The Light Side: Washington's Secret Zombie Defense Plan

May 23, 2014

Just Do It: Research Says We 'Pre-Crastinate'

'Pinocchio rex' Was No Joke of a Dinosaur

Lab-on-a-Chip Detects Cancer Early and On the Cheap

The next season of The Walking Dead is another five months away, but if, by some chance, life imitates art beforehand, it's good to know that the government and military are ready to rock, in the form of the comprehensive "CONPLAN 8888: Counter-Zombie Dominance,

" to "preserve the sanctity of human life."

First leaked by the publication Foreign Policy, the unclassified document details the Department of Defense's zillion-pronged response plan and survival operations, aka CONOP 8888. Written for military planners, should they ever have to face hordes of the undead, CONPLAN 8888 is an entirely matter-of-fact strategy that was supposed to be buried deep within the Pentagon. In fact, its lead disclaimer reads: "This plan was not actually designed as a joke." However, it later goes on to point out that it was crafted as an entertaining way to teach "topics that can be very boring" at the Joint Combined Warfighting School.

As if DoD trainers had fully expected a document leak, they were prepared not to be misconstrued for drafting an actual strategy and cause any political fallout "that occurs if the general public mistakenly believes [it" by using "a completely-impossible scenario that could never be mistaken as a real plan." Edward Snowden 2 this is not.

That was further solidified by Navy Capt. Pamela Kunze, a media representative of the U.S. Strategic Command: "The document is identified as a training tool used in an in-house training exercise where students learn about the basic concepts of military plans and order development. This document is not a U.S. Strategic Command plan." Which means the military disavows an impending zombie apocalypse.

CONPLAN/CONOP 888 contains bloody good stuff, as the how-to guide covers from the relatively conventional flesh-eating, pathogenic zombies (undead who were infected by a virus) to the truly weird: vegetarian zombies (which pose no direct threat to humans because they only eat plant life), evil magic zombies (created by occult experimentation), and chicken zombies, or CZs. If the dead do return to walk the earth, it's good to know the military has planned for every imaginable contingency.

The plan lays out countermeasures and then an offensive to restore civilization, from start to finish in six phases. It covers everything from how to deal with hospitals and medical facilities infiltrated by zombies, to the chain of command from the president and defense secretary to tribal agencies on the ground, to, yes, legal considerations -- or lack thereof. "U.S. and international law regulate military operations only insofar as human and animal life are concerned," CONPLAN 888's authors write. "There are almost no restrictions on hostile actions that may be taken either defensively or offensively against pathogenic life forms, organic-robotic entities, or 'traditional' zombies.'"

That includes rules of engagement, which follow conventional zombie tropes. "The only assumed way to effectively cause casualties to the zombie ranks by tactical force is the concentration of all firepower to the head, specifically the brain," the plan reads. "The only way to ensure a zombie is 'dead' is to burn the zombie corpse."

In Rick Grimes and Daryl Dixon's world, the military and government were deathly ill-prepared for the walking dead. We're glad that is not the case in the real world and are grateful for the fact that a survival guide is available for download.

Just Do It: Research Says We 'Pre-Crastinate'

There's always tomorrow. But there's always today to get something done.

New research published in the journal Psychological Science indicates people may "pre-crastinate" as much as they procrastinate in order to complete a task and get it off their plate. The study "Pre-Crastination: Hastening Subgoal Completion at the Expense of Extra Physical Effort

," led by David Rosenbaum, psychological scientist at Penn State University, also suggests that people prefer to keep their mental loads light and therefore would rather sacrifice blood, sweat, and tears to do it.

It's as if our brains want to keep as much RAM space free as possible.

"Most of us feel stressed about all the things we need to do -- we have to-do lists, not just on slips of paper we carry with us or on our iPhones, but also in our heads," said Rosenbaum. "Our findings suggest that the desire to relieve the stress of maintaining that information in working memory can cause us to over-exert ourselves physically or take extra risks."

