Back in 2015 at the American Physical Society (APS) meeting in San Antonio, researchers from Cornell University presented a talk on Statistical Mechanics involving a zombie outbreak in the United States to a standing only room. Max Brooks’ book, World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War, inspired the researchers to run a real-world simulation of how a zombie virus outbreak as seen in Brooks’ book would play out in the real world. “Modeling zombies takes you through a lot of the techniques used to model real diseases, albeit in a fun context,” says Alex Alemi one of the graduate students who worked on the research with fellow graduate students.
The simulation showed surprising results, in the simulation the zombie outbreak does not occur in many areas at once, it starts in New York City, the more likely place any major outbreak would arise in any major US city but the big apple was used in the test. It’s estimated that NYC would be overrun with zombies in 24 hours, bummer, but it would take the outbreak two weeks to reach upstate NY. As the simulation ran, the slowly moving virus showed that it spreads faster through heavily populated areas like cities while slowing its progress in rural areas where the population is spread out.
Alemi admitted that the simulation showed the spread of the virus without showing other potential factors that would affect the end results of the simulation, “Given the time, we could attempt to add more complicated social dynamics to the simulation, such as allowing people to make a run for it, include plane flights, or have an awareness of the zombie outbreak, etc.,”
At the end of the simulation with the US infected, one area on the map shows where the virus would most likely never reach, the Rocky Mountains. It’s possible an outbreak may take months to reach the area and with the difficult terrain, people may be able to come to the area away from those infected who may find reaching these higher elevations difficult.
Again, all this is based off certain factors and is more or less using methods of figuring out how to map the spread of real-world diseases, what areas are at higher risk, where would to lowest impact take place, that sort of thing. Because of Brook’s book and the movie based off it, many people became paranoid of what to do in the event of a zombie apocalypse, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) actually put together information on what to do in the event of one unlikely happens…then again people are eating tide pods now so anything’s possible.
You can read the complete in-depth findings here!