Halloween special: spooky analysis from the cold depths of academia

Last time I looked at the oh-so-British institution of tea drinking. This week I shall spend homage to that most American of holidays, Halloween, by bringing you some morbid morsels from the cold depths of academia. Apologies in advance.

Crime writers often refer to the smell of death lingering in the air after a grisly murder scene is encountered. Indeed, decay starts four minutes after death, and generates a smell comprising a complex mélange of 800+ cadaveric volatile compounds. In a Plos A single report, a group of researchers studied a decaying pig making use of “comprehensive two-dimensional gasoline chromatography-time-of-flight mass spectrometry” (image: warning, not very quite).

A single other review investigating this topic was published in the journal Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry (which rather satisfyingly abbreviates to Anal Bioanal Chem when cited). Although pigs are a reasonably respectable approximation of people in this kind of contexts, the examine failed to detect two compounds, cadaverine and putrescine, normally discovered in decaying human cadavers. Lovely.

Sticking with death for the moment, you may possibly recall reviews of imminent doomsday due to the finish of the Mayan calendar in 2012. A paper entitled “the Mayan Doomsday’s effect on survival outcomes in clinical trials” deemed how investigation may be affected by our then-imminent extinction.

Although such trials would turn into useless, rigorous personal computer modelling showed that population truly commences to boost in the immediate aftermath of the apocalypse, even when controlling for identified sources of bias (such as “astronauts currently aboard the worldwide room station… Dungeons and Dragons gamers, men who have read Fifty Shades of Grey and other equivalent beings most likely to be unaffected by the apocalypse”). The only plausible explanation, naturally, is a postapocalyptic zombie boom: they are driving the surge in numbers. Although of course, this all depends on whether or not you count zombies as people.

Whilst the planet did not, in truth, finish in 2012, zombies, and other mythical/undead beings nevertheless continue to be a concern.

A actually exceptional paper in Skeptical Inquirer aims to clarify away zombies, ghosts, and vampires with the electrical power of maths and physics, even though Buffy or a crossbow would definitely be way cooler. The authors commence with ghosts, first of all explaining that the “cold chills” frequently seasoned in haunted homes are really just a result of bad insulation (no EU creating regs in the olden days), and secondly noting the rather amusing paradox that ghosts are typically portrayed as walking, in spite of obtaining no physical physique.

As the authors level out, “it seems odd to have a supernatural energy that only enables you to get about by mimicking human ambulation… a quite slow and awkward way of moving about in the scheme of things”.

Then comes vampires. Assuming vampires only feed when a month (“a very conservative assumption offered any Hollywood vampire film”), and that each time a vampire feasts on a human their respective populations boost/decrease by one, a easy geometric progression suggests that vampires would wipe out humans in approximately two.5 years (assuming arbitrarily that the very first vampire appeared in the 12 months 1400).

There is no way that human birth rates could outpace this, so our extremely existence contradicts the existence of vampires. The usual zombie paradigm is equivalent to vampires, hence the very same mathematical logic applies.

A Norwegian examine, even so, believes vampires are true and that “the Balkan region has been specifically haunted”. Is it possible, they ask, to repel vampires with garlic? As no vampires were available for research, leeches have been utilised rather (hey, if pigs are a very good adequate approximation for humans…). As it occurs, leeches by far desire a hand smeared in garlic to one with no.

To make sure the potential survival of the human race, the authors advocate tight restrictions be placed on the use of garlic.

pumpkin wifi
Scariest pumpkin I’ve noticed this week. Carved by author Megan MacKay. Photograph: Pumpkin carved by author Megan MacKay.

Staplers, courtesy of the lives and deaths of academic staplers

“After collecting morbidity and mortality information for three semesters, I am now ending my study of staplers. The ultimate obtaining: On average, my library’s reference desk staplers succumbed following 46.five days of support.”

Pleased Halloween. Tweet me a deal with, or a trick: @AcademiaObscura

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