Photo of Hannah, aka “Bicycle Girl Zombie” – the first walker encountered by Rick Grimes in Episode 1, Season 1 of “The Walking Dead.” Credit: AMC.
Photo of Hannah, aka “Bicycle Girl Zombie” – the first walker encountered by Rick Grimes in Episode 1, Season 1 of “The Walking Dead.” Credit: AMC.

The “Science” of Zombies and the Walking Dead, with Robert Kirkman

Hannah, aka “Bicycle Girl Zombie” – the first walker encountered by Rick Grimes in Episode 1, Season 1 of “The Walking Dead.” Credit: AMC.
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Photo of Hannah, aka “Bicycle Girl Zombie” – the first walker encountered by Rick Grimes in Episode 1, Season 1 of “The Walking Dead.” Credit: AMC.

This episode is audio-only

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.

In This Episode

  • Host

    Neil deGrasse Tyson

    Neil deGrasse Tyson
    Astrophysicist
  • Co-Host

    Maeve Higgins

    Maeve Higgins
    Comedian
  • Guest

    Robert Kirkman

    Robert Kirkman
    Comic book writer, Creator/Executive Producer of The Walking Dead
  • Guest

    Jeffrey Mantz

    Jeffrey Mantz
    Anthropologist, Cultural Anthropology Program Director and Human Subjects Research Officer at the National Science Foundation
  • Guest

    Steven Schlozman, M.D.

    Steven Schlozman, M.D.
    Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, Author of The Zombie Autopsies
  • Guest

    Mona Chalabi

    Mona Chalabi
    Data Journalist, Data Editor of The Guardian US, columnist at New York Magazine
  • Guest

    Chuck Nice

    Chuck Nice
    Comedian
  • Guest

    Bill Nye the Science Guy

    Bill Nye
    The Science Guy

Episode Topics

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