Of course, none of this is real. Well, that’s only half-true. Dr Austin exists, and so does The Zombie Institute for Theoretical Studies, but the lecture was a highly amusing interactive spoof about how to trace the origin of a zombie outbreak, work out its cause and then deal with it, all while remaining alive. A first glimpse, this would seem just like the many other similar sources of such information, like Max Brook’s very entertaining Zombie Survival Guide. However, if you examine the cover of the course manual provided at the start of the lecture, there’s two rather interesting logos hidden away at the bottom. The first is for Glasgow University. This is because The Zombie Institute For Theoretical Studies is a real academic research group based at a real university. The second is for the Wellcome Trust. Why, you might ask, is this interesting? Well, the Wellcome Trust is one of the main sources of funding for real scientific research in the UK.
By this point, you might be scratching your head and wondering what real academic institutions and fundings agencies are doing getting involved in spoof lectures about zombies. This is because beneath the jokes, and the amusing sides and videos, there was a strong scientific undercurrent. Without realising it, those attending were learning about real scientific subjects, such as genetic engineering, the importance of proper hand washing to prevent the spread of diseases, epidemiology, the challenges faced by those developing new medicines and the importance of drug trials.
These are all really important subjects in the modern world, and it’s important that the public understand them, yet most are put off learning about them because of the perception that they’re difficult to understand and boring. By presenting them in a zombie context, Dr Austin makes them both accessible and entertaining. This is important because while the lecture I attended was run on commercial basis, most of them are non-commercial and take place in schools and at science festivals, where he is helping both to educate the next generation, and stimulate their interest in science.
As those who follow this blog regularly will know, I am a big fan of using zombies to help make otherwise potentially dull subjects more interesting and accessible for educational purposes, and I even have my own little side project, Maths With Zombies, aiming to do something similar with mathematics. Dr Austin and The Zombie Institute For Theoretical Studies is a great addition to this world view, and if you get the chance, I’d definitely recommend attending one of his lectures. Even if you can’t, check out their zombie science website, where you can sit an exam to test your knowledge and earn yourself very own certificate from The Zombie Institute For Theoretical Studies. Now, who wouldn’t want one of them to hang on their wall?
From the author of For Those In Peril On The Sea, a tale of post-apocalyptic survival in a world where zombie-like infected rule the land and all the last few human survivors can do is stay on their boats and try to survive. Now available in print and as a Kindle ebook. Click here or visit www.forthoseinperil.net to find out more. To download a preview of the first three chapters, click here.
To read the Foreword Clarion Review of For Those In Peril On The Sea (where it scored five stars out of five) click here.