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Scary Science: Part 2

Closing off The Walking Dead premiere week is this week’s Spooky Science feature starring there first episode.

Truthfulness: 4/8

The episode begins with Rick stopping to get gas. He is unable to drive into the gas station, so he takes a gas can from the back seat. He walks up to the pumps to find a huge sign that reads ‘No Gas.’ Though I don’t know why he would even bother going to the pumps in the first place. Without electricity those modern-day pumps are useless. They are equipped with electronic hoses used to pull the gas from an underground tank, also shut off valves to prevent illegal siphoning. Rick begins to walk away disappointed when he hears a noise from behind him. He turns and kneels behind an abandoned car. He peeks underneath it, searching for the source of the noise. He watches a little girl shuffle up and pick up a teddy bear. Thinking she is a survivor Rick gets up. He then goes after the girl. She turns to reveal she is a walker. Once we see this she begins pursuing Rick with a fast walk, light run motion. These two actions are extremely believable despite her being a zombie. One, it is believed that for a short time zombies can retain their memories of people, places, or belongings. Second, her movements are because she must be a fresh walker, there for rigor mortis has not had time to set in. Cue opening sequence.

We rewind to a time before the walkers. Rick and his partner named Shane are discussing a typical male topic, girls. Rick briefly shares with him that he and his wife Lori were fighting. He confesses before he left for work Lori made an inappropriate comment in front of their sone Carl. Before Shane can give his input they get a call for a police chase in progress that is approaching their town. As they get ready for the approaching car chase they lay down a spike strip. The fleeing car hits the spike strip and flips a couple of times. Due to some miracle, the driver survives. He is the first to crawl his way, uninjured, out of the car. Once out he begins shooting at the cops, clipping Rick with a bullet. When they kill him another person pops up out of the passenger’s side uninjured, and also begins shooting at them. Finally when the shooting stops Shane rushes forward to check on Rick. He is in shock, but fine since the bullet hit his vest. Unfortunately, nobody sees the third, also uninjured, guy crawl out of the car. Rick pleads with Shane to not tell Lori what just happened as he is shot through his left shoulder. The survival rate of being shot in the shoulder is pretty good. The only major killer of that is blood loss. The bullet would have hit the subclavian artery, the brachial (main) artery, and the brachial plexus. That is the large nerve bundle that controls the arm. Given the amount of blood, we see as the camera pans out we can assume the shooter hit all of these. The massive blood loss causes him to lapse into a coma. If he hit the brachial plexus Rick would need to have follow-up surgery in a couple of weeks to deal with blood vessel damage, severe pain, and loss motor function. Some have even lost their arm after receiving such damage. Despite this, we see him continuously use his left arm throughout the episode.

Usually, comas resulting from trauma last four weeks. Judging by Rick’s facial hair and the condition of the flowers we can scientifically put the timeline at this point. In this real-world, Rick would be dead. now, it is highly possible to survive a coma without all that equipment since he was trauma-induced, but all he could do would be to breathe. Which means somebody would have needed to feed and take care of him. Let’s assume for the sake of the story that he entered into his coma one week before the walker takeover. That still gives us three weeks. According to the survival 3 rule, he would have died three days without water and three weeks without food. He still has a wound that needs to be cared for, which is probably developing an infection at this point from the dirty bandage filled with three weeks of dirt, blood, and puss. It only takes three days to develop an infection once bacteria gets into the wound. This infection could lead to Staph and Gangrene. He might even lose his arm, or more, to disease. It like a spoiled grape in a bag with fresh grapes. That one bad grape could bring the whole bag down if not disposed of right away. The same goes for Gangrene in a body part. The least of our worries would be the four weeks worth of bodily fluids that had built up in his boxers. This could lead to a whole mess of diseases, infections, and bugs. Flies love poop and rotting meat, yet there’s none in his room. His body should be half-covered in them, but nothing. Yet somehow Rick wakes up nice and healthy in a clean hospital bed with a new gown on. Rick calls out for Shane but gets no response. He looks over at the flower vase and touches the dried marigold. How, because he should have limited movement in this arm? Rick struggles to sit up. He grabs the IV pole with an empty bag on it (that should have killed him with an air embolism), hoists himself up, and bang falls onto the ground. This is because his leg muscles are so stiff he is having trouble bending them. This is a half-truth. The condition he is experiencing is called Spasticity. It’s an uncontrollable tightening of the muscles caused by disrupted signals from the brain. In simpler terms, if you don’t use it, you lose it. About once a day nurses visit patients in comas to stretch out there muscles to prevent this from occurring. Since he is experiencing symptoms of this his whole body should be stiff, not just his legs. Now, let’s talk about him lying on the floor, calling out for a nurse. This is also another half-truth. Being unable to speak for a month there is a good chance that he has developed Presbylaryngis. What this means is the muscles responsible for controlling sound (laryngeal muscles) have broken down, causing his vocal cords. This would cause difficulty talking, reduce vocal volume, and a higher pitch of the vocal tone. This explains his raspy voice and his difficulty in saying words. It would take a normal person six months to recover from this condition but in The Walking Dead universe, we can’t wait to properly recover. Finally, we leave the room only to discover the entire hospital is dark, ransacked, and abandoned. Rick continues to wander around the hospital for signs of life when he sees the symbolic ‘Don’t Open-Dead Inside’ door. He decides now is the time to run. He tries the elevator but opts for the stairs instead. Good thing we found that very convenient matchbook in the nurse’s station not too long ago. Seriously, who uses matches any more? We enter the darkened corridor, which has to be the first right thing this show did so far. Emergency lighting in the stairwell only lasts 90 minutes if fully charged at the time of the blackout. They are only designed to help people get out of the building in an immediate crisis. We slowly descend down the stairs using the matches to seek out the nearest emergency exit. Rick finally leaves the hospital shocked and confused, unaware of the walkers around him.

