If there’s one thing that we love doing, it’s depicting the end of our own species through the form of some terrifying zombie apocalypse.
What shows like ‘The Walking Dead’ and films like ‘Resident Evil’ show however is perhaps not the reality that we would face. You see in all our versions of the zombie apocalypse humanity somehow manages to heroically cling on, living to fight another day.
Well if this paper is anything to go on then it’s probably nonsense.
A group of undergraduates from the University of Leicester decided to use some conventional infection models to see just how bad a zombie outbreak would really be for humanity and well...it’s not looking good.
In the space of 100 days, the human population would drop to just 273. Globally.
The four students from the Department of Physics and Astronomy found that by using the SIR model of infection (a widespread equation for determining the lethality of a disease outbreak) a zombie outbreak would spread at a truly terrifying rate.
The SIR model essentially splits a population up into three compartments: The susceptible, the infected and the removed (dead).
In this instance they replaced the infected (i) with zombie (z) and then worked out the probability of a zombie encountering a human being.
Of course zombies don’t live forever, you see thanks to their all-consuming cravings for human flesh they will starve without it.
The students took this into consideration and came to the conclusion that the average zombie would have a lifetime of just 20 days.
Even when you take into account both the short lifespan of the zombies and the geographical barriers that they would have to overcome (they’re not exactly long-distance runners) it turns out that humanity is still essentially doomed.
Don’t panic just yet though, there is some good news.
For starters the students had to make an assumption about how good a zombie is at its job and because they’re all sadists they decided they were very good. As such each zombie had a 90 per cent chance of infection one human per day.
They also didn’t take into account the fact that humanity as a whole might want to do something about the zombie infection and so didn’t factor in our ability to fight back.
They rather dutifully point out in their conclusion: “Including this may give the humans a better chance at survival.”
Guess we better start building that bunker then.
The paper was part of a rather wonderful initiative set up by their course tutor Dr Mervyn Roy, a lecturer in the University of Leicester’s Department of Physics and Astronomy.
“Every year we ask students to write short papers for the Journal of Physics Special Topics,” explained Dr Roy. “It lets the students show off their creative side and apply some of physics they know to the weird, the wonderful, or the everyday.”