What Are The Chances Of A Zombie Apocalypse?
The zombie genre has been resurrected in recent years, and no show symbolises this rebirth better than the epic Walking Dead. To celebrate the return of television’s grizzliest drama on October 12, we looked at where, when and how a real life zombie apocalypse could devastate the planet. We searched desperately for the chances of a zombie apocalypse. Our research has left us on edge, and here’s why.
HOW COULD IT HAPPEN?
One of the many questions we’ve been asking since Rick woke up from that coma is what caused the world transformation in the time between. We’ve now got five series, and a new prequel (hurrah!) but we’re no closer to knowing what causes the dead to reanimate, beyond the fact all of humankind is “infected.” Should we be scared or not? Here are some prospective causes for a real life zombie apocalypse:
TECHNOLOGY [as seen in Nano Breaker]
One freaky bit of science currently in development is that of nanobots, which are microscopic self-replicating robots set to enter your brain. The plan is that when the technology is perfected, scientists will be able to use these tiny robots to repair broken links in the brain like super intense keyhole surgery. Nanobots will be specifically designed to recognise and interact with defective brain molecules, applying fixes to these while leaving the healthy molecules alone.
Science is pouring money into nanobots in the hope they will be able to cure a myriad of problems, including destroying cancerous cells. In theory, they are supposed to correct what is wrong with our brains. They will literally be able to re-wire our thoughts. It’s not that big a stretch to wonder if those sent to repair could just as easily damage, especially if there’s human error, unperfected technology or a psychopath scientist involved.
Tests on hosts have shown the nanobot can continue working for a month after the host is dead, continuing to control the brain and thus the body. So, you’re dead, but your brain is full of robots that can continue to animate you. It’s a real life horror movie.
However, this technology is still a bit underdeveloped for that, so chances are you will not see a zombie outbreak caused by nanobots in the near future.
PARASITES [as seen in Resident Evil IV]
Parasites that turn humans into cannibalistic zombies are possible, and nature is filled with parasites. For example, there’s the toxoplasmosa gondii, which infects many warm blooded animals but can only breed inside the intestines of a cat. It gets more disgusting.
Studies have found that rats infected with toxoplasmosa gondii have a decreased aversion to the scent of cat’s urine. This could be the parasite making sure the rat is in a position to be eaten by the cat in order to breed. The rat allows itself to be eaten by the cat for the parasite’s benefit.
The great news is toxoplasmosa gondii can and does infect humans. Estimates suggest that 30-50% of the world’s population is infected, varying by country and higher in the western world. France suffers most, with estimates suggesting 84% of Frenchmen are infected. Some studies have found that infected humans may also experience altered behaviour, with a higher than usual prevalence of schizophrenia.
Toxoplasmosa gondii is just one potential brain parasite. There are others, which just need time and reason to evolve or some idiot to weaponise them.
VIRUSES [as seen in 28 Days Later]
Many a zombie film is fond of the contagious virus route, which doesn’t technically cause dead people to reanimate, but there won’t be any time to be pedantic when you’re fending off hordes of mindless killing machines.
Bioengineering is all the rage, so it’s certainly possible someone could create such a virus, though that would be risky.
We also have brain disorders that do just about the same thing. For example, Mad Cow Disease attacks the cow’s spinal cord and brain, causing its physical and mental wellbeing to slowly deteriorate. One key sign of infection is an increase in aggression. Humans who eat the infected meat will become ill with Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease, which causes zombie-like symptoms. In America, there is a similar degenerative disease called Chronic Wasting Disease, which affects deer and elk, though this is not known to infect humans.
WHAT THE BOOKIES SAY
We asked bookmakers William Hill to provide odds for a zombie apocalypse. They offered long odds of 10,000/1 that the world will come to an end as the result of a zombie attack. However, they clarified that they will only pay out when the world’s population is 95% wiped out, when presumably money will have no value anyway. You could probably just rob them at that point, if you’re hardcore enough to deal with the ravenous zombie guards.
To put things into perspective, in comparison David Beckham looks like a dead cert to succeed Peter Capaldi as the Doctor at 250-1. Aston Villa are twice as likely to win the Premier League this season than for the world to succumb to murderous zombies (5000-1).
If the idea of David Beckham in the Tardis calms you down, remember that these are far from the longest odds William Hill have ever offered, with bets on Screaming Lord Sutch, the founder of the Monster Raving Loony Party, to become Prime Minister valued at 15,000,000-1 before his death in 1999.
Longer odds have also paid out. In 2008, a fertiliser salesman placed a 50p bet on a 2,000,000-1 eight horse accumulator bet. He took home a tidy £1,000,000. Just saying.
On the other hand, William Hill offer much shorter odds for an apocalypse caused by other means, with global warming being a favourite at 5-1 or an asteroid hitting Earth at 10-1.
The Walking Dead returns at 9pm on October 12 on FOX