For some reason best known to experts in pop culture, the zombie apocalypse has become all the rage in TV shows like “The Walking Dead.” The scenario involves dead people suddenly becoming animated and then roaming about biting and eating people, making them into zombies as well. Eventually, civilization breaks down, and isolated groups such as Rick and company struggle to survive. But is the zombie apocalypse, barring some supernatural agency, even possible?

What causes zombies?

The implication presented in the first season of “The Walking Dead” is that the zombie apocalypse had some kind of unknown biological reason.


The infected victim dies, his or her higher brain functions are destroyed, and then they become reanimated with the sole desire to attack the living and feast on them. The episodes at the CDC show that medical science did not come up with a cure in time to save civilization from collapse.

Zombies, as depicted on “The Walking Dead”, are impossible

But, as a piece in “How Stuff Works” suggests, the Earth’s environment is inherently hostile to animated corpses. Humidity, especially such as exists in the southern United States where “The Walking Dead” takes place will begin to break down bones and rot flesh.

Bacteria, insects, and even carrion animals such as rodents and some birds would make a feast of these walking, growling bags of meat. All the living would have to do is to stay out of the way of the zombies and sooner rather than later, nature will take its course, and the world would be left with a greatly diminished population of the living to rebuild.

But then “The Walking Dead” will be boring, wouldn’t it?

Would “The Walking Dead” be just as compelling if all of the zombies only died out in the first or second season? Since many of the best story arcs involved human antagonists, such as the Governor and now Negan, the answer is very likely yes.

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The zombies have just become an annoying background to the central drama of dealing with people who have decided to take advantage of the death of civilization to wreck mayhem and death.