If zombies in the apocalypse were to rely solely on their sense of smell to locate their next meal (you), it would be pretty safe to say that the apocalypse would be a short lived one. Because of millions of years of evolution and survival, one of the most repugnant smells to humans is rotting flesh. It could easily overwhelm the olfactory senses to the exclusion of all else. And since all that zombies would likely smell is rotting flesh (theirs and their nearby buddies), one would think that their sense of smell (itself diminished by decomposition and lack of mucus) would be almost useless to hunt you down.
So to add to our arsenal of survival gear, chemist Raychelle Burks, PhD of Doane College in Nebraska has proposed a cologne which would mimic the scent of the undead. A little dab’ll do ya! Disturbingly healthy!
When the body begins to rot, it begins to produce a large number of substances (through the chemical breakdown of molecules) which can produce very pungent odors (even at very low quantities). Two of them have awesome zombie-like names already: Putrescine and Cadaverine (not kidding).
Burks recommends rounding out her death cologne with methanethiol (the rotten egg, boiled cabbage smell). And how do we get this potential life-saving substance mass produced in quantities to save the earth?
Researchers have shown that they can use e-coli, little “bacteria factory-workers” if you will, to whip us up all the polyamines that we want. Our putrescine and cadaverine. Now, if we modify the e-coli we could also produce the mthanethiol, and we can get all of our stinky chemicals in one pot. this is a good start to our death cologne, but we’ve got some more work to do. If we’re really trying to mimic a corpse, and use this walking death method we have got to get the smell down to perfection. Nobody wants to be the guinea pig that spritzes on the death cologne and realizes it doesn’t quite work.
Purveyors of The Walking Dead have watched Rick and Glenn smother themselves in zombie guts to make their way safely through a horde. But could this work? Raychelle Burks might be on to something. Even World War Z alluded to this (ie. the “smell of disease”).
The only real question though, is what to call the product when it hits the shelves.
Essence-de-Cadavre..? Eau de Mort..?