“Is a Zombie Apocalypse Possible?” Through The Wormhole Takes a Look
Zombies, more or less, have been killing it the last few years. Between video games, movies and television, people cannot get enough of these mindless walking dead creatures and the apocalyptic scenarios that come with them. Also on the rise, thanks to cool personalities like Bill Nye and Neil Degrasse Tyson, Science is cool again! Audiences love BBC’s Planet Earth and more recently Tyson’s Cosmos reboot. So it was only a matter of time before Science Channel’s Through The Wormhole, now in its fifth season, would combat popular culture’s undying obsession with the undead.
The episode tonight asks an interesting question and tackles it by breaking it down into four different parts. The first part ask “We know zombies are fiction, but are there real infectious diseases that share Zombie-like symptoms?” Turns out there are a few things that share some traits with zombies. The first is the Cordyceps fungus, the inspiration behind The Last of Us’ “Clickers.” This fungus controls ants and other similar insects, causing them to die so it can spread more spores. Good thing Cordyceps cannot affect humans. So the show describes a method in with a disease could jump from close genetic relatives, like Ebola. Still there is already a virus that affects humans that can send people them into violent fits of rage – Rabies. Rabies isn’t highly contagious, but the show examines a situation where Rabies could spread like the flu, which would be very troublesome.
The show steps away from from the ensuing zombies apocalypse for a bit to explain the mechanisms of viruses, how they multiply, work and get by the body’s security systems. This is what the episode is really about – these microscopic villains that wreck havoc on the body. But like all good science shows, it hooks people in by applying it a topic they want to hear about. The focus soon takes us to a visual experiment by Professor Robert Smith on the infection rate of diseases. Smith argues the old models do not account for today’s globalized civilization any if an truly deadly disease was to break out, the world would be in grave danger.
The later half of the episode examines future possibilities of diseases, how that could cause a zombie apocalyptic like outbreak and what is become to combat and prevent these scenarios. There are some creative ideas for future vaccines and treatments. One idea scientist are working with is rewriting Viral genetic code so that viruses will hunt down and destroy other viruses. Finally, the episode goes into some of the neuroscience being done now that is creating remote controlled roaches and giving scientist the abilities to turn off neurons in the brain, paving the way to turn people into mindless drones.
The visuals throughout the episode are consistent with most science shows: a mix of interview, CGI, archive and reenactment footage. The metaphor of a virus is like a burglar trying to break into a building is a great way to sum up its primary functions. There is even a nice gag where the virus fools the white blood cell by using a cardboard cutout. However; I did feel some type of way that the burglar was a browned skin man. Yes, I understand that was the microbiologist and he wanted to be part of the visuals , but did he have to be chased by a white guy?
All in all, this was another good episode of Through The Wormhole. It serves as a great base, something that will spark curiosity, so hopefully you’ll want to go find out and learn more about the topics discussed here. In fact, I found an interesting article that dives into the top zombie apocalypse scenarios and what it would mean for us all. Overall this episode was informative, and an entertaining bend of reality to make room for one of Pop Culture’s favorite villains.