Weird Science Weekly: Cold sore meds cause ‘Walking Corpse Syndrome’


Weird science happens every day, all around us. This week, we have four of the weirdest examples, including medications that make people think they're dead, a windshield that lets you see through other vehicles, the slowest experiment in the world, and spray on clothes...

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Probably less blood, but just as scary.


Herpes meds cause 'Walking Corpse Syndrome'

It's great to have the newest season of The Walking Dead but there's some scary things going on with the 'walking dead' in reality too... and it's not related to Halloween.

Researchers have found that a common cold sore and herpes medication, called Acyclovir, can have a side-effect of causing Cotard's syndrome — a rare mental condition where someone thinks that they're dead, they're decaying, they're missing body parts or organs, and in some cases, that they've ceased to exist. In one case, a woman ran, screaming, into a hospital, and only after an hour of dialysis to clean the drug from her blood was she able to at least tell the doctors that she was upset because she thought she was dead. It took a total of 24 hours of treatment for her to completely feel like she was alive and that all her body parts were, in fact, her own. She'd been taking the drug to treat shingles.

This side effect is very rare, affecting only about 1 per cent of people who take the drug (mostly in those who have kidney failure).

There's no plans for experimenting on people to discover how it happens (since that would be unethical), however, finding out exactly how this medication can turn this 'walking corpse' switch on and off may lead to a better understanding of how the brain, and our consciousness, works.

[ Related: Weird Science Weekly: Meet the tiny animals that sex themselves to death ]

VR Windshield lets you see through other vehicles

If you've driven on the roads these days, chances are that you'd ended up stuck behind a large, slow moving vehicle, with no way to see around it to know if it's safe to pass.

Well, a virtual windshield called 'See-Through System' or STS, is offering a way to help:

The system needs cooperation between the two vehicles, as the larger vehicle has a camera on the front that feeds information to the vehicle with the VR windshield. So, we won't be seeing this in wide use right away, but it's a very clever solution to a fairly common problem.

Honestly, I'm just holding out for the cars that drive themselves.

Slowest experiment on the planet needs our help

There's an experiment sitting on a shelf at the University of Queensland in Australia that's in the Guinness Book of World Records as the longest running experiment in the world. It's the Pitch Drop experiment, started back on April 23, 1914, which tracks one of the slowest moving fluids in the world.

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The only way to tell this still image from the video feed is the clock.

Over the last 86 years, 8 pitch drops have actually dropped from the experiment, and the ninth could happen any time now. To make sure they actually capture the event, the scientists are enlisting help from around the world, so that its watched 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The campaign is called The Ninth Watch.

There's a similar experiment at Aberystwyth University in Wales that was apparently started 13 years before the Queensland one, however apparently noone ever saw a drop fall from it. Help the Queensland crew to catch theirs, and get yourself into the history books!

[ Related: Weird Science Weekly: Women are more likely to steal Halloween candy than men ]

Soon we may have spray-on clothes from a can

Does anyone else remember the SCTV skit about spray-on socks?

Well, fashion designer Manel Torres has teamed up with chemical engineer Paul Luckham to produce Fabrican!

[ More Geekquinox: Recording-setting temperatures in Alberta soon to be replaced by snow ]

Keep your eyes on the wonders of science, and if you spot anything particularly strange you'd like me to check out for next week, comment below or drop me a line on Twitter!

(Photos courtesy: Getty Images, University of Queensland)

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