‘Zombie Science’ Teaches Students about the Spread of Disaease
Zombie movies often reflect a culture’s greatest fears. The catalyst that turns people into zombies is usually something that a society is most afraid of at the time. When zombie films first started being made in the 1960s, it was the fear of the Cold War and radiation that made the dead rise. As the genre has progressed, it has given way to towards pandemic outbreaks, and in that pandemic mode, recent films have adopted an apocalyptic feel.
Steve Schlozman, M.D., is Hollywood’s go-to expert on zombie science. An assistant professor of psychiatry at the Harvard Medical School, and author of The Zombie Autopsies: Secret Notebooks from the Apocalypse (Grand Central Publishing, 2011), which is now being made into a movie, directed by none other than George Romero. Schlozman has made a name for himself as “Dr. Zombie,” an expert on the undead. He recently teamed up with actress Mayim Bialik, who plays a neuroscientist on “The Big Bang Theory” and actually holds a doctorate in neuroscience in real life, for a new program called STEM Behind Hollywood. (STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics.)
Studies show that during times of economic stress, zombie movies become more popular, he said, because they represent what happens when the system is stressed and breaks down. Dr. Schlozman said he also suspects that people’s fascination with zombies partly stems from a longing to reconnect with one another. “People ask, ‘Why do we have these zombie walks? … Why would you dress up like a dead person and walk around?'” he said. “Well, no one texts on a zombie walk. No one’s looking at their phones; people are talking to each other. I think there’s a desire to get back together … You can’t be any more off the grid than a zombie.”
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“Dr. Zombie” Explains How He Came to Diagnose Zombies
The STEM Behind Hollywood program series was created by Texas Instruments (TI) and The Science & Entertainment Exchange, a program of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), and seeks to inspire student’s interest in math and science careers. The STEM program will include installments on everything from forensics to zombies and superheroes. The current Zombie program allows students to immerse themselves in “zombie pandemics” in order to learn about how diseases spread and affect the body.
This activities of the learning module encourages students to engage with, visualize and grasp STEM concepts like the exponential growth of a zombie horde and how the growth turns into a characteristic ‘s’ curve from limited resources as the infection spreads through the human population and also gives students an inside-look at STEM careers such as epidemiology by using modeling and graphs that the World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control use to track the spread of infectious diseases.