of this state, and Davis' assessment of the nature of the reports of Haitian zombies is viewed as overly credulous.
Scottish psychiatrist R. D. Laing highlighted the link between social and cultural expectations and compulsion, in the context of schizophrenia and other mental illness, suggesting that schizogenesis may account for some of the psychological aspects of zombification.
A true story of Clairvius Narcisse - He was a Haitian man who was declared dead by two doctors and buried in 1962. They found him wandering around the village 18 years later. It turned out the local voodoo priests had been using naturally occurring chemicals to basically zombify people and had been putting them to work on the sugar plantations.
Parasites that turn victims into mindless, zombie-like slaves are fairly common in nature. There's one called toxoplasmosa gondii that seems to devote its entire existence to being terrifying.
Some scientists believe that Toxoplasma changes the personality of its human hosts, bringing different shifts to men and women. Parasitologist Jaroslav Flegr of Charles University in Prague administered psychological questionnaires to people infected with Toxoplasma and controls. Those infected, he found, show a small, but statistically significant, tendency to be more self-reproaching and insecure. Paradoxically, infected women, on average, tend to be more outgoing and warmhearted than controls, while infected men tend to be more jealous and suspicious.
It's controversial work, disputed by many. But it attracted the attention of E. Fuller Torrey of the Stanley Medical Research Institute in Bethesda, Maryland. Torrey and his colleagues had noticed some intriguing links between Toxoplasma and schizophrenia. Infection with the parasite has been associated with damage to a certain class of neurons (astrocytes). So has schizophrenia. Pregnant women with high levels of Toxoplasma antibodies in their blood were more likely to give birth to children who would later develop schizophrenia. Torrey lays out more links in this 2003 paper. While none is a smoking gun, they are certainly food for thought. It's conceivable that exposure to Toxoplasma causes subtle changes in most people's personality, but in a small minority, it has more devastating effects.
A year later, Torrey and his colleagues discovered one more fascinating link. They raised human cells in Petri dishes and infected them with Toxoplasma. Then they dosed the cells with a variety of drugs used to treat schizophrenia. Several of the drugs - most notably haloperidol--blocked the growth of the parasite.
(Source: The Return of the Puppet Masters by Carl Zimmer)
Neurotoxins, from the Greek νευρών (nevron) meaning sinew and τοξικόν (toxikon) meaning toxin, are an extensive class of exogenous chemical neurological insults which can adversely affect function in both developing and mature nervous tissue. The term can also be used to classify endogenous compounds which when abnormally concentrated can prove neurologically toxic. Though neurotoxins are often neurologically destructive, their ability to specifically target neural components is important in the study of nervous systems. Common examples of neurotoxins include lead, ethanol, glutamate, nitric oxide (NO), botulinum toxin, tetanus toxin, and tetrodotoxin.
Neurotoxin activity can be characterized by the ability to inhibit neuron control over ion concentrations across the cell membrane, or communication between neurons across a synapse. Local pathology of neurotoxin exposure often includes neuron excitotoxicity or apoptosis but can also include glial cell damage. Macroscopic manifestations of neurotoxin exposure can include widespread central nervous system damage such as mental retardation, persistent memory impairments, epilepsy, and dementia.
There are certain kinds of poisons that slow human bodily functions to the point that the victim would be considered dead. The poison from fugu (Japanese blowfish) is one of the known natural neurotoxins.
The victims can then be brought back under the effects of a drug like datura stramonium (or other chemicals called alkaloids) that leave them in a trance-like state with no memory, but still able to perform simple tasks like eating, sleeping, moaning and shambling around with their arms outstretched.
Natural neurotoxins are commonly used by voodoo priests in Haiti.
The Real Rage Virus
The Mad Cow Disease attacks the cow's spinal cord and brain, human beings can be infected when they consume the meat. It is called the Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. The symptoms include: Changes in gait (walking), Hallucinations, Lack of coordination (for example, stumbling and falling), Muscle twitching, Myoclonic jerks or seizures, Rapidly developing delirium or dementia.
A mutated new variant Mad Cow Disease (nvCJD) on human body can cause zombie-like rage status.
Cannibalism has also been implicated as a transmission mechanism for abnormal prions, causing the disease known as kuru, once found primarily among women and children of the Fore people in Papua New Guinea. While the men of the tribe ate the body of the deceased and rarely contracted the disease, the women and children, who ate the less desirable body parts, including the brain, were 8 times more likely than men to contract kuru from infected tissue.
Prions, the infectious agent of CJD, may not be inactivated by means of routine surgical instrument sterilization procedures. The World Health Organization and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that instrumentation used in such cases be immediately destroyed after use;short of destruction, it is recommended that heat and chemical decontamination be used in combination to process instruments that come in contact with high-infectivity tissues. No cases of iatrogenic transmission of CJD have been reported subsequent to the adoption of current sterilization procedures, or since 1976. Copper–hydrogen peroxide has been suggested as an alternative to the current recommendation of sodium hydroxide or sodium hypochlorite. Thermal depolymerization also destroys prions in infected organic and inorganic matter, since the process chemically attacks protein at the molecular level.
