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Zombie fad claims latest victim
Silicon, the element that brings us everything from computer chips to breast implants, is now being used to create artificial life on a cellular level.
Researchers at the University of New Mexico have discovered this new party trick.
All you have to do is get a mammalian cell in a petri dish with silicic acid. The acid not only coats the cell, but also gets inside and coats the organelles.
Somehow, it creates a layer of silica over everything without gunking up the cell’s workings.
Next, heat the cell up to 400 C. The cell proteins will vaporize, but the silica shells will remain and continue to function, in some ways at a higher level than the living cell. The silica cells can survive extreme temperatures and resist dehydration.
While the researchers are still exploring how these cells can be used, the United States Department of Energy has published an article about how to turn this process into fossil fuels because that’s all they really think about. That’s not the weird part.
The weird part is how this research is drawing attention to itself on the Internet – they’re calling these “zombie cells.”
I don’t know what effect was desired in calling them zombie cells. Maybe someone was trying to raise canned goods stock. I’ll tell you the actual effect, though – scaring me out of my skin.
Zombies have been coming on strong in pop-culture for the past decade. George A. Romero movies have been remade and sequel-ed to death and back.
“Resident Evil” has been a dominant enough player in the video game industry to spawn a rash of horrible yet profitable movies. They’ve even been prevalent in literature, with “World War Z” spending four weeks on the “New York Times” best seller list.
But the fictional monsters also show a disturbing tendency to invade real life.
In 2011, real-life attacks of drug-induced, zombie-like cannibalism sent waves through the U.S.
The same year, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention tried to prepare us for a zombie apocalypse with its “Preparedness 101: Zombie Apocalypse” blog entry.
A zombie apocalypse’s tantalizing plausibility is part of what makes it so scary and such a cultural phenomenon.
Which is why seeing headlines about these cells being replicated in silica are also pretty freaky.
When I see a headline about how scientists have created zombie cells, I don’t think I’m going to read about diesel’s heir apparent. I think I’m about to read about my impending demise.
It’s really cool and all, but can’t we just call them silica cells?
Joshua Knopp is a pre-journalism sophomore. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.