Saturday, 27 October 2012

The science of zombies and frankensteins monster

Apparently All hallows eve is on in a few days, which means people are getting in the mood for horror. But for me it seems the horror this year comes in the form of my gas and electricity bill, but I digress. Mad scientists through out the ages seem to been sadly ignored or used for inspiration for horror novels. Mary shelly heard of the experiments by Erasmus Darwin (Charles Darwin's grandfather) with galvanism, the contraction of muscles stimulated by electricity. This probably sparked off the idea that reanimating the dead by electricity which is the basis of the monsters creation.
The effect galvanism was named after the scientist Luigi Galvani, who investigated the effect of electricity on dissected animals in the 1780s and 1790s. When Galvani was doing some dissection work in his lab, his scalpel touched the body of a frog, and he saw the muscles in the frog's leg twitch. Galvani referred to the phenomenon as animal electricity, believing that he had discovered a distinct form of electricity.
Galvani did not perceive electricity as separable from biology. Galvani did not see electricity as the essence of life, which he regarded vitalistically. Galvani believed that the animal electricity came from the muscle. Galvani's associate Alessandro Volta, in opposition, reasoned that the animal electricity was a physical phenomenon caused by rubbing frog skin and not a metallic electricity. Every cell has a cell potential; biological electricity has the same chemical underpinnings as the current between electrochemical cells, and thus can be duplicated outside the body. Volta's intuition was correct. Volta, essentially, objected to Galvani’s conclusions about "animal electric fluid", but the two scientists disagreed respectfully and Volta coined the term "galvanism" for a direct current of electricity produced by chemical action. Thus, owing to an argument between the two in regard to the source or cause of the electricity,
A zombie  is an animated corpse resurrected 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. In modern times, the term "zombie" has been applied to an undead being in horror fiction, largely drawn from George A. Romero's 1968 film Night of the Living Dead. They have appeared as plot devices in various books, films, television shows. Only recently have people try to explained a possible science to reanimate dead tissue, as the popularity grew from Romero's vision.
Parasites that turn victims into mindless, zombie-like slaves are fairly common in nature. There's one called toxoplasmosa gondii that seems to live in the guts of cats, sheddding eggs that can be picked up by rats and other animals that can just so happen be eaten by cats. Toxoplasma forms cysts throughout its intermediate host's body, including the brain. And yet a Toxoplasma-ridden rat is perfectly healthy. That makes good sense for the parasite, since a cat would not be particularly interested in eating a dead rat. But scientists at Oxford discovered that the parasite changes the rats in one subtle but vital way.
Then the researchers put Toxoplasma-carrying rats in the enclosure. Rats carrying the parasite are for the most part indistinguishable from healthy ones. They can compete for mates just as well and have no trouble feeding themselves. The only difference, the researchers found, is that they are more likely to get themselves killed. The scent of a cat in the enclosure didn't make them anxious, and they went about their business as if nothing was bothering them. They would explore around the odor at least as often as they did anywhere else in the enclosure. In some cases, they even took a special interest in the spot and came back to it over and over again. The scientists speculated that Toxoplasma was secreted some substance that was altering the patterns of brain activity in the rats. This manipulation likely evolved through natural selection, since parasites that were more likely to end up in cats would leave more offpsring.
The Oxford scientists knew that humans can be hosts to Toxoplasma, too. People can become infected by its eggs by handling soil or kitty litter. For most people, the infection causes no harm. Only if a person's immune system is weak does Toxoplasma grow uncontrollably. That's why pregnant women are advised not to handle kitty litter, and why toxoplasmosis is a serious risk for people with AIDS. Otherwise, the parasite lives quietly in people's bodies (and brains). It's estimated that about half of all people on Earth are infected with Toxoplasma. Pregnant women with high levels of Toxoplasma antibodies in their blood were more likely to give birth to children who would later develop schizophrenia. 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.
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.
What is definitely true is the story of Clairvius Narcisse. He was a Haitian guy 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 putting them to work on the sugar plantations.
Mad Cow gets in humans, they call it Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. the symptoms: Changes in gait (walking) Hallucinations Lack of coordination (for example, stumbling and falling) Muscle twitching Myoclonic jerks or seizures Rapidly developing delirium or dementia. This gives plausibility in the idea of bio zombie.

According to studies, within a decade they'll have nanobots that can crawl inside your brain and set up neural connections to replace damaged ones. The nanobots will be able to rewire your thoughts, in the unlikely event of hacking zombie like behavior can be forced upon you.
The nanobots will be programmed to self-replicate, and the death of the host will mean the end of the nanobots. To preserve themselves, they'd need to transfer to a new host. Therefore, the last act of the nanobot zombie would be to bite a hole in a healthy victim, letting the nanobots steam in and set up camp in the new host. Once in, they can shut down the part of the brain that resists (the cortex) and leave the brain stem intact. They will have added a new member to the unholy army of the undead.
Scarily,In the 40′s, the Soviets were working on experiments involving reanimating mammals, specifically canines.
In this film, witness the shock and horror as organs are reanimated though electricity and with mechanical hearts and lungs! Now, it’s noted that this is no outstanding feat, a human heart can operate with nutrient rich blood and plasma alone. What’s fascinating in this film, is the apparently conscious and reactive head of a dog. Is it merely muscle synapses and reflexes? Perhaps, but the dog shows a keen awareness to its surroundings, suggesting activated sight, sound and other senses.
The dog is brought to clinical death (depicted mostly via a graphical plot of lung and heart activity) by draining all blood from it, left for ten minutes, then connected to the heart-lung machine described earlier.
After several minutes, the heart fibrillates, then restarts a normal rhythm. Respiration likewise resumes, the machine is removed and the dog is shown to continue living a healthy life. Recent advances of oxygenating blood using allows for a continued success in this field of  medical science. The simple matter of reconnecting nerves and avoiding tissue rejection may perhaps be overcome one-day, as people point out the singularity of immortality through machines. The alternative, could be a body swopping old worn out parts with new flesh. The whole macabre subject of raising the dead and possible threats from such manifestations could be a paranoid fantasy. But the recent emerging technological advances particularly on the nanoscale, could effectively bring back or extend life. Hacking of any kind today is done by the enthusiastic hobbyist. It could very well be the next step for some future hacker to try new tech to make the mistake of creating the undead. I hope by then there will be rights for the people to have a tamper free funeral or laws on Biohacking. Until then don't have night mares and enjoy your Halloween....

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