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Cinema physics

A colleague sent me a link to this article in which two physicists, Costas J. Efthimiou and Sohang Gandhi, consider the science behind horror movies.  While much of the article is interesting and astute, I quibble with this bit:

The vampire needs to feed on human blood. After one has stuck his fangs into your neck and sucked you dry, you turn into a vampire yourself and carry on the blood-sucking legacy. The fact of the matter is, if vampires truly feed with even a tiny fraction of the frequency that they are depicted as doing in the movies and folklore, then humanity would have been wiped out quite quickly after the first vampire appeared….

The zombie legends portrayed in movies such as Dawn of the Dead or 28 Days Later follow a similar pattern to the vampire legends.  Once you are bitten by zombies, while you may manage to escape immediate death, you will eventually die and turn into a zombie, yourself. Thus, this particular type of zombie legend suffers the same flaw that we previously pointed out for the vampire legend.

I’ve excerpted this heavily, but you get the point.  I have two quibbles.  First, many vampire films do not work this way.  Feeding and turning people are two distinctly different activities in a lot of texts.  That bit aside, the complaint is valid for some films.  However, this complaint does not apply to zombie films because zombies do not try to coexist with humans.  Unlike vampires, who seek NOT to eat every person living, zombies don’t practice conservation.  Thus, most zombie films are apocalyptic in the way vampire films are not.  The scientists spent most of their time on Haitian voodoo zombies, which are interesting but a much more established notion of science, IMO.

I’d suggest anyone interested in the science of zombies read Max Brooks’ The Zombie Survival Guide, which has an extensive section on the virus that causes zombiehood.

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