Wednesday, September 02, 2009

COLUMN: Zombie study is (un)dead on arrival

This may come as a surprise to my regular readers, but I’m here to report that I’ve officially stopped worrying about killer robots. I’ve decided there are much more productive things I could be doing with my time. With that in mind, I’ve decided to start worrying about zombies.

You may scoff, but it’s not just me who’s preoccupied with the pending zombie invasion. According to the BBC, researchers at the University of Ottawa in Canada have just completed a full-fledged scientific study into the possibility. This must be what happens after you figure out health care — your researchers can just sit around doing studies on imaginary subjects. Any day now we can expect the University of Saskatchewan to weigh in on the potential health benefits of the mist that rises off unicorns when they bathe.

The zombie study was mounted by Professor Robert Smith?, who, yes, legally added a question mark to the end of his name. Given that Prince once changed his name to an unpronounceable symbol, I’m guessing this means Professor Robert Smith? is sort of a researcher rock star — when he walks into the college cafeteria, you can bet all the other less cool researchers trip over themselves to offer him a seat and share their Ziploc bags full of carrot sticks.

But the researchers claim the zombie exercise isn’t just for fun — it “could help scientists model the spread of unfamiliar diseases through human populations,” they say. And you can bet they spent a good 10 minutes high-fiving each other when they came up with that one, knowing full well the guys in the next lab were studying which diseases cause the most open sores.

Personally, though, I’ve been thinking about the zombie problem for what I see as an equally compelling reason: because it beats thinking about things that exist in real life, like escrow. And if you know a guy who claims he’s never thought about how he’d go about barricading his home should his neighborhood ever be overrun by zombies, he’s lying. Next he’ll tell you he’s never thought of what it might be like to be bitten by a radioactive spider.

Also, it just so happens that I recently read the zombie novel “World War Z” by Max Brooks, because I’m a student of fine literature, but also because it paints a very realistic picture of the type of person who might best survive a zombie invasion. And it turns out that it’s a person who is, wait, let me check my notes … the exact polar opposite of me.

Yes, it seems people who sit at computers all day, particularly the ones with no aptitude for fashioning weapons out of shovels and scrap metal, will almost immediately be overtaken, bitten and subsequently turned into zombies. The zombie armies will apparently be teeming with newspaper editors, who frankly will not notice much of a difference.

But luckily we have the Canadian researchers, who concluded through their research that — this is the part where I’d encourage the faint of heart to sit down — “it’s important that zombies are dealt with quickly.” See, this shows the grant money used for this study was more than justified, if only to counter the burgeoning opinion that we should be taking a “wait-and-see” attitude when it comes to zombies, or possibly offering them free tuition to our state colleges. You know who you are.

No matter what, the Canadians seem to be proud of their results, even if it seems obvious they undertook the study more to blow off scientific steam than to actually prepare for a zombie plague. And good for them, but let’s face it: At the end of the day, the whole endeavor was pretty much unnecessary.

The killer robots should make short work of the zombies in no time.

Peter Chianca is a managing editor for GateHouse Media New England; this column appeared originally in North Shore Sunday. Follow him on Twitter at To receive At Large by e-mail, write to, with the subject line “SUBSCRIBE.”

1 comment:

Maurice Mitchell said...

Hmmmm. Would this make the Marvel Zombie comic books into college textbooks?