Zombies get philosophical

You may not think of our flesh-eating diseased brethren as being the thoughtful types. Maybe they are, maybe they aren’t.
As Sci mentioned, I’m gonna be holed up in the Costco for a while so I got time to think about it. They’re the slow-moving-undead zombies, not those ultra-quick “infected” (I hate those creepy bastards). I rolled down those big steel doors, barricaded them with anything heavy I could find here, gathered up all the lighting supplies for when the power goes out, bandaged up that bite on my arm, and I’ve taken to making jerky out of all this meat I’ve got laying around the store. I even got chainsaws in case they break in. Not my weapon of choice by a long shot since all it does is attract more zombies, but they’ll do. I should be able to last a while. Other survivors are knocking on the door. I can’t let them in, I might put myself at risk. Maybe I’ll toss them some supplies from the roof later. If they make it.
So while I slice up all this beef and prep it for low heat cookin’, I’m thinking about these buggers. Are they just driven by a bunch of chemical reactions in their diseased brains?They got a rudimentary consciousness in there someplace, right? Or do they? People normally think of consciousness as the ability to self-evaluate, to reflect on one’s own mental state. Consciousness is frequently referred to as an emergent phenomenon, or one that can’t readily be predicted by knowing all the properties of its constituents. For example, we can’t really predict “wetness” from knowing the properties of a water molecule.
Some philosophers suggest that mental processes supervene on physical processes. That is, you can’t reductively just break down all the physical processes of the brain and get a true understanding of mentation. That being said, though, you can’t have the mental process without the physical. At least that we know about or can explain.
Hmm I’m getting hungry and these granola bars aren’t cutting it. Guess I don’t have to wait for the meat to cook, I can just start eating it as I slice it. Hey, it ain’t that gross! Whole cultures make a dining habit of eating raw beef. Ever heard of carpaccio, huh? Steak tartare? Kitfo? Mmm. Funny thing is, the more raw meat I eat the less that bite on my arm itches.
Some philosophers would say that it is possible to imagine a universe just like ours in every way, with all the same physical laws, except that this property of supervenience doesn’t apply to mental phenomena. That is to say, there’s another universe out there with an identical “you”, down to every last molecule, doing exactly what you are doing right now. Like making jerky. Mmmm jerky.
God I wish those survivors would stop banging on the door. I can’t think with all that racket!
The difference between You and 2nd you (called Ewe) is that Ewe doesn’t have the ability to self-evaluate. Ewe is not aware, Ewe is just playing out the fucktillions of molecular interactions going on in Ewe’s body. And since all the same physical laws apply to You and Ewe, You and Ewe will continue to live out the exact same life. The only difference is, Ewe isn’t aware of any of it. Kind of like those ravenous, flesh-eating fuckers out there right now, hunting down the last of humanity and tearing us to pieces with their jagged little teeth.
I don’t really buy into this as an explanation for how consciousness works, because in this case consciousness really can’t impact thought processes at all. It is a passive, useless thing. Personally I prefer to think that evolution shaped our mental processes by shaping our physical processes, meaning that self-evaluation serves a useful role in our survival. If I get out of this mess, I’m gonna head to the library and read up some more……
Dammit, stop banging on the damn door!!!!!!! RRRRRRRRRRR.
So anyway… self-evaluation. Yeah. What was I saying? Shit. Can’t think. Hungry. Arm itches.
Tried raw beef, pork, chicken, turkey. I’m craving some long pig, and Costco doesn’t carry that. Really craving it.
Time to go let those other survivors in.

Zombies and Cannibalism: the spread of an epidemic

Let’s all pause and contemplate how awesome I look as a zombie. I DO love brains. Very much. OM NOM NOM.
So Sci was thinking about what to post for Zombie Day. She thought about wondering if dogs could sniff early stage zombie infection and thus help with quarantine. She thought about whether or not grocery stores would be a good place to hide, but Evil assured her that Costco is better (everything is better when you buy IN BULK!). She then thought about maybe finding a disease or mental problem that made people crave human flesh.
And then she went, holy crap that is AWESOME.
And then I abandoned that one paper I was going to write about wasps, which is ALSO awesome, but will have to happen another time.
Because we usually think of a zombie epidemic as being something that would occur via a viral or bacterial infection, which would then cause the victim to become undead and then go about seeking human flesh (or brains, but apparently the fixation on brains alone is a relatively new phenomenon in the zombie mythos).
But what about the cannibalism itself, the whole seeking after human flesh bit? What if a lust for human flesh could arise from…eating human flesh? As, say, in a scenario where starvation was forcing people to cannibalism, and thus the massive social taboos against cannibalism are relaxed? And then…all you’d need is a disease that spread VIA cannibalism. Like kuru, only this would involve MOAR BRAINZ.
So this post has two aspects to it, the prospect for spread, and the prospect of a way to eliminate the zombie menace.
ResearchBlogging.org Rudolf and Antonovics. “Disease transmission by cannibalism: rare event or common occurrence?” Proceedings of Biological Science, 2007.
I would also like to note that killing people and eating them apparently sounds a lot more scientific as “interspecific necrophagy”.

