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00:40 MICHAL MEYER: Welcome to the first episode of #HistChem, a history show that helps us understand the science and technology of the world we live in today.
00:54 BOB KENWORTHY: Today's program is titled, “How we learned to stop worrying and love the zombie apocalypse.” Our guests today are Robert Hicks and Deanna Day.
Robert works at the The College of Physicians of Philadelphia. He is the director of the Mütter Museum and Historical Medical Library. If you live in Philadelphia, you've probably heard about the Mütter Museum. If you haven't heard of it, go check it out. You won't be disappointed. And be prepared to see things you probably haven't seen before.
Deanna Day is working towards her doctorate at the University of Pennsylvania, where she researches and teaches courses on the history of medicine, technology, and media. She has taught a course titled “A Zombie’s History of Medicine and Technology” at Penn.
01:50 MICHAL: I want to mention the inspiration for this episode: one of this summer's big movies was World War Z, which opens with a massive zombie outbreak here in Philadelphia. I also read the book World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War, which I thought a gripping read. We'll talk about both of those later.
Vote for your zombie apocalypse tool kit using the hashtag #HistChem. You can find inspiration on our blog at chemheritage.org/media. Both of our guests will be sharing their choices at the end of the show.
02:59 BOB: Deanna, we'll start by giving you the hard question: zombies are pop culture science fiction. We’re a history of science organization. Why should we take pop culture and its zombies seriously? Tell me why I should care?
04:40 MICHAL: Lets get into some history, which is what I care about: how did zombies first ooze their way into the imagination of the Western world?
13:20 MICHAL: Zombies are not real. I know that. But the idea of zombies has spread out of pop culture and into real science and even into economics! There's even serious papers that use zombies for mathematical modeling. What is going on here?
15:20 BOB: How about other kinds of undead things? For example, Henrietta Lacks whose cultured cells live on in cancer research long after her death as the HeLa line.
17:10 MICHAL: Zombies may be lurching about, but there is still death involved---the death of the “human” part of the brain as we know and love that organ. Robert, what is our understanding of death and our responses to it?
24:13 MICHAL: We're going to pause here to share a bit about CHF's new exhibit, Sensing Change, which has nothing to do with zombies. It's about art and science and climate change.
BOB: ...And when we come back Robert will have some items from the Mütter Museum to show us. In the meantime, remember to tweet us your questions at #HistChem, and vote for what you want to take with you into the apocalypse at our blog chemheritage.org/media.
24:50 [BREAK: 2 minute video about CHF's new exhibit: Sensing Change]
26:47 MICHAL: Welcome back to #HistChem. Let's take a look at how people are voting on Twitter about their historical arsenal for the zombie apocalypse. Remember to tweet your vote using the hashtag #HistChem
28:28 BOB: Now, Robert Hicks is going to show us some of the unique objects from the Mütter Museum.
41:00 MICHAL: Robert hosts a very popular YouTube series on objects just like these, and this is the link to that: youtube.com/user/Themuttermuseum
41:22 MICHAL: There's fully alive and then there's dead. Are there levels of aliveness? For example, synthetic DNA, other products of biotech, animal cloning, and so on. Where do they fit? How do we draw the lines between the two extremes?
43:00 BOB: The author of the book World War Z, Max Brooks, uses zombies to capture the imagination of his audience while he is really writing a social and political commentary about how unprepared we are to deal with a severe pandemic. What are the connections, if any, between potentially wide lethal outbreaks of disease (SARS, MERSA, Swine Flu, Bird Flu, West Nile Virus, etc.) and zombie outbreaks in popular culture?
46:40 MICHAL: Between the movie and the book World War Z, I much preferred the book, despite the national stereotypes. Deanna, tell us about the movie: where does Word War Z fit into the zombie movie pantheon?
48:23 MICHAL: I want to skip to a possible transhumanist future, a future some people are already predicting. In this future we remain ourselves, more or less, but we lose our biological bodies. This seems to be the very opposite of the zombie idea, a body without a brain. Any thoughts on how they might connect?
51:30 The realities of living in a "new normal" zombie society.