It’s happened in so many zombie films that it must be true: if you smell like the undead, then you won’t get eaten.
At least, this is the plot point that chemist Raychelle Burks is depending on for her recipe for Eau de Death, the only cologne you’ll need to disguise yourself when the dead rise.
Burks, a postdoctoral researcher at Doane College in Nebraska, says that the key to this zombie camoflauge is be two "pefectly named" chemical compounds which the body produces pretty quickly in decomposition: putrescine and cadavarine.
For those wondering why these words sound familiar, both have their roots in the Latin that became ‘putrid’ and ‘cadaver’. Putrid comes from the Latin putridus, meaning ‘rotten’ or ‘decayed’, while cadaver comes from the Latin cado, which translates as 'I fall' and was used as a metaphor for dying.
But back to the chemistry. Burks says that both these chemicals are “incredibly stinky at low quantities” and are active in parts per billion. This is actually pretty useful as it means that come the (probably not happening) zombie apocalypse, scientists won’t have to make a whole lot to save people.
In a video from the American Chemical Society. Burk notes that producing this ungodly stink would actually be pretty easy. A modified version of the E. coli bacteria could act as a “little factory” for the chemicals, producing the putrescine and cadverine (as well as a little bit of methanethiol for that “rotten egg, boiled cabbage smell”) all in a single pot.
Okay, so it might not be the most practical use of chemistry we've ever come across, but it's good to know that if the worst does happen science definitely has your back.Reuse content