Zombies and Maths

The URL at the end of this article takes you to an interesting article on the study of the spread of Zombies. Of course it’s really about populations and the spread of disease. As one comment stated, the Zombie is ‘like giving a virus arms, legs and teeth’. An interesting concept.

Firstly, I’d like to confess, I’m not a mathematician so I would probably lose an argument on the maths of this research, but the basic equation is quite simple. Don’t fall asleep just yet!

(bN)(S/N)Z = bSZ

– where N represents the total population, S is the number of people susceptible to zombie attacks, Z is the number of zombies and b is the likelihood of transmission (courtesy of Dr. Robert J. Smith see the link below for more about his book).

Sounds great, yes? Well, like all mathematical models, it has variables (b in this instance) where observation or empirical data usually informs us as to their value. Problem: We haven’t been able to ‘observe’ a zombie outbreak just yet so any numbers we insert here are likely to be assumptions that we can match them to how a bacteria culture grows and proliferates in a population.

The Problem With Zombies – that would be a cool title for a book – based upon books and our favourite films, is that they respond to different input, such as smell, noise, vibration, desire. They also have different speeds at which they will travel. None of these are the same influencers on how a bacterial or viral infection spreads. They don’t make macro decisions like that (although some can ‘swim’ in the air) – in fact they don’t make decisions on how they transmit, they are dependent upon their transport media (wind, water, etc.) so if they land on suitable fertile ground, say, your tongue, they may flourish if their numbers are large enough. It is rare for someone to die from a single bacillus, but I guarantee you can die from a single zombie! If they don’t find suitable sustenance a bacterium might produce spores in order to survive. I don’t think zombie can do that – or can they?

There are a number of conditions that differentiate between zombies and microbial infestation – perhaps I will write a white paper on it one day when I get the time – but the reality is that any attempt to describe, through the language of mathematics, the behaviour of a zombie infestation will always fail. There are just too many unknowns.

All in all, an interesting bit of fun, but the real answer is never to make an assumption about the behaviour of the zombie standing in front of you. Just kill it!



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