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Zombies may be dumb, but psychiatrist Dr. Steven Schlozman and mathematician Robert Smith? (who spells his name with a question mark to distinguish himself from other Robert Smiths), believe that we could learn a lot from them.
According to Schlozman, who holds positions at Harvard Medical School and the Massachusetts General Hospital/McLean Program in Child Psychiatry, zombies are a way to explore real issues. Zombies can help people understand how a disease can destroy a brain, how society reacts to epidemics, and ethics surrounding people who have contagious, incurable diseases.
Schlozman explores these dilemmas and more in his new novel, The Zombie Autopsies. Technically, his zombies are not undead – they are people who suffer from an airborne disease that degenerates their mental capabilities until there are “like drunk crocodiles…they don’t know who you are or what you are.” The true horror in Schlozman’s scenario comes from disease’s ability to completely degrade someone’s basic humanity.
Smith?, a mathematician who models how real infectious diseases spread, has created models demonstrating how a zombie outbreak might spread. He comments that the popularity of zombies can be a gateway to science and math for people who would normally be uninterested.
“There are insights that we gain from the movies, and from fiction, from fun popular culture stuff, that actually can really help us think about the way that science works, and also the way science is communicated,” he said.