Remove the head or destroy the brain? The Science of Zombie Killing

Zombie apocalypses have become so common in our TV shows, films and video games, that the majority of the population probably have a rough survival plan should one strike. Zombies themselves have been prevalent in the media since the 1930s as reanimated ghouls, but in recent years the scientific explanations in films such as 28 Days Later could scare you into believing that a zombie apocalypse might actually happen. Remove the Head or Destroy the Brain? at The Royal Armouries promised an in-depth, scientific look into the mechanics of zombie killing and just how effective different weapons would be in defence against the undead.

The Royal Armouries Museum, Leeds. Image: Wikipedia

Jonathan Ferguson, Curator of Firearms at the Armouries led the talk and was both engaging and morbidly funny in his delivery. “Pistols are rubbish” he said as an audience member asked for his recommendations on the ideal weapon to carry, “eighty per cent of people shot by a pistol survive”. It turns out there are many things to consider when killing a zombie, the main one being that shots to the body will prove ineffective. Severing the connection to the brain has been agreed as the most effective form of defence, as even a decaying corpse can’t move effectively without an intact frontal lobe. We were shown diagrams of the skull and brain to find the ‘T-Zone’: a patch of the head which is most vulnerable to blows. When it comes to the brain, the medula oblongata is the ideal place to aim for. As Jonathan progressed, it was hard not to be both fascinated and terrified at the time at the research it must have taken to create an effective strategy for destroying the brain of something barely sentient.

When it came to the selection of guns, rifles ranked the best for accuracy and disruption of tissue. It doesn’t matter how early the model, the effectiveness would be very similar. Chainsaws are apparently impractical due to their fuel consumption, so it is much better to choose a melee weapon which doesn’t require ammunition. A demonstration followed which involved a very excitable weapons technician test out each choice on a makeshift zombie mannequin, much to the audience’s delight.

To conclude the talk, Jonathan showed us his top four weapons for facing a zombie hoard: a shotgun, a machete, an AK47 and a metal tomahawk as a combination of melee and ranged. However, he reminded us that when faced with a zombie apocalypse, guns would be in short supply and effective melee weapons almost impossible to find, so the best weapon will be anything you can find.

Ella Healing

Image: Universal Pictures

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