About This Episode
Can we learn anything about anthropology, sociology, morality and physiology from fictional zombies? To find out, Neil deGrasse Tyson interviews Robert Kirkman, the Creator/Executive Producer of The Walking Dead, who says that his show is less about science fiction and more about the way people interact in extreme situations. To bring a scientific frame to the discussion of zombies, Neil and co-host Maeve Higgins talk with anthropologist Jeffrey Mantz, who once taught a course using zombies to examine how real world societies deal with fear, and Harvard professor Dr. Steve Schlozman, who wrote the fictional The Zombie Autopsies, which addresses the medical etiology of the zombie process as if it were real. You’ll find out how a virus like rabies can preserve muscle processes, and what role the ventromedial hypothalamus plays in zombies’ ravenous hunger. Explore how people establish affiliations during times of scarcity, how group dynamics influence the success of tribes, how charismatic leaders can bring their societies to wage war, and why moral relativism based on changing circumstances can make otherwise shunned and perverted behavior seem acceptable and even normal. You’ll hear why civilization is so important to establishing and preserving morality, and why the fear of a fragmented or non-existent civilization as the result of a major disaster may be at the heart of why The Walking Dead is so popular. Plus, Mona Chalabi explains mathematician Robert Smith?’s formula about zombie outbreaks, Chuck Nice asks people in Washington Square Park how they plan to survive in a zombie apocalypse, and Bill Nye compares the smallpox epidemic to a fictional zombie apocalypse to reassure us why science will save us.
NOTE: All-Access subscribers can listen to this entire episode commercial-free here: The “Science” of Zombies and the Walking Dead, with Robert Kirkman, as well as Neil’s extended interview with Robert Kirkman here.