October 27, 2016 9:37 pm

Friday Night, Pity the Poor Zombies

Still from George Romero's "Night of the Living Dead," 1968

Scene from George A. Romero’s “Night of the Living Dead” from 1968.

Pity the poor zombies.

They never get to be their shambling, crumbling, brain-eating selves.

They’re always just a metaphor.

For communism. For terrorism. For climate change. For AIDS. For slavery. For the modern office worker. For disaster preparedness. For the heart of darkness that lives inside each of us, waiting for the merest nibble from an equally dark soul to consume our purer selves.

They’re not even the scariest things in tomorrow night’s episode, Extended Classic: Zombie Apocalypse (Part 1).

That would be reserved for the viruses, outbreaks and pandemics for which zombies are yet another fearful metaphor, and about which guest Dr. Ian Lipkin paints such a foreboding picture: Ebola, Cholera, SARS, West Nile, and Rabies. And those weren’t even the worst. When host Neil deGrasse Tyson asks the noted epidemiologist about his 3 most worrisome viruses, Ian picks HIV, Influenza and “the one he doesn’t know about yet.”

And if something worries, Dr. Lipkin, it should worry us.

That’s because Ian was the Director of the Northeast Biodefense Center, as well as currently serving as the John Snow (I’m not making up that mixed cable television metaphor!) Professor of Epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, as well as Professor of Neurology and Pathology at Columbia.

Oh yeah, and that “one” he doesn’t know about? That’s the understatement of the whole show. There are actually between 500,000 and 1,000,000 undiscovered viruses out there waiting to liquefy our internal organs and send blood pouring out of our eyeballs.

Ian is only one of Neil and Eugene Mirman’s guests in this extended classic. The other is Max Brooks, son of Mel, famous for bringing us The Zombie Survival Guide and World War Z.

Max and Neil talk all about fictional zombies, but really, unless one finds oneself in a Zombie Fun Run, or as a soon-to-be-eaten actor in The Walking Dead, they’re nowhere near as worrisome as the real dangers that face us these days.

Because Friday’s podcast is an extended classic, you’ll also get 13 new minutes of Neil, Bill Nye and Steven Soter discussing Carl Sagan, Ann Druyan, Eratosthenes, Flatland, Ibn al-Haytham, and both Cosmos television series in Neil’s zombie-proof office, aka the “Cosmic Crib.”

Join us for Extended Classic: Zombie Apocalypse (Part 1) at 7pm EDT October 28, right here on our website, or on iTunesPodcasts, Google Play Music, SoundCloud, Stitcher and TuneIn. All-Access subscribers can listen ad-free (no video for this one), as well as to Neil’s original, extended interview with Max Brooks.

That’s it for now. Keep Looking Up!
–Jeffrey Simons

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