There are strict blood donor restrictions and sperm donor restrictions by world governments conducted on areas infected with vCJD.
Neurogenesis (birth of neurons) is the process by which neurons are generated from neural stem and progenitor cells. Most active during pre-natal development, neurogenesis is responsible for populating the growing brain with neurons. Recently neurogenesis was shown to continue in several small parts of the brain of mammals: the hippocampus and the subventricular zone. Studies have indicated that hormones, such as testosterone in vertebrates and ecdysone in invertebrates, have an influence on the rate of neurogenesis.
When the scientists use these techniques on a brain dead patient to re-grow the brain stem, and they created a mindless body shambling around, no thoughts and no personality, nothing but a cloud of base instincts and impulses.
Nanorobotics is the emerging technology field creating machines or robots whose components are at or close to the scale of a nanometer (10−9 meters). More specifically, nanorobotics refers to the nanotechnology engineering discipline of designing and building nanorobots, with devices ranging in size from 0.1-10 micrometers and constructed of nanoscale or molecular components. The names nanobots, nanoids, nanites, nanomachines or nanomites have also been used to describe these devices currently under research and development.
Chemists at the University of Nebraska have created a humidity gauge by actually 'assimilating' living bacteria into an electronic circuit. This appears to be the first instance in which a living cell becomes a fixed part of the structure of an electronic device.
Ravi Saraf and student Vikas Berry made their device from a standard silicon chip inlaid with gold electrodes. First they added a coating of Bacillus cereus bacteria, which clustered together to form bridges between the electrodes. Then they washed the chip with a solution of gold particles, each of which measured about 30 nanometres across and was covered with peptides to help it stick to the bacteria.
A rise in moisture levels causes the bacteria to swell slightly, which increases the distance between neighbouring nanoparticles by up to 0.2 nanometres. This tiny separation makes it harder for electrons to hop from one particle to the next, which reduces the current flowing across the chip. A change from 20% to 0% humidity increased the current flowing through the device by 40 times, whereas the current in a solely electronic device decreases by just ten times.
The bacteria must stay alive during their assimilation so that they do not leak any internal fluids and lose their shape. According to Saraf, the bacteria can survive for about two days without nutrients. However, the device continues to work even after the bacteria die;the zombie 'borg-teria' continue to work for as long as a month after death.
Electromagnetic radiation guns
According to news sources, President Vladimir Putin has confirmed Russia has been testing mind-bending psychotronic guns that can effectively turn people into zombies.
The futuristic weapons - which attack their victims' central nervous system - are being developed by scientists and could be used against Russia's enemies and even its own dissidents by the end of the decade. The guns, which use electromagnetic radiation like that found in microwave ovens, as entirely new instruments for achieving political and strategic goals.
Plans to introduce the super-weapons were announced by Russian defence minister Anatoly Serdyukov. While the technology has been around for some time, MrTsyganok said the guns were recently tested for crowd control purposes.
Research into electromagnetic weapons has been carried out in the US and Russia since the '50s but it appears Putin has stolen a march on the US. Precise details have not been revealed but previous research has shown that low-frequency waves or beams can affect brain cells, alter psychological states and make it possible to transmit suggestions and commands directly into someone's thoughts.
Mr Putin said the technology is comparable in effect to nuclear weapons but "more acceptable in terms of political and military ideology". Mr Serdyukov said the weaponry based on new physics principles - direct-energy weapons, geophysical weapons, wave-energy weapons, genetic weapons and psychotronic weapons - were part of the state arms procurement program for 2011-2020.
According to a 2009 Carleton University and University of Ottawa epidemiological analysis, an outbreak of even Living Dead's slow zombies "is likely to lead to the collapse of civilization, unless it is dealt with quickly." Based on their mathematical modelling, the authors concluded that offensive strategies were much more reliable than quarantine strategies, due to various risks that can compromise a quarantine. They also found that discovering a cure would merely leave a few humans alive, since this would do little to slow the infection rate.
On a longer time scale, the researchers found that all humans end up turned or dead. This is because the main epidemiological risk of zombies, besides the difficulties of neutralizing them, is that their population just keeps increasing;generations of humans merely "surviving" still have a tendency to feed zombie populations, resulting in gross outnumbering. The researchers explain that their methods of modelling may be applicable to the spread of political views or diseases with dormant infection.
The Zombie Institute for Theoretical Studies (ZITS) is a program through the University of Glasgow. It is "headed" by Dr. Austin, a character created by the university to be the face of ZITS. The ZITS team is dedicated to using real science to explain what could be expected in the event of an actual zombie apocalypse. Much of their research is used to disprove common beliefs about the zombie apocalypse as shown in popular media. They have published one book (Zombie Science 1Z) and give public "spoof" lectures on the subject.