When a human kicks the bucket, we have a pretty good idea what will happen next. Blood stops flowing, muscles seize up, and microbes held in check by the immune system begin to break you down into mush. The timeline of death is pretty well established, barring any odd environmental conditions. So why don’t the rotting corpses on The Walking Dead fully decompose? Shouldn’t they get to the point where muscles and bones turn “walkers” into “sitters”? Or just bug food?
In my latest Because Science, I’m trying to sort out the science using the timeline of death. How long would it really take for a zombie to decompose to the point of harmlessness? The show does take place in hot, wet Atlanta, after all.
Using a combination of fictional theories and actual research, I think the best answer has to do with the microbes that are the primary culprit of rotting corpses. If something could prevent their spread, slow them down, or outright kill them, that would indeed prolong the viability of a corpse beyond what forensics would otherwise dictate. Perhaps the virus that causes “zombitis” reanimates the dead and attacks decomposing microorganisms. Hey, it’s a theory that makes just as much sense as what they say on the show.
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