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Science reveals the best zombie hiding spot

We really only have the text on her shirt to go by that those are actually zombies...

We really only have the text on her shirt to go by that those are actually zombies…

If you were planning on spending some of your Friday using statistical mechanics to scientifically establish where it’s best to hide during a zombie outbreak, then you can go home early. A team of Cornell University researchers have beaten you to it.

The group modeled the statistical mechanics of the undead as they would any other disease (though we’d consider an extremely catchy case of brain-munchies as more problematic than any flu), and charted how the zombie virus would spread across the United States over time.

“At their heart, the simulations are akin to modeling 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,” Alex Alemi, a graduate student at Cornell University, told

“Each possible interaction—zombie bites human, human kills zombie, zombie moves, etc.—is treated like a radioactive decay, with a half-life that depends on some parameters, and 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.”

So, what were their findings? Should you spot the undead gathering outside your window, you should head for the northern Rockies.

While films and books have taken some dramatic license, a ‘real’ zombie outbreak would likely not hit the whole of the country simultaneously, and while it’s possible that a large urban conurbation like New York City would fall within 24 hours, it might take a month for the virus to reach upstate New York. If you move to the Rockies, you might not see a zombie for months or even years.

“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,” explains Alemi.

So does Cornell Univesrity know something we don’t know, about an upcoming zombie outbreak? If they do, they’re keeping it to themselves. This is just “fun to know”, but the research provides a helpful model for teaching the techniques of disease modeling.

“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 concludes.

“Not that zombies are an everyday occurrence, but most people can wrap their brains around them.” FYI, you should never wrap your brains around a zombie. It only encourages them.

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