Colleagues have been telling me that the vogue has peaked and ebbed for Zombie / Classic-literature mash-ups. "Piffle!" I have been responding, among other dismissive expressions of disbelief, including "Calenture fritillary hatstand!" and "Well cover me in peanut butter and throw me to the labradors!" which is totally not a literal request. Without further ado:
The Tale of Two Zombie Mice.
Zombie Tom Thumb set to work at once to carve the brain. It was a beautiful shiny yellow, streaked with red. The knife crumpled up and hurt him; he put his finger in his mouth.Zombie mice are irate because they went to the trouble of breaking into the rodent brain-bank expecting nommable brains frozen for later revival -- or at the least, pickled in alcohol -- but instead they have been plastinated.
"It is not thawed enough; it is hard. You have a try, Zombie Hunca Munca."
Then Zombie Tom Thumb lost his temper. He put the brain in the middle of the floor, and hit it with the tongs and with the shovel — bang, bang, smash, smash!
This is apparently the wave of the future for post-mortem cerebral preservation. Instead of a tank of liquid nitrogen at the Cryonics Institute, all the cool kids are opting for immediate perfusion of their severed heads with glutaraldehyde ("a kind of advanced embalming process"), then impregnation with osmium tetroxide, followed by Gunter-von-Hagen style plastination. This preserves the sensitivity settings of every neuron and the rich neuron-to-neuron connectivity to be recorded and uploaded at leisure and emulated in software.* The "recording" phase involves slicing and scanning the plastic brain in a
Today, the Brain Preservation Foundation is running a prize competition to demonstrate that the connectome** is perfectly preserved using both chemo and cryopreservation techniques, in mice, rabbit, and pig brains.The advantage of starting with mice is that when an emulated consciousness escapes from the confines of its private virtual reality and roams freely through the broader software environment of the computer housing it -- this always happens, it must be a tradition or an old charter or something -- it can be traced and contacted by luring it with the simulated smell of cheese.
Cordwainer Smith is VINDICATED:
"If it's frozen," said the first technician, "we won't be able to put in the computer. It will have to go forward with with emergency stores."
"This brain isn't frozen," said Tiga-belas indignantly. "It's been laminated. We stiffened it with celluprime and then we veneered it down, about seven thousand layers. Each one has plastic of at least two molecules thickness. This mouse can't spoil. As a matter of fact, this mouse is going to keep on thinking forever. He won't think much, unless we put the voltage on him, but he'll think. And he can't spoil. This is ceramic plastic, and it would take a major weapon to break it."
-------------------------------------------------------------------* The well-intentioned people at the Brain Preservation Foundation appear to be computer engineers rather than neuroscientists and thus they have seriously underestimated the difficulty of the task, such as has NEVER HAPPENED BEFORE in the history of Artificial Intelligence. They seem to be under the impression that neurons and their axon-dendrite intertweaking are all that matter in cerebral activity, with glial cells there only as invisible
** PZ Myers elsewhere bemoans the fashion for using '-ome' and '-omics' to coin new names for scientific specialities (not to mention the inevitable journals). I agree that 'connectomic', 'synaptomic' and 'epigenomic' together bring us that much closer to Omicgeddon.