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This has been bothering me for some time...the zombies seem to have heads without skulls, like over-ripe melons. I realize that their flesh is slowly rotting but bone does not rot! How are the survivors able to crush the zombie’s skulls to destroy the brain so effortlessly?

  • This one's been asked and answered, if you read the linked question. – Johnny Bones Feb 12 '15 at 14:35
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    I don't see how this is the same question. Particularly as the answer seems to be that ANYONE's head is that easy to crush. – Catija Feb 12 '15 at 18:40
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    not seeing why this was closed as a duplicate, voting to reopen. – DForck42 Feb 18 '15 at 4:15
  • I obviously agree with DForck42. The question linked is asking about decomposing of the zombies. That is, their flesh rotting...there is a mention about the zombie's skulls in the question but that is not the same as I am asking. – knightscharge Feb 18 '15 at 13:39
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MATH!

Ok, So I found this cool article about Star Trek Into Darkness that looks into the science a bit.

Warning, there are some minor spoilers ahead if you haven't seen it.

In the film, the article discusses Khan's ability to crush skulls with his bare hands:

The cunning villain Khan Noonien Singh [...] betrays his temporary allies to exact revenge on an old foe. Grabbing the Admiral Marcus’ skull with his bare hands, Khan compresses it with his genetically engineered might until the skull fails catastrophically (which is a nice way of saying the head exploded like a pumpkin with a firecracker in it, thankfully off-screen).

So, they look at some data on various studies, particularly a study about bicycle helmet testing that tests the crush strength of the human skull:

“Catastrophic failure [of the unhelmeted skull] during testing… experiencing a maximum load of 520 pounds of force.”

They also found data of what the static push strength of the average male is:

Looking to NASA, the Air Force, and even to the MythBusters, all the data that I could find points to an average static push strength of a medium-sized white male of a little over 200 pounds of force (or nearly 1000 Newtons).

So, if 200 pounds of force is what arms can do, you'd guess that legs would be much stronger and this chart agrees:

Leg Strength Chart (source)

To interpret, at a leg angle of 160 degrees (nearly straight), an 5th percentile male can put about 2400 Newtons of pressure on something. Using a converter, that translates to 540 lbs of force, which is definitely higher than the 520 max of the skulls in the test...

Plus, characters are generally shown stomping on the skulls, which is different than static push. Static push would imply that you set your foot on the skull and pushed down as hard as you can. Stomping adds acceleration (force= mass * acceleration, remember?), which would greatly increase the amount of force applied to the skull.

So, yes, these numbers make it seem like it should be possible... though it probably wouldn't be easy. If someone more science-minded wants to review this, I'll make adjustments if necessary.

Then again, this article says it's not possible at all (warning, Game of Thrones spoilers). And this article from Time (also GoT spoilers) says it is but there's data missing to be sure.


Oh, as an additional thing, don't forget that, while corpse bones don't rot, they do become brittle with age, so the 520 lbs of pressure is certainly the highest figure.

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Here is one explanation I've found:

The aluminum baseball bat is arguable one of the most popular mid-ranged weapons against zombies, and is so for good reason. An aluminum baseball bat is slightly over 3 feet in length and 33 ounces in mass. Sports stores are commonplace in cities and thus, baseball bats are plentiful and incredibly easy to gain access to should an outbreak occur. Bats are relatively light, easily handled and transported, and do not require much force to induce fatal injuries as I will demonstrate below.

A simple fracture in the human skull can be caused by as little as 73 Newtons of force. An unrestrained adult falling to the ground can produce more than 873 Newtons, which is more than enough to fracture the skull. The upper bound of 873 Newtons converts to approximately 196.26 pounds of force required to fracture a skull. A study of a baseball bat swung at a ball produces forces averaging 4124 pounds with peak forces at 8314 pounds (20-40 times more force than necessary to fracture a skull). Even with a relatively light swing, a baseball bat can easily crush a human skull, causing tremendous brain damage, especially if aimed at weaker sections such as the temples.

Source

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    As a martial artist I want to add: A big point in delivered force with an impact weapon is how well your reflexes work and your body responds to the hit. If your muscles are relaxed and you don't provide much resistance to a hit + natural defensive reflexes most of the energy will dissipate. If you are a stationary target, the hit will indeed deliver full force. (like try to crush a pingpong-ball with a baseball bat in mid-air, or lying on the ground) - So if a zombie has bad reflexes and is very stiff and tense, you will inflict much more damage than on a standing human! – Falco Feb 12 '15 at 10:32

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