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In the movie The Book of Eli, some of the characters look at each others hands the first time they meet. I don't recall any explanation of this behavior in the movie. What were they doing and why?

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up vote 38 down vote accepted

They looked at each other's hands to see if they were shaking.

At one point in the story it's explained that a side effect of eating too much human meat is a shaking of the extremeties.

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That didn't register with me when I saw the movie. I guess I'll have to rent it and watch it again. – Niall C. Jan 13 '11 at 2:11
I apologize, I created a new answer without realizing you put the same explanation in the hidden field – Brenton Taylor Jan 13 '11 at 13:45
@Brenton: That's okay. The hidden "spoiler" text can take some getting used to. I didn't know about it until recently. – Bill the Lizard Jan 13 '11 at 14:54
I've been ignoring this question until recently because I hadn't seen the movie. I added an answer with medical info on this, feel free to incorporate in your answer if you wish. Post me a comment if you do and I'll delete my answer, have a good one. – user296 Mar 18 '11 at 9:01
I didn't even notice that in the movie. That is a really nice attention to detail that shows the effort placed in making it. – Michael Brown Feb 12 '12 at 15:16

They were checking to see if the other persons hands were steady, or were they shaking.

Shaking hands is a symptom of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, which is a form of Transmissible spongiform encephalopathy, it is basically a human variant of Mad Cow Desease.

It can be caused by a genetic trait, and is difficult to catch otherwise. You basically need to be injected with serum or an endocrine extract from someone that has the disease.

Otherwise you can pick it up from eating meat from an infected human i.e. Cannibalism. See Kuru Disease for real world evidence of this.

Basically, if you were to chow down once on one person, you'd be very unlucky to get CJD. However the more - ahem - specimens you sample the greater the chance of contracting CJD. Multiply this by the number of specimens sampled by the specimen you're eating and the probability of contracting CJD increases.

Therefore in a society where cannibalism is common place, the chances of a getting CJD - and therefore having shaking hands - could be quite high.

So, if you tend to be of a nervous disposition or suffer from an uncontrollable tick, pray you don't end up on a post apocalyptic world where cannibalism is frowned on :)

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To make things simple in the movie after the big blast from the some food supply was very low, so some people on the verge of starvation started eating other people. When you eat a human being it is said the you get the shakes on your hands.

To be safe and not be ignorant to the fact that someone was a cannibal they checked their hands first to see if they had the shakes. When you watch the movie look out for the people with shakes, for example the old woman with tea and you will understand certain scenes more.

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