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Undead Science

On Aetiology, Tara C. Smith continues her series on the science of The Walking Dead, explaining how diseases spread and how they might cause zombiism. One thing that would be observed in any real contagion would be an incubation period— the time between when a virus (for example) enters your body and you start showing symptoms of infection. For a virus like the flu, this could be about two days during which you don’t feel sick but could still be infecting people around you—even if you don’t bite them. Tara also expresses nerd rage at the show’s “doctors” pursuing antibiotics to treat the flu, since antibiotics kill bacteria, not viruses.  On ERV, Abbie Smith presents interesting data on infectious killers in North America, both vanquished and ongoing. The last case of Smallpox was documented in 1977. But flu bugs, which live in “reservoirs” in other animal species, mutate all the time, and some years’ flus are deadlier than others.

For Halloween, Chad Orzel explained how to base a sexy costume on a bunch of nerdy white guys, such as Niels Bohr: “a little Brylcreem, a soccer ball, and a lot of mumbling and equivocation, and you’re good to go.” On Pharyngula, PZ Myers wondered if Antonie van Leeuwenhoek is thirsting for cheap technology is the grave, like a do-it-yourself photomicrography setup that lets you take pictures of wee beasties with your smartphone.  And Ethan Seigel pulls us back from the whole death-and-decay thing with his latest costume: Rainbow Dash from the cartoon My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.