When dropping a microwave oven on a zombie's head, tie a rope to it first so you can reel it back in. In a post-apocalyptic world, it's even more important to recycle.
A lot of people have been jumping on the Zombie meme recently. A few months ago, for example, I read a book about viruses (and other malware) and computer and network security, all presented using zombie-related examples and terminology. Sad to relate, a lot of these attempts seem to run out of steam, leaving you thinking: "Close, but no cigar."
Every now and then, however, you run across a gem. One such instance is The Maker's Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse by Simon Monk. I have to say that I devoured this book (metaphorically speaking) from cover to cover, and it's 100% recommended for readers ranging from teenagers to grizzled old engineers.
Simon starts by considering what the world will be like after the zombie apocalypse has struck in order to give us all an idea what we'll be up against. The next step is generating electricity using a solar panel or a car alternator and storing said electricity in a car battery.
At this point, it's worth noting that Simon provides detailed descriptions of all the parts required for each project, along with pre-apocalypse sources (e.g., auto parts stores, eBay, Frys, Home Depot, SparkFun) and post-apocalypse alternatives (e.g., dismantling things like microwaves and scavenging parts from cars and houses).
Once we've generated and stored our electricity, we quickly build an Arduino-powered battery monitor (which is itself powered from the car battery), because the last thing you want is for the lights to go out just as the zombies storm the front door (you know what I mean; we've all seen the films).
Later, we learn how to constructing zombie detectors and alarms to protect our "nest" and zombie distractors to draw zombies away from the nest. Once we are on a roll with the simple projects, Simon picks up steam with more sophisticated constructs, including environmental monitoring systems, Raspberry Pi-based video surveillance (using a USB webcam and creating the code to automatically analyze the video stream to detect any movement), systems to establish communication with other survivors, and... the list goes on.
One thing I really appreciate -- along with the detailed photographs, images, and instructions -- is Simon's humor. Take the topic of creating zombie alarms, for example, in which Simon notes:
"As with most of the projects in this book, it's a good idea to get them working safely on your workbench before deploying them in an active zombie area. It's very difficult to concentrate on your soldering when a groaning heap of rotting flesh is bearing down on you."
One type of alarm requires a microswitch and -- in a post-apocalyptic world -- one source of such a switch would be a microwave oven. As Simon says:
"The basic principle is to keep taking out screws and removing parts of the microwave until you get to the door switch."
After you've removed the microswitch and the attached wires, Simon continues to say:
"Unfortunately, not much more of the oven is going to be of use in this project, though the remainder of the microwave oven makes an extremely effective zombie head crusher if dropped from a height iinto the groaning host of undead. Just attach a roap to it first so you can reel it back and use it multiple times. There's an apocalypse on, so it's even more important to recycle."
Do we really expect a zombie apocalypse? Well, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is a federal agency and it's the leading national public health institute of the United States. Is it only a coincidence that a portion of the CDC's website is devoted to Zombie Preparedness?
In reality, of course, the zombie apocalypse can be considered to be a metaphor for something smelly hitting the fan (I never metaphor I didn’t like). There are all sorts of things that could bring our modern civilization to its knees, from a pandemic, to the super volcano at Yellowstone Park erupting, to an impact from an asteroid, to... again, the list goes on.
Perhaps a more prosaic scenario would be a cyberattack on a developed country's smart power grid, which could leave some areas without power for weeks or months. Call me a worrywart if you will, but -- even though I already have a natural gas-powered emergency generator -- after reading this book I'm seriously thinking about getting a solar panel and a charge controller and an alternator and a big truck battery (just in case).
Quite apart from anything else, this book's zombie-based theme will make it of interest to many teenagers. After watching programs like The Walking Dead, the thought of being able to generate and store your own electricity and then use it to perform mission-critical tasks like warning you of approaching zombies while also powering your MP3 player has got to strike a chord.
Perhaps more importantly, if you are a parent, this book provides you with a cornucopia of great projects that you and your offspring can work on together. In addition to bonding and quality time, it also gives you a fantastic platform for teaching basic electrical and electronic concepts, the use of microcontrollers, and all sorts of other cool stuff. Looking for a "stocking stuffer" for a niece or nephew for Christmas? You need look no further, because this book will make a great gift for a budding engineer, but make sure to get two copies -- one for them and one for you!
— Max Maxfield, Editor of All Things Fun & Interesting