Science has worked out the best way to stay alive during a Zombie apocalypse

Actor Andrew Lincoln of The Walking Dead

A team of scientists has worked out the best way to survive during a zombie apocalypse by avoiding the wave of disease being spread by the walking dead.

A graduate statistical mechanics class at Cornell University in the US explored how an “actual” zombie outbreak might play out.

The best chance of survival, according to the research, is to head for the hills. In the US, that’s the Rockies.

After the zombies finish on the major centres, the cities, they move out toward thinly populated areas where there are fewer humans to feed on. This slows the spread.

The research will be presented to the 2015 American Physical Society meeting on March 5 in San Antonio, Texas.

“Modeling zombies takes you through a lot of the techniques used to model real diseases, albeit in a fun context,” says Alex Alemi, a graduate student at Cornell University.

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 says.

The project’s simulations are stochastic in nature, meaning they have an element of randomness.

“Each possible interaction — zombie bites human, human kills zombie, zombie moves — is treated like a radioactive decay, with a half-life that depends on some parameters. We tried to simulate the times it would take for all of these different interactions to fire, where complications arise because when one thing happens it can affect the rates at which all of the other things happen,” he says.

In films or books, a zombie outbreak is usually assumed to affect all areas at the same time. Months after the outbreak you’re left with small pockets of survivors.

But the researchers attempted to model day of the zombies more realistically. Cities would fall quickly but it would take weeks for the undead to penetrate less densely populated areas.

“Given the dynamics of the disease, once the zombies invade more sparsely populated areas, the whole outbreak slows down,” he says. “There are fewer humans to bite, so you start creating zombies at a slower rate. I’d love to see a fictional account where most of New York City falls in a day, but upstate New York has a month or so to prepare.”

If you somehow happen to find yourself in a zombie outbreak and want to survive as long as possible, Alemi recommends making a run for the northern Rockies.

“A lot of modern research can be off-putting for people because the techniques are complicated and the systems or models studied lack a strong connection to everyday experiences,” Alemi says. “Not that zombies are an everyday occurrence, but most people can wrap their brains around them.”

The modelling will be unveiled this week at a meeting of the American Physical Society in San Antonio, Texas.

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