26 June 2013

Why "The Walking Dead" STILL Can't Happen

In 2012 I wrote about the impossibility of slow moving zombies that have to bite people to spread zombiism. At the end of Season 2 this problem was solved by revealing that everyone is already infected, so no matter how you die you will reanimate (I'm told if you play with the volume on the Blu-ray of Season 1 you can hear Jenner tell Rick that everyone is infected already). This explains how the zombie apocalypse got going, and gets around the issue of slow and ineffective zombies spreading the infection.

There is still another serious problem that would make the scenario in The Walking Dead impossible, and that is the unrealistic portrayal of the process of decay. Real bodies decay in a way that would make Walking Dead type zombies impossible.

Walking Dead zombies decay to the point where they look scary but don't fall apart completely. They also have plot-specific strenght. In "TS-19" Jenner says that the outbreak started 194 days ago. Season 3 begins about 8 months after this, taking into account time spent at the farm, that means that at least 440 days have passed since the first dead person reanimated. Think about it. You try leaving a body out in the heat and rain, totally exposed for over a year and see what's left. The zombies decay to the point where a fireplace shovel can cut through a skull like a chainsaw through pound cake, or you can pull a face off a skull easier than ripping off a band-aid, yet they never collapse under their own weight, bugs don't eat them, and they can bite through limbs like jello. I don't know about you, but if perfectly healthy and alive me were to bite into someone wearing overalls' leg I would not only not take a huge chunk out of his flesh, I would probably lose a couple teeth, yet these aspic soft zombies can bite through denim and muscle with no problem.

Come to think of it, how do they move if their muscles aren't metabolising anything for energy? If they can somehow break down their own bodies for energy, then what is breaking the body down for energy? The human body works as a holarchy of systems. A severed head cannot survive on its own because human cells are specialised and a head has no means of acquiring oxygen (except the cornea), energy, nutrients, and they cannot get rid of waste on their own. And yet somehow a zombie head can (and must) be able to do all of that. How does it do that? If none of the other organs work how do they move?

A kidney cell cannot just break down its neighbouring cells to get energy. A human is not a colonial organism, individual cells cannot be removed and act as a new creature. Under ideal conditions a whole kidney can remain viable for 30 hours. Inside a warm body in the Georgia summer, unprotected, it will start to decay and be useless in an hour or maybe less. If standing up (these are walking dead), in the absence of circulation the blood will pool in the legs. After a few days some organs have been completely digested by the bacteria living inside them (pancreas, intestines), the body fills with gas as the bacteria expel waste. Totally exposed to the elements, in a warm wet climate, a body will be completely reduced to a skeleton in a few days*, and the bones are often scattered over a large are by carrion eaters, leaving nothing recognisable as a corpse. In a cold dry environment (like in my zombie story, which has living zombies, but there are still lots of corpses lying around) a dead body will last a lot longer, but it's still not immune to decomposition or being eaten. Since nothing seems to eat zombies even though they are free meat, there is still no escaping the powers of decay at the hands of endogenous bacteria.

Under anaerobic conditions (a body with no blood circulation) at least some cells (like muscle cells, which do store chemicals that can be broken down to get energy) can undergo lactic acid fermentation. This produces far less ATP, which is needed to power calcium pumps which allows muscles to relax. Lactic acid messes up the pH of cells and surrounding fluid, calcium ions move around (as they do), causing the muscles to contract. Unable to pump the calcium ions because of lack of ATP the muscles cannot relax. This is rigor mortis. It begins within hours of death and remains for two or three days, when the muscles begin to decompose. The more vigorous the activity a person was in before death (such as running from zombies) the higher the level of lactic acid and the quicker rigor mortis begins. Even with a functioning brain (which is the only "working" organ) a zombie would not be able to move until rigor mortis ceases, so reanimating within a few minutes or hours after death is biochemically impossible. An immobile, reanimated zombie would be completely defenseless for two or three days no matter how fast it reanimated and by that time should have been completely eaten by animals (unless it's inside something where animals can't get it, not even insects). If by some strange quirk of fate a person dies inside a walk-in freezer so not only can no animals eat it, but the bacteria inside won't decompose it either, the water inside will be completely frozen so the reanimated zombie won't be able to move anyway.

The brain is the most power hungry organ in the body, requiring 1/5 - 1/4 of the body's total energy usage (let's say between 200 and 400 calories a day). Even if only the brain stem were active there is no way anywhere near enough energy would ever reach it, even if it began to consume itself by magic, since there is no digestion and no blood circulation. A reanimated brain would re-die very quickly, maybe within hours, maybe, by some magic slow-down process in a few days.

Unless by "zombie" we mean "dead body being manipulated by some sort of puppeteer parasite that can physically force the limbs to move when movement would normally be impossible" or we mean "shape shifting organism that looks like a human body but instead moves by changing its shape" there is literally no way for zombies like in The Walking Dead to work.



Addendum

I just don't like all the idiots on the Internet who have stupid arguments about what zombies are.

