Zombie apocalypses aren’t real, of course, but sometimes it can be fun and informative to think about them as if they are.
That’s what a group of Cornell University researchers did as an exercise in statistical mechanics and in thinking about transmission of real world diseases, according to an article in phys.org. Their complex simulation of a zombie outbreak shows the assumptions of some zombie fiction are probably wrong.
Alex Alemi, a graduate student at Cornell University said that in most zombie works “if there is a zombie outbreak, 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,” explains Alemi. “But in our attempt to model zombies somewhat realistically, it doesn’t seem like this is how it would actually go down.”
Zombie fiction is correct, they found, that cities would fall quickly. But because of the nature of the infection and random elements to how it is spread, it would hit a roadblock when it reached less populated areas and it would spread slowly through less populated spaces. It would take months for an infection to spread to spread into the Northern Mountain time zone, so a run for the secluded northern Rockies might be your best bet for survival.
“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. “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.”