Free Press Journal

Science tells you how to survive a zombie apocalypse


Houston: If zombies took over the US, where should you hide? Head for the Rockies in North America, scientists say. A team of Cornell University researchers who studied a fictional zombie outbreak in the US suggests heading for the hills, in the Rockies, to save your brains from the undead. In most films or books, “if there is a zombie outbre k, it is usually assumed to affect all areas at the same time, and some months after the outbreak you’re left with small pockets of survivors,” said Alex Alemi, a graduate student at Cornell University.

“But in our attempt to model zombies somewhat realistically, it doesn’t seem like this is how it would actually go down,” Alemi said. Cities would fall quickly, but it would take weeks for zombies to penetrate into less densely populated areas, and months to reach the northern mountain-time zone, the study found.

“Given the dynamics of the disease, once the zombies invade more sparsely populated areas, the whole outbreak slows down – there are fewer humans to bite, so you start creating zombies at a slower rate,” Alemi said. If anyone finds themselves in the midst of a fictional zombie outbreak and want to survive as long as possible, Alemi recommends making a run for the northern Rockies.

While not an entirely practical implication, it’s “fun to know,” he said, and pointed out the benefits of applying hard science to fun topics – especially to help make learning more entertaining and enjoyable. During the 2015 American Physical Society March Meeting, in San Antonio, Texas, this week the group will describe their work modelling the statistical mechanics of zombies.
“Modelling zombies takes you through a lot of the techniques used to model real diseases, albeit in a fun context,” Alemi said.

The research involved a lot of computational results generated from simulations the researchers wrote themselves.

“At their heart, the simulations are akin to modelling chemical reactions taking place between different elements and, in this case, we have four states a person can be in – human, infected, zombie, or dead zombie – with approximately 300 million people,” Alemi said.