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Scientists Explain What Would Actually Happen During A Zombie Invasion

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When the zombie apocalypse hits, you best be prepared.

Thanks to Cornell University scientists Alex Alemi, Matthew Bierbaum, Christopher Myers and James Sethna, you'll know exