Ultima Thule

In ancient times the northernmost region of the habitable world - hence, any distant, unknown or mysterious land.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Math vs. vampires: vampires lose

By Aussiegirl

Just in time for Halloween and trick or treats, science makes us safe from vampires, ghosts and zombies. Still, what's that black-robed creature with fangs at my door begging for candy? Ah, science apparently cannot answer all the mysteries in the world. And as for ghosts, I'd say the jury is still out on this one. I have known people who have had personal experiences with ghostly apparitions, and the folklore is too strong with them to suggest that they are impossible. The world of spirit is still beyond the current ken of science. However, the mysteries of quantum physics teach us that there are many unbelievable things that exist in the universe. Now, I'm still a bit worried about the Wolf Man, so I'm waiting for a scientific verdict on those!

Math vs. vampires: vampires lose

If vam­pires—corpses that rise up to suck the blood of the liv­ing—sound bi­o­log­i­cal­ly im­plau­si­ble to you, you’re not alone. They ex­ist pure­ly in leg­end, as vir­tu­al­ly all sci­en­tists agree.

But for any vampire be­liev­ers un­dis­sua­d­ed by bi­o­log­i­cal facts, a pro­fes­sor has come up with a sec­ond proof of their un­re­al­i­ty, us­ing math.

If vam­pires ever ex­isted in the forms in which mo­v­ies and books por­tray them, they would have quick­ly wiped out hu­ma­n­ity long ago, ac­cord­ing to phys­ics pro­f­es­sor Cos­tas Ef­thi­mi­ou of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Cen­tral Flor­i­da in Or­lan­do, Fla.

Pop­u­lar lo­re pas­sed down through cen­turies holds that vam­pire vic­tims be­come vam­pires them­selves, and launch their own blood-hunts on hap­less hu­mans.

To rule out vam­pires, Ef­thi­mi­ou re­lied on a bas­ic prin­ci­ple known as ge­o­met­ric pro­gres­sion.

“If vam­pires tru­ly feed with even a ti­ny frac­tion of the fre­quen­cy that they are de­picted to in the mo­v­ies and folk­lore, then the hu­man race would have been wiped out quite quick­ly af­ter the first vam­pire ap­peared,” Ef­thi­mi­ou and a grad­u­ate stu­dent col­league wrote in a pa­per posted on­line.

Efthimiou sup­posed that the first vam­pire arose Jan. 1, 1600, around the be­gin­ning of a cen­tu­ry dur­ing which some of the first im­por­tant mod­ern writ­ings on vam­pires ap­peared. The re­search­ers es­ti­mat­ed the glob­al pop­u­la­tion at that time, based on his­tor­i­cal re­c­ords, as 537 mil­lion.

As­sum­ing that the vam­pire fed once a month and the vic­tim turned in­to a vam­pire, there would be two vam­pires on Feb. 1, four the next month, and eight the month af­ter that. All hu­mans would be vam­pires with­in 2½ years. “Hu­mans can­not sur­vive un­der these con­di­tions, even if our pop­u­la­tion were dou­bling each mon­th,” which is well be­y­ond hu­man ca­pa­ci­ties, Ef­thi­mi­ou said.

Efthimiou and the grad­u­ate stu­dent, So­hang Gan­dhi, al­so took on ghosts and zom­bie leg­ends.

Us­ing laws of mo­tion dis­cov­ered by Isaac New­ton in the late 1600s, they not­ed that ghosts would­n’t be able to walk and pass through walls, and not just be­cause walls are sol­id.

In movies such as “Ghost,” star­ring Pat­rick Swayze and Demi Moore, ghosts of­ten walk like hu­mans, pass through walls and pick up ob­jects. How­ever, Ef­thi­mi­ou ar­gues, for ghosts to walk like hu­mans, they would have to put pres­sure on the floor. The floor would ex­ert an equal and op­po­site force in re­turn. But ghosts’ abil­i­ty to pass through walls and have hu­mans walk right through them demon­strates that they can’t ap­ply force, the re­search­ers wrote.

They al­so pro­vid­ed an ex­pla­na­tion for “voodoo zom­bie­fi­ca­tion,” a prod­uct of Hai­tian folklo­re that sug­gests that zom­bies arise when a sor­cer­er places an evil spell on an en­e­my. The re­search­ers re­viewed the case of a Hai­tian ad­o­les­cent who was pro­nounced dead by a lo­cal doc­tor af­ter a week of great con­vul­sions.

Af­ter the boy was bur­ied, he re­turned in an in­co­her­ent state, and Hai­tians said a sor­cer­er had re­s­ur­rec­t­ed him as a zom­bie.

Efthimiou and Gan­dhi attribute the incident to a tox­ic sub­stance called tetrodotox­in, found in a puffer­fish breed na­tive to Hai­tian wa­ters. Con­tact with the sub­stance gen­er­al­ly re­sults in rap­id death. How­ev­er, in some cases, the right dose pro­duces a state that mim­ics death and slows vi­tal signs to un­mea­s­ur­a­ble lev­els. Even­tu­al­ly, the vic­tim snaps out of the death-like co­ma.

Anal­y­sis has shown that ox­y­gen dep­ri­va­tion could ex­p­lain the boy’s brain dam­age and in­co­her­ent state, Ef­thi­mi­ou said: thus, “it would seem that zom­bie­fi­ca­tion is noth­ing more than a skill­ful act of poi­son­ing.”


At 8:16 PM, Blogger Mr. Spog said...

Heh, heh, heh ... Silly Dr. Efthimiou has been watching wrong movies. Vampires only occasionally "bring over" their victims! Zis takes much self-control by vampire, I can assure you. Otherwise they drain victims of all bloood, so they do not turn into new vampires. Or so they say. Also nowadays with annoying police investigations, is often safer to live on disgusting cow's blood most of time. Many vampires also get unfortunately killed by young California girl with whiny voice and superpowers.


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