Intro to Catastrophe: Solar Flare Zombies

There's a new zombie in town — sun-eye zombies, and they're a brain-eating byproduct of solar flares.

Source: YouTube.com

Would you know how to survive them?

If you said "shoot them in the head" — BZZZZZZZ! Wrong.

Hey, didn't I say this was a NEW type of zombie?

And learning how to survive them is just one challenge you'll face in "Surviving the Coming Zombie Apocalypse,"an online college course being offered this summer that uses a zombie apocalypse to examine human behavior amid catastrophe.

It’s the brainchild of Glenn Stutzky, a professor at Michigan State’s school of social work. The school wanted to offer some summer electives that would have a broader appeal beyond social work students. Stutzky’s always had an interest in human behavior amid catastrophe and thought tapping into the zombie zeitgeist would be a good way to do it. He was inspired by the Center for Disease Control’s Preparedness 101: Zombie Apocalypse.

Here’s how the class works: The students will be broken up into groups of seven. They will be assigned a virtual location — one group will be in a big city like New York, Los Angeles or Detroit, another will be set in a small rural area such as Nevada, another might be on a houseboat in Mississippi and another might be on an island like Alcatraz or Isle Royale in Michigan. All the groups experience the same catastrophe — a zombie apocalypse after a solar flare event, also known as a coronal mass ejection, turns a large group of people into "sun-eye zombies", whose eyes glow like the sun.

And you thought having your GPS screwed up was the biggest problem that resulted from a solar flare!

Like any random group of people thrown together during a catastrophe, each group will have to put together a survival plan, establishing their priorities — what do we do first, second and third? Do you go for food and water first? Or weapons?

They’ll have to figure out who their leader is, do they stay together or split and how they will handle an event like one person in the group being attacked or turning on the group. The group will interact via virtual learning software but each person will also be asked to keep a “survivor’s journal” of what they’re feeling and experiencing.

It’s a brand new class, so there won’t be avatars and videogame-like environments (though maybe one day, Stutzky said) but the online university producer who is working on this course with Stutzky, a guy by the name of Christopher Irvin, just so happens to be a filmmaker — and his next film is a zombie film! So, they already have an idea of what the zombies will look like — Check out their online videofor the course.

The students will also be studying real-life disasters and how people handled them. It’s a good lesson to see if you are even in the slightest bit prepared for any apocalypt-y scenario.

“You look at Japan, one of the most organized cultures in the world, and you say, wow, look what happened to them,” Stutzky said, referring to the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster in Japan last year. “You wonder, where do we rank in terms of 1) awareness, 2) preparedness?”

“I think human beings and how we react and interact during a catastrophe — you see some of the most beautiful, wonderful, courageous things and, unfortunately, you see some horrific things as well. It’s part of the package.”

Getty Images

“The core part of this course is around that very, very human question: How do you maintain your humanity and morality?” he said. “In times of catastrophe, some people find their humanity while others lose it. Your biggest danger might not be the catastrophe itself (in this case the zombies) but the people around you!”

He said he hopes that the course not only helps people understand catastrophes better but the need to be prepared not only as individual families but as a society.

“I think we really do need one another ultimately to survive as a society and a civilization,” Stutzky said.

For more information on the course, see the course description. Or, you can just

“friend” the zombie apocalypse on Facebook at Facebook.com/SurvivingTheComingZombieApocalypse.

Hey, that’s my kind of apocalypse. Mggggggggggh …. “like!”

Zombie Treats:

Zombie Ammo. One ammunition maker has decided to use zombies as a marketing tool, offering up ZombieMax ammunition. Mggggh ... bang!bang!bang!

Boozing Zombies. You know what they say — you really get to know somebody when they drink. So if you want to get in the head of zombies, why not go drinking with them? In NYC, there's an annual zombie bar crawl. Mggggggh ... beer!

Zombies & Bacon. Hang on a sec, before you go drinking, make sure you eat. Might we suggest tactical canned bacon from ThinkGeek's essential zombie and bacon gearcollection?!

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  • Cindy Perman is a writer at CNBC.com, covering jobs, real estate, retirement and personal finance.

  • Based in Los Angeles, Jane Wells is a CNBC business news reporter and also writes the Funny Business blog for CNBC.com.