Rosenbaum et al happened upon interesting pre-crastination findings while conducting experiments with college students on walking and reaching. The students were asked to walk down an alley without stopping and pick up one of two buckets stationed along the path, one of which was in closer proximity, and carry it to the end of the alley. The research team found that participants picked up the closer bucket and walked it farther instead of carrying the further bucket a shorter distance.

Surprised, the researchers asked the students why they preferred carrying the closer pail, and they responded that they wanted to get the task done sooner.

"By picking up the near bucket, they could check that task off their mental to-do lists more quickly," Rosenbaum said. "Our findings indicate that while our participants did care about physical effort, they also cared a lot about mental effort. They wanted to complete one of the subordinate tasks they had to do."

This proves that taking out the week's garbage always comes ahead of putting together an IKEA bookshelf.

'Pinocchio rex' Was No Joke of a Dinosaur

It's no lie. Paleontologists working in southern China have unearthed a new species of long-snouted dinosaur with horns on its nose and are calling it Pinocchio rex

. Still, Pinocchio rex is being described as "a fearsome carnivore" that lived in Asia during the late Cretaceous period.

"It might have looked a little comical, but it would have been as deadly as any other tyrannosaur, and maybe even a little faster and stealthier," said dino-digger Dr. Steve Brusatte, who is affiliated with the University of Edinburgh's School of GeoSciences and was credited with the discovery along with Chinese scientist Jungchang Lu.

Officially named Qianzhousaurus sinensis, the dinosaur with the long nose lived 66 million years ago alongside other tyrannosaurs. It belongs to the same family as Tyrannosaurus rex but had long, narrow teeth that contrasted with T. rex's thick, all-canine set. Pinocchio rex, the paleontologists say, also hunted different prey, thereby avoiding direct competition with deep-snouted tyrannosaurs.

Researchers are expecting to find more fossils of long-snouted dinosaurs across Asia. "The new discovery is very important. Along with Alioramus from Mongolia, it shows that the long-snouted tyrannosaurids were widely distributed in Asia," said Lu. "Although we are only starting to learn about them, the long-snouted tyrannosaurs were apparently one of the main groups of predatory dinosaurs in Asia."

The tyrannosaurus family is expanding. Recently, we reported on the finding of Torvosaurus gurneyi

, which might have been Europe's largest dinosaur and was discovered after Torvosaurus tanneri was found in the United States.

Lab-on-a-Chip Detects Cancer Early and On the Cheap

medicine, cancer, blood, detectionScientists at the Institute of Photonic Sciences

(IFCO) have created a lab-on-a-chip device that can detect cancer using a single drop of blood.

Built to sniff out protein markers that are signatures of cancerous cells, the new device is incredibly reliable, simple to build, and cheap to manufacture. Using a network of micro-channels filed with a specific antibody receptor and gold nanoparticles, the lab-on-a-chip can separate a single drop of blood into a number of different streams.

If, after being channeled, blood in any stream begins to bind itself to the gold nanoparticles, researchers will have positive proof that cancerous proteins markers are present in the patient. Given the fact that most cancer diagnoses are made after tumors have already formed, the new IFCO chip could represent a breakthrough in early-stage cancer diagnosis.

While the design of IFCO's device is clever, professor Romain Quidant, lead researcher on the project, singled out the machine's excellent performance as its most remarkable feature: "The most fascinating finding is that we are capable of detecting extremely low concentrations of this protein in a matter of minutes, making this device an ultra-high sensitivity, state-of-the-art, powerful instrument that will benefit early detection and treatment monitoring of cancer."

Given the low-cost nature of the IFCO chip, it's possible that this new device could improve the ease of cancer diagnosis in remote areas. Beyond that, a chip like IFCO's could be built directly into a communication device and used to update your health on a daily or weekly basis. With a tool like that in nearly every hand it's likely cancer mortality rates would steadily decrease.

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