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Justification for the existence of vampires Anna Sandiford Nov 27

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Given that it’s Friday, I think a bit of light scientific relief is in order.

As anyone who has anything to do with teenagers (particularly girls) will know, Vampires are the new Black.  As teenagers are wont to do, they spend much time frightening themselves with the idea that vampires are indeed real and are ready to swoop down and get us all whilst we sleep.

Fortunately for us all, Fox News has devoted time, energy and presumably money in investigating the science behind the myth that is the Vampire.  The opening of the article Are Vampires Real? The Science Behind the Myth demonstrates to us the basis for the development of the myth:  “Decomposing bodies that leaked blood must have frightened gravediggers in the past. Tropical diseases and insects that suck blood, leaving corpses wasted and desiccated, must have seemed scary to other cultures. It’s a short jump from fearful to superstitious, and there are clear biological and anthropological conditions that likely led to these fears.”

Fox News’s intrepid reporters have then investigated the mainstays of vampire life:

  • avoiding sunlight – porphyria or allergy to sunlight or, more commonly, polymorphic light eruption – an immune response to sunlight,
  • immortality  – apparently the activity of the telomerase enzyme in certain of our cell structures can extended the life of those cells – a chemical in our cells that may hold the secret to eternal youth, which may explain how vampires can live forever
  • drinking blood – possibly related to anaemia

There’s no mention of the Holy water or silver bullet issues – bullets of any kind are pretty definitive and many people would shy away from water being thrown at them, Holy or otherwise (although I can think of a few who’d run a mile at the Holy issue).

To debunk the possibility of vampires taking over the world, a paper has been written by physicists C Efthimiou and S Gandhi (meaning someone probably had funding for this) that details a mathematical formula to describe the number of humans left after x months of vampirism spreading through a population of a theoretical size (Skeptical Inquirer v. 31, issue 4 (2007), p. 27).  Apparently, if, as legend has it, the first vampire appeared in 1600 AD, the human population would have been decimated within 2 and a half years.  Their concluding remark is that  “vampires cannot exist, since their existence contradicts the existence of human beings. Incidentally, the logical proof that we just presented is of a type known as reduction ad absurdum, that is, reduction to the absurd” – how many times an a scientist say that during their research career (or maybe I’m just in the wrong sort of science)?

So next time you have to manage a teenage nightmare or you get drawn into an endless teenage discussion about vampires, you’ll be able to settle their minds with ease.

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