Survive the zombie apocalypse with ‘Death Cologne’

Forget axes, shovels, and shotguns. With death cologne, conceived by a Nebraska chemist, you’ll smell so bad even a zombie will pass you by.

Michael Franco
Freelancer Michael Franco writes about the serious and silly sides of science and technology for CNET and other pixel and paper pubs. He's kept his fingers on the keyboard while owning a B&B in Amish country, managing an eco-resort in the Caribbean, sweating in Singapore, and rehydrating (with beer, of course) in Prague. E-mail Michael.
Michael Franco
2 min read

Zombie repellent isn't all that hard to make. Video screenshot by Michael Franco/CNET
If there's one thing a zombie can't resist, it's the smell of nice, fresh, live human flesh. So what's a logical way to keep yourself safe when the zombie apocalypse comes (as we all know it will)? Make yourself smell like a corpse!

That's what the intrepid survivors did in the second episode of AMC's "The Walking Dead" when they smeared the guts of a dead "walker" on themselves and ventured out among the zombie hoard that had surrounded them. But that blood-and-guts thing is so messy, not to mention unsanitary. Fortunately the tireless researchers at the American Chemical Society have created a video as part of their "Reactions" series that proposes a much better solution: Death Cologne!

Conceived by chemist Raychelle Burks at Nebraska's Doane College, Death Cologne mimics the smell of rotting corpses to throw any would-be brain eaters off your trail. It makes use of two very aptly named chemicals that our bodies give off when they're decomposing -- putrescine and cadaverine -- mixed with a dash of methanethiol to give it a nice rotting-egg smell. According to Burks, these chemicals are so stinky that they are effective in parts per billion -- meaning "we won't have to make a whole lot to save a whole lot of people."

But where to get all these foul-smelling chemicals? E. coli bacteria, of course (as if things couldn't get any grosser). Burk says that a modified version of the little bugs could produce all three cadaverous chemicals "in one pot."

Who knew that surviving the zombie apocalypse could be as easy as spritzing yourself with a little "Eau de Death" in the morning? Better start brewing your batches now and stocking them up in your safe room. Do I see a Kickstarter campaign in the offing?