 

His confusion intensifies as he walks past a fail military camp with a field of rotting corpses. He continues walking until he finds a discarded bike. This is where we meet his first walker named “Bicycle Girl”. Still unsure of what is going on he takes the bike and flees. He returns home, runs up the stairs in search of his family. So nice he recovered faster than usual from his Spasticity. In a normal person, it takes twelve weeks to recover. Also, I would like to point out that his wound has been moved from his left shoulder to the left side of the abdomen. Guess they realize they’ll have less explaining to do when someone points out the scientific inaccuracies in the episode. After searching the house Rick realizes they aren’t there, causing him to begin having a meltdown in the living room. This is perfectly normal for someone suffering a series of traumatic events. He’s entire world just changed drastically, he needs time to cope with these changes. Plus, he is all alone. He has no idea if any of his family and friends are alive. He decides to step outside so he can come to terms with what’s going on, and begin forming a plan. While thinking about things he turns around and is hit in the face with a shovel. He mistakes Morgan’s son Duane for Carl and starts calling out his name. Morgan rushes over to see if everything is okay because he heard Rick talking. He asks about the bandage, but before he could answer Rick passes out. Assuming Rick survived, a blow to the face like that with a shovel would have caused a broken nose, teeth, and/or jaw. He would have also gotten a concussion or a brain bleed from the close proximity of the shovel’s spade.

 

Fast forward over Morgan explaining walkers and bites to him to the next inaccuracy, the police station. Police will be a hot spot in a zombie outbreak. A lot of people view them as a symbol of safety. So, chances are they will be overrun with walkers as this place will become a zombie buffet. When they arrived Rick takes them into the locker room to take hot showers. Morgan says that the gas lines haven’t been working for a month (usually is the third utility to fall during any disaster), but Rick reassures him that the police station has there own propane system, and the pilot light is still burning. In all disasters, the military will most likely seize the police station to use it as there central base for all lines of communication. So, chance are the military would have been there a few weeks (at say three weeks) before all their lines of defense fail. We know during a crisis a blackout usually happens within the first 48 hours. After that, the water stops, and finally the gas. Once that happen the military officials would have begun using this propane system. Knowing it is propane science has proven that a propane generator can run for one week before shutting down. Making them way better than gas or diesel ones. Once the tanks dry out, the pilot light would blow out from lack of fuel keeping it alive. Meaning by the time Rick gets there would be nothing left for him to use. After a stop in the armory, Rick says his goodbyes and leaves.

 

Fast forward over the emotional montage, Rick running out of gas, and him riding into Atlanta on a horse to where he is searching for people in an empty city. While searching for life he hears a helicopter overhead. He begins chasing the helicopter when he accidentally turns into a hungry herd of walkers. This spooks the horse, causing the animal to buck off Rick. Falling off a horse like that has been known to cripple people for life. He would definitely obtain a severe back, neck, or head injury. This would make moving around even more difficult than before. For some reason, he once again walks away injury-free.

 

Rick then crawls under a nearby tank and uses a trap door underneath it to get inside safely. The tank Rick climbs into is an M1 Abrams. This is a third-generation battle tank made by General Dynamics. It weighs 68 tons. It has very low ground clearance, so technically there is no way Rick would be able to climb underneath it. Because of this, there is no trap door build underneath the tank. It’s interior is extremely small. It is designed to fit four people crammed tightly. With all the equipment inside the tank, there is no way Rick would be able to crawl around with such ease. 

 

Overall the writers of the show do focus more on character development and plots, then they do the scientific accuracy of the episodes. But, at least they put in some effort to get their facts right most of the time.

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M.L. Lewis

Written by M.L. Lewis

M.L. Lewis is not new to the world of writing. She has written various short stories and poems throughout the years and has won multiple awards in art and literature. The highest honor she received was Poet of the Year in 2000, and again in 2005. A poem she wrote in honor of law enforcement can be seen in the book, Everything You Wanted to Know about the Heroes in Blue. She was also featured in Encounter magazine for the volunteer work she did for the United States troops. In 2010 she won Resident of the Year in a local newspaper titled The South Hills Messanger. Today, she spends her time increasing her knowledge on disaster preparedness while working on her Ph. D. in Paranormal Studies.

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