World War Z

So it’s probably bad form to comment on a book that you haven’t finished reading yet but I CANNOT resist writing about Max Brooks’ novel World War Z. Let’s set aside for a second the fact that the zombie genre is endlessly fascinating to me and most humans. Personally, as an organic chemist and dedicated list maker, I love considering just the logistics of apocalyptic scenarios, and that everyone is forced to use any and all skills they’ve gathered (graduate school has given me a high tolerance for despair and that could be key to my survival).

Zombie box for blog

Our lab’s immediate reaction upon learning that the new packing peanuts were edible. (Photo credit: Andrew Perkowski)

The novel is ingeniously structured as a collection of interviews from survivors of a 10 year zombie epidemic, with minimal input from the interviewer. I was skeptical at first, pointing out to a friend that I couldn’t possibly get into a book with no recurrent characters with whom to attach emotionally. Upon actually starting the book, I found the format extremely clever and instructive because it allowed the author to explore every interesting detail, dilemma and angle in a very streamlined fashion. Setting up a narrative that follows a single group of people limits the realm of possibility for what they themselves could be exposed to, and forces third person observations of any other intriguing situations.

Fighting against an enemy that needs no food, rest, or supplies with unflagging (nonexistent) morale, and whose numbers literally grow stronger as your own become depleted is no small feat. So far the stories lean towards acts of human triumph and kindness, which is more than fine by me. Leave unpleasantness to the local news, science fiction is at its best, in my opinion, when it challenges us to imagine what mankind can achieve in the face of overwhelming hopelessness.


I’ve been waffling back and forth for a few weeks now trying to figure out the ideal format, content and tone for a hilarious and groundbreaking blog that’s going to take the scientific world by storm, leaving scientists and non-scientists alike clamoring for more. No small task.. but I’m sensing the vibe that friends and family are growing tired of circling this topic as the only thing I seem to be able to settle upon is that it must include words, pictures and specifically, the word science. Took me days to decide on a background color scheme (“make it blue, no make it pink” – Cinderella quote, not a statement on unconscious gender bias, will cross that bridge when I get to it)

Luckily, last night I attended a talk by NYTimes columnist Thomas Friedman as part of The Bryan Series hosted by Guilford College (the alma mater of my partner, who coincidentally is also currently diving headfirst into starting a politically themed blog, will dutifully promote when given the signal). Friedman, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, finally provided me with the impetus to put pen to paper (or fingertips to keyboard for the nit-picky). He gave a highly streamlined, personable and persuasive talk revolving around the thesis of his 2005 book “The world is flat,” which analyzes globalization and America’s future in this “hyper-connected” world. BTW, this book was published before Facebook AND twitter was a phenomena, so we are now living in a #hyper-connected world (I make no effort to include Facebook in a clever parallel because as my 16 year old brother Andrew says “Facebook is dead” – foolish or prophetic? I have a feeling we’ll find out in the next couple of years).

I was so absolutely captivated by this talk, the details of which I’m not yet sure I should dedicate a blog post. Point was, when I left the auditorium, I was dying to share this story, in fact, I kept having to refocus my attentions on Friedman as I found myself sketching a blog post in my mind and considering all possible strategies that would help me best relay this intricate thesis to any number of my friends in such a way that, not only would they be compelled to bring it up in conversation, they’d have all the relevant and most interesting tidbits to analyze and disperse it to others.  I thought, this is exactly what I want to accomplish, just transplanted into the realm of science, which in all its forms, has always intrigued me to no end.

And as if that experience wasn’t enough to get the wheels turning, my fortune cookie tonight from my favorite take-out Chinese place read:

Fortune cookie

 Well universe, point taken.