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All we SciBlings want to do is eat your brains Sci loves Jonathan Coulton WAY too much.
So you might ask, where did this come from?
Well, the other day, Sci was talking to Pal. And we were talking about how many depressing things were going on in the world at large and didn’t that suck. And then Pal said “yeah, I just want to think about Zombies”. And Sci thought “that’s so cool because zombies are AWESOME!” And then I recalled how I still go back and read SouthernFriedScientist’s post on Vampires and zombies when I’m blue. And then we had an idea…
There is so much depressing stuff going on every day. And we can’t ignore that stuff, we need to address it. But wouldn’t it be awesome if everyone took a day and talked about zombies?!
And so we did.
So watch out, everyone! Today, Sciblings are out to eat yer brainz! Check out the mainpage for handy links to all things zombie, and Sci will be tweeting the hilarious stuff as it comes out.
(Don’t I look AWESOME?! Thanks to Joseph of Ataraxia Theatre for the pics! Also, he’s doing an RPG with robots. Cause he can. And robots are cool.)

The LOLcats of Science

Sci has something rather big brewing for tomorrow. Really rather large. In fact, it’s SO large, that…ok she could have posted today. In fact, she was going to. But then she thought about science LOLcats and how AWESOME they would be…and…
Well here you go.
Sure I’m busy! I’m doing ‘research’.
And then I got excited…

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Grad School Eating in Style: Cake Balls!

First off, Sci would like to extend a pleased and blushing THANK YOU!! to all the people who voted for her in the Three Quarks Daily Contest.
We’re in the top 20!!! I’m so thrilled by all the love. And by the fact that hyena mating is CLEARLY some sweet stuff. Well, of course it is. Sci would also like to give shout-outs to the other well-deserved semi-finalists, including Ed of Not Exactly Rocket Science (Ed always dominates, and I LOVE that gut bacteria post), Eric of Primate Diaries, Jason of The Thoughtful Animal, and Christie of Observations of a Nerd! We all rock so hard.. Fistbump!
(The proper way to express scientific awesome)
And now, on to today’s post, which involves cake and chocolate and therefore can challenge 3 Quarks Daily anyday.
Sci may no longer be a grad student (at least, they tell her she’s making post-doc stipend), but living in Huge New City isn’t exactly cheap. So while technically Sci’s a PhD, her standard of living has remained roughly the same.
And so, Sci brings you another in her (so far) two part series on eating like a grad student. She may have another one on the bean hodge podge her friend made up, which is nutritious, filling, and makes enough to last you a week (lunch AND dinner) for around $7.
But for now, let’s talk about pot lucks.
You know pot lucks, those things where people ask you to bring your own results of culinary genius to share with others. They are supposed to save money (you only have to make one dish), and supposed to make everyone happy, but for people like Sci…they are tough. Sci often ends up being the one who brings the soda or chips. This is because, unlike all the hardcore foodies sitting around on ScienceBlogs…Sci can’t cook. Well, ok. She’s up to a grilled chicken breast, steamed veggies, or an omelet, does a lot of rice and pasta, and she makes a mean curry. But other than that…well.
(No matter how many years of PhD or tenure or emer-itis, nothing will diminish my love of PhD comics. I LOVE YOU, JORGE! OVER HERE!!!! WRITE ABOUT SCI!!!!)
And so potlucks were embarrassing. No matter what I tried to make, it always came out looking icky and not well done, and though people ate it, I’m not sure they enjoyed themselves. This was made even harder by the fact that all of Sci’s friends and co-workers LOVE to be gourmands and make seriously crazy, seriously expensive food which involves things like star anise and polenta, and who loved to cater to the vegetarian, organic, and health conscious. I felt like I could never measure up and was the one continuously bringing crappy food.
And then I discovered CAKE BALLS.

