Zombie Math - Modeling The Attack

Finally, the zombie apocalypse has been quantified. A group of Canadian researchers have presented a sophisticated mathematical analysis of typical zombie attack scenarios.

Why would professionals attempt a treatment of this (fictional) problem?

This is, perhaps unsurprisingly, the first mathematical analysis of an outbreak of zombie infection. While the scenarios considered are obviously not realistic, it is nevertheless instructive to develop mathematical models for an unusual outbreak. This demonstrates the flexibility of mathematical modelling and shows how modelling can respond to a wide variety of challenges in ‘biology’.

First, of course, you must define your terms. What kind of zombies are we concerned about? Not those merely historical zombies.

Modern zombies (the ones illustrated in books, films and games) are very different from the voodoo and the folklore zombies. Modern zombies follow a standard, as set in the movie Night of the Living Dead. The ghouls are portrayed as being mindless monsters who do not feel pain and who have an immense appetite for human flesh. Their aim is to kill, eat or infect people. The ‘undead’ move in small, irregular steps, and show signs of physical decomposition such as rotting flesh, discoloured eyes and open wounds. Modern zombies are often related to an apocalypse, where civilization could collapse due to a plague of the undead.

I think that the zombies in the recent film Shaun of the Dead meet the criteria.


(Shaun of the Dead Zombie Attack>)

They examine all of the usual scenarios; latent infection, forced quarantine of infected individuals, impulsive eradication models, the creation of a treatment or cure. Their conclusion?

In summary, a zombie outbreak is likely to lead to the collapse of civilisation, unless it is dealt with quickly. While aggressive quarantine may contain the epidemic, or a cure may lead to coexistence of humans and zombies, the most effective way to contain the rise of the undead is to hit hard and hit often. As seen in the movies, it is imperative that zombies are dealt with quickly, or else we are all in a great deal of trouble.

From When Zombies Attack!: Mathematical Modelling of an Outbreak of Zombie Infection via Wired. Thanks to Moira for pointing this one out.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 8/15/2009)

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