Thursday, October 31, 2013

Spooky science for Halloween

It's time to move from the weird science of yetis and bigfoot to some real and really creepy science.

First, National Geographic presents Halloween Special: Real-Life Zombies.

In a spooky coup, a parasitic worm hijacks a snail's brain and makes the snail sacrifice itself to a hungry bird. Carl Zimmer, a contributor to National Geographic's "Phenomena" science salon and author of the book "Parasite Rex," explains how the snail's death helps the parasite perpetuate its sneaky species.
I couldn't resist a video about snails.

I complete tonight's creepy science presentation two grisly articles from Rutgers University that star the same researcher, something I didn't realize until I put the two together just now.

Rutgers University: Rutgers Forensic Scientist Shares Zombie Survival Guide
Just in time for Halloween, Kimberlee Sue Moran peels back the skin on the science of dying
Monday, October 14, 2013
Kimberlee Sue Moran recalls that she was living in London in 2002 when she and her friend went to see the new zombie flick, 28 Days Later. The film turned everything that she thought about zombies on its head, depicting the animated corpses as fast and aggressive, rather than slow, plodding figures. “My friend and I clung to each other the whole way home,” recalls the Rutgers–Camden forensic scientist.

While admitting that she still has a “slightly irrational fear of zombies,” Moran knows full well that there is nothing really to be afraid of.  “It all comes down to the science behind it,” says Moran, who serves as an instructor for the Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Criminal Justice.

Just in time for Halloween, the Winslow resident shares her zombie survival guide, peeling back the skin on the science of dying, along with the cultural and religious traditions surrounding death. “Between rigor mortis – the body going completely rigid – and putrefaction – the body liquefying – any ‘true’ zombie, unlike the 28 Days Later variety, would be either too stiff or too sloshy to come after you!” declares Moran.

While apparitions of all forms – from wicked witches to friendly ghosts – have captivated people’s imaginations, she says that humans’ primitive fears and fascination with death can be boiled down to two simple reasons: it is a phenomenon that we don’t understand and one we can’t control.
Rutgers University: Geekadelphia’s Scientist of the Year Distinction Goes to a Rutgers Professor
Forensic anthropologist takes pride in her quirky interests and passions
Wednesday, October 9, 2013
By Carrie Stetler
Kimberlee Sue Moran is no ordinary geek. As Geekadelphia’s Scientist of the Year, her crowning achievement was blowing up a bus filled with dead animals to help first responders learn how to identify bombing victims.

“They got an understanding of debris patterns and developed a protocol where they could reconstruct what happened and recover both biological and non-biological evidence,’’ explains Moran, a Rutgers-Camden forensic archaeology professor and grant facilitator.

Her forensic exercise was a success. But what was so geeky about it?
Here's to wishing Professor Moran, and all of you, a happy, geeky Halloween!

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