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Links and Inks

…and things to think.
First off, a big welcome to the newest SciBling, Maryn of Superbug!! Always great to have someone else on board for the cool diseases.
Secondly, Sci’s tattoo has been featured in the bibliography of academic tattoos at the Fashionable Academics! Go over and check out the other stuff, there’s some lovely bodily decor on display.
Finally, Dr. Leigh is at it again, this time on the new synthetic cannabinoid phenomenon. Head over there for some awesome pharamcology by one of the best.
Oh oh oh wait. One more thing.
Do Sci’s off topic posts put you off? Drugmonkey first asked the question (ok, technically Lorax asked it first, but Sci saw it on Drugmonkey), and Abel has elaborated a bit. So, does it?
And speaking of off topic things…
Sci is thinking of starting a Coffee Pick of the Week. I love my caffeine in all its forms, and am lately getting very into trying different brands. Grind it myself, drink it black.
Sci recently got some new coffee in: Philz Ambrosia, Coffee of God. This may be start of Sci’s Coffee pick of the week. It’s a medium roast, but less sweet than some of the other Philz brands (like Tesora). It’s got a lovely, nutty flavor to it that makes it kind of proteinaceous tasting, and a delightful morning cup, with a rather mild flavor and a softness to it. Goes really well with buttered toast.
coffee love.jpg
Sci welcomes your coffee recommendations, and would be glad to try new coffees, though she warns you it may take a while, as I have to save up to import the nice ones.

OMG, Vote for ME!

Sci’s not a poet
And she knows it.
Ok, but for today.
There once was a cool science website
Who once yearly chose to invite
All bloggers far and near
To submit blog posts here
To pick one that is most best and bright.
So Sci did submit to their list
A post of weird sexual gist
On how Africa swings
With hyena matings
Dominant females with a twist.
A thus Sci now asks of you
If you have time with little to do
That you hop over to quarks
And vote for my remarks
Unless you think it’s just too taboo. πŸ™‚
Vote for Sci!!!

In which Sci gets Inked

We all have different ways of celebrating big milestones, like getting a PhD. Some people pop open the champagne. Some people (the really, really LUCKY people) get to take a few weeks off and recover. But for those of us who can do neither, well…Sci got a tattoo!
And you all want to know what it was, don’t you? Of course you do. Pics below the fold!

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In which Sci is Famous!

Blogging has truly made Sci famous this day! Her parents have been waiting for it for years. Every time Sci says “Hey Sci-Mom, I won an award”, or “Hey Sci-Mom, I got a link in the NY Times” or “Hey Sci-Mom, Sci is awesome!!!”, Sci-Mom will sigh and say, “yes, dear, but is it in PRINT?”
(Note: Sci-Mom, despite her insistence that things be in print to make you really famous, is totally awesome, and has copies of Open Lab, so she’s truly convinced that Sci is famous, she just likes to tease her)
But yes, Sci got an interview in Charlotte, North Carolina with DeLene of Wild Muse! In her daily life, DeLene is also a completely awesome freelance writer, who managed to convince the Charlotte Observer that pseuds were ok-type people inside. And so Sci is famous! Thanks, DeLene, it was a fun interview!
And so Sci wonders, what does it take to get into Wikipedia? Sci wants to be TOTES famous and in Wikipedia. Apparently some rules ask for a print source. BOOM, BABY! (Well, ok, also this. And this. Sci’s totally famous enough to be in Wikipedia, right? Right?!!?!?)
Ok, maybe not famous enough. People like Amelia Earhart and the Balloon Boy are in there…

An Open Letter: Pubmed

My Dearest Pubmed,
You and I have always had our ups and downs, like that time when you were down for 24 hours for NO REASON AT ALL, and the times when you return me hilarious responses to my admittedly rather silly searches (like the time I puts “peeps” into pubmed. Try it sometime).
But today I would like to offer up my thanks, dearest pubmed, for this truly awesome thing you’ve done with your open access posts. Observe:
pubmed open letter.png
What you will observe above is an exerpt from this previous Friday Weird Science’s post on bees and coke. Sorry, Sci had to make it tiny to fit. You can see the text on the left, and on the right…you can see the CITATIONS!!! Not all of them (only the ones that are open access, I think), but some of them are THERE!! WITH LINKS!!! Perfect for tabbed browsing, you can hop on over to check each citation as you come across it, read up, and snap it up. I LOVE IT. Used to be, you would click on a link in the text, and it would hop you down to the citation in the bibliography (this does happen, and it’s REALLY annoying), and sometimes, you just had to go through the dang numbers and look it up yourself.
But this, these little links. Pubmed, these are freakin’ GOLD and I LOVE YOU FOR IT. That’s my ever faithful little science butler.
clone high butler.png
(The adorable little butler from Clone High. If you haven’t seen it, you REALLY should.)
So thank you, Pubmed. Do carry on. The day you put ALL those links in the margin is the day when Sci is a very very happy little scientist.
❀ always,