Mike Rotch wrote: "George Romero took I Am Legend, cut out the living vampires, and made the dead ones eat flesh instead of blood and this will forever be what a zombie is even though they're specifically referred to as 'ghouls' in the movie itself, but I am conveniently ignoring this fact!!!!!1"

People who make arguments like that should go back to the basement they only crawl out of at night to buy their crack and RedBull and leave the Internet to sophisticated literati who like to look up cannibal porn. If it looks like a zombie and acts like a zombie it's a duck, okay, whether it's based on vampires or is still alive like in the original meaning.




*Guess what kind of environment Sasquatch lives! Airplanes go down in the forests of the Pacific NW and are never found, what chance is there of finding a dead body in the two or three days before it's rendered unidentifiable. And i̶d̶i̶o̶t̶s̶ ideologues still scoff "where's the body?" You'll never find one. Meanwhile we have DNA from hair samples that's related to but definitely not human, and we have video evidence of a creature with a gait that even gymnasts with decades of experience cannot reproduce, even when in a harness, and dermal ridge patterns that the top expert in the country identifies as being not human and belonging to no other known creature. By this point the only people who say there is not an unknown species of large primate in North America are either 1. ignorant of the data or 2. people who refuse to accept its existence on ideological grounds.

16 June 2013

The Fourteen Century War

A massive war between the Persians and the Byzantines weakens both empires. The Plague of Justinian wipes out millions. If not for these two events it would have been impossible for the Islamic conquest to spread beyond Arabia. This is the history the academe does not want you to hear. They spread the hagiographic version of Islamic history. This is the truth.



There has been a war going on for the past 1400 years for the destruction of Western civilisation. Plague had weakened the West, allowing Islam to spread, but because Islam never invented anything on its own, instead relying on knowledge stolen from conquered peoples, it stagnated. The Mongol invasions introduced new technologies to the West where lack of strong centralised authority and easy money allowed for great inovation. Hand cannons became guns, Indian mathematics became banking and mercantilism, and the desire to cut free of the Islamic yoke prompted explorers to find alternate routes for the acquisition of spices and, ultimately, the discover of the New World. The West surged technologically and beat back Islam until, by the 20th century, most of the Islamic world was divided up among Western colonies.

The West grew complacent, and Islam appropriated Western technology, growing stronger, waiting for the perfect opportunity to turn the tide of the war. March 1994, US President Clinton pulls out of Mogadishu. CIA trained Islamist Osama bin Laden saw this as the turning point in the war. The West had backed down. Furthermore, the West had grown soft. The elite intelligentsia had been denigrating the West for thirty years. The time was ripe to strike.

It's been twelve years since 9/11. Bin Laden and his ilk set out to destroy the Western way of life. With a United States government set on eliminating freedom of speech, the right to self defense, the total obliteration of privacy with unreasonable search and seizure of everyone's data, and the extrajudicial killing of Americans with drone strikes, it is safe to say that they have succeeded. The terrorists have won. The West is over.

The Sealed Books

70 lead books may be the earliest Christian documents, written years before Paul's letters, the oldest of which is dated to AD 51 (just 18 years after the crucifixion). If they prove to be authentic these books will be the most significant archaeological discovery since the Dead Sea Scrolls. The books make reference to a messiah and possibly crucifixion and resurrection. Some of the books are sealed with wires, and it is speculated that they may be the sealed books referred to in Revelation.

This is where the story gets really really scary. The books were found in Jordan and smuggled into Israel and the Jordanian government wants the books back. British scientists are working with the Jordanians to recover the books.

Here's why this is scary. One word: Jahiliyyah.

It is a key Islamic doctrine that NOTHING EXISTED BEFORE ISLAM.
The Caliphate was the first state to ever erase its own history. The destruction of the giant Buddha statues in Afghanistan in 2001 was one of the most recent examples of this practice in action. Any and all artefacts that display sophisticated cultural heritage before a place was conquered by Islam must be destroyed. The Islamic authorities who control the Temple Mount in Jerusalem have conducted numerous illegal digs and have destroyed untold quantities of priceless archaeological treasures to eliminate any legitimacy the state of Israel might have.

If the Jordanians get a hold of these priceless relics any contribution to the world's understanding of history and culture in the first century will be destroyed.

14 June 2013

The Future Is Mild

Dateline: 1981. The show In Search Of... asks experts what the future would be like in the far off 21st century.

Millions of people moving out into space by 2050? Doesn't seem likely. NASA is just about completely shut down and commercial space flight is still in its embryonic stage. A lot can happen in the next 36 years, but with the way the economy, endemic warfare, and the explosion of government overreach is going I don't think the future looks good for space travel.

Every disease conquered or at least great progress made by 2000? Nope. Not even close, and with the power of big pharma to stiffle cures it doesn't look likely either.

Computers impacting every aspect of our lives? One out of three ain't bad. Wait! I mean one out of three correct predictions. The implications of the NSA saving every single thing every single person does on anything electronic is terrifying.


Arcosanti, the vision of genius architect Paolo Soleri, features prominantly in this program. Begun in 1970, the future home of 5000 people is, after 43 years, still a bunch of crap sitting in the desert. It's a shame the futuristic city was not completed before Soleri died just two months ago, 9 April 2013. A completely self-contained, ecologically sustainable, high density city is something the world needs. Unfortunately, it's not something the world wants.

Computers are getting faster, but the still do things one at a time (as opposed to the brain which is massively parallel), and they still don't think. Furthermore, no program, no matter how advanced, will be able to make a computer think. Thinking is not something programs do, it is something minds do. It requires a host of previous steps, from simple awareness of cells, to the instincts of the reptilian brain, to emotions of the limbic system, to the rationality and metacognition of the neocortex. The artificial intelligence people focus only on a very thin slice of rational mathematical ridgid structured thinking and ignore all the previous steps that were necessary to make that possible. In narrowing their focus, the AI people are really dooming themselves to failure.

What the AI people think is that they will be able to create a program that could produce a behaviour that looks like the computer is thinking and call it thinking. It's a bait and switch just like calling the pre-existing cosmic vacuum "nothing" and then saying the universe came from nothing. But a computer that looks like it can think is not the same thing as a computer that actually can think. These computers are just like zombies in that zombies may outwardly appear human, but there is nothing going on inside. They have no conscious experience, even though they act as if they do.

Implantable computers by 2026? Not that soon, but things like Google Glass are wearable computers that may be able to be fully integrated into everyday life, though with a number of cumbersome social implications that will have to be dealt with.

Dr. Roy Walford, anti-aging specialist and proponent of calorie restriction (which has been deomonstrated in a number of species to double lifespan), says there will be many positive social effects of people living to 150 or longer. Pushing cancer, heart disease, and other age related illnesses from 65 to 130, by which time medical advances may have discovered permanent cures. Living twice as long gives people the option of having multiple careers, even putting off having children until unthinkable ages by which time people have had their fun, done what they want to do, and are ready to settle down.

What if aging could be entirely eliminated? Dr. Walford estimates that if there is no change in the rate of accidents then the maximum lifespan would increase to 600 years, by which point it becomes statistically certain that something will have killed you already. I'm not sure getting hit by a bus sounds like a better way to go than at home in bed, possibly by heart attack or bleeding ulcer while you sleep, nor do I think that living a lot longer with no increase in the quality of life is all that attractive either. Several centuries living paycheck to paycheck, struggling with bills sounds like hell on earth. Maybe by then Arcosanti will be completed and the thus far crappy 21st century problems will be done away with. Who knows?

05 June 2013

The Urban Assessment Numero Dos

So just what is The Urban Mystic about? Surprisingly it has little to do with mysticism (only 19 posts - just 4% - are labeled "mysticism") or urbanism, and I'm not sure how much of "the" it is. Here is every label that appears more than 20 times, and my thoughts. An update of what I did in 2011.

Death 22 (it's so generic)
Atheism 24 (you know, I don't have anything witty to say for this one)
Bible 24 (really fun to analyse)
Fascism 24 (the new normal)
Fundamaterialism 26 (an old fav)
Islam 26 (such a silly topic)
Irked-Confusion Studios 27 (I was just labeling everything IC in the early days)
Communism 28 (we're all communists now, right?)
Jews 28 (the most dumped on group of people in history)
New World Order 28 (they're watching)
Warfare 29 (a whole lot happened in the world as a direct result of warfare)
2012 31 (and the world DIDN'T end)
Christianity 32 (the most frequently mentioned religion)
Israel 32 (and the lies people tell about it)
Philosophy 33 (and I STILL haven't done my "End of Philosophy" piece yet)
Barack Obama 35 (unfortunately he seems to be everywhere today)
Liberal Racists 37 (because everyone else talks about the other kind of racist, I'm providing balance)
Other 38 (whatever doesn't fit any other labels)
Politics 41 (another one I wish didn't appear so often)
News 42 (plus analysis and the admonition to make up your own mind)
REAL Science 54 (as opposed to the made up kind)
Perspective 56 (the more perspectives you take on the more you grow)
The Urban Mystic 56 (this is the most self-referential thing ever, with the main page linking to itself twice)
2011 57 (an eventful year)
History 73 (my obsession)
USA 107 (a quarter of all posts!)

How have things changed since 2011? Death, Fascism, Islam, New World Order, and 2012 have joined the list, with several of them being created after 2011. God, Mysticism, Religion, Hinduism, India, Uri Geller, and a slew of global warming topics have dropped off. Of the top 5 Perspective was added and REAL Science moved down (they switched places, 1 and 6).

The Urban Mystic seems to be moving from the Absolute to the relative, dealing more with worldly issues of dire consequence rather than spiritual or more esoteric matters. It reflects a shift into less optimism for the future as crazies take more and more power, threatening our freedom. It's something to think about.