If you’ve ever watched The Walking Dead or World War Z, the chances are you’ve considered your escape route in the event of these zombie nightmares becoming a reality. So what’s the best way to avoid a wave of the walking, screaming undead? Researchers in the US may finally have the answer.
The solution was found by a group of statistical mechanics graduates at Cornell University, who used computer models that are typically used to study the outbreak of real-life diseases.
They began with a set of equations representing a fully-connected population, before increasing the model’s complexity to take into account the interactions between individuals and groups as the zombie outbreak spread. The researchers could then use this model to simulate a full-scale outbreak across the United States.
“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,” explains one of the graduates, Alex Alemi.
In your typical zombie film, events often play out in a similar way – the infected appear to infiltrate surrounding areas at the same rate, and as the chaos gradually dies down, small pockets of the strongest individuals survive to see another day.
But it seems that this story is far from what would happen in reality.
The researchers’ model revealed that, though the walking dead would rapidly consume cities, it would actually take weeks for them to have a serious impact in the more remote areas.
“Given the dynamics of the disease, once the zombies invade more sparsely populated areas, the whole outbreak slows down,” says Alemi. “…there are fewer humans to bite, so you start creating zombies at a slower rate.”
So if you want to bide some time, head for the hills! Alemi thinks that making a run for the Northern Rockies could be your best bet for survival.