I realize I’m about a week late blogging this item (should have been around Halloween), but I just can’t resist: Count Dracula not in the numbers, physicist says. A scientist is playing Scully to scientifically disprove the existence of monsters—vampires, zombies, ghosts, and so on.
Articles like this make me amused and irritated at the same time. I always get a kick of out it when a goofy, kooky topic like this shows up in the "serious" mainstream news, but it annoys me when they purport to have The Answer to things and get their science and logic wrong.
Case in point: his proof against the existence of vampires is flawed:
[Costas] Efthimiou takes out the calculator to prove that if a vampire sucked one person’s blood each month — turning each victim into an equally hungry vampire — after a couple of years there would be no people left, just vampires. He started his calculations with just one vampire and 537 million humans on January 1, 1600 and shows that the human population would be down to zero by July 1602.
Now I’m not saying that vampires do exist, but that’s weak. Yes, you’ve shown us that repeatedly doubling a number increases it exponentially very quickly, but this "proof" is hardly proof. First of all, why the assumption that vampires always make more vampires? If the vampire doesn’t kill you outright, then you become a vampire. I think it’s up to the "source" vampire. No exponential increase.
Second, couldn’t some of these vampires be feeding on animals instead of humans? (Digression: wouldn’t vampire cows be funny?)
Third, I’m sure vampires are reasonably intelligent enough to have figured out that if they keep making vampires, there’s no more food left. I imagine they plan accordingly.
Fourth, where did this "one person per month" figure come from? That seems rather arbitrary.
So his reasoning is flawed. I think he would be better off arguing against the more implausible vampire myths, such as the physical impossibility of their not casting reflections in mirrors.
Or, you know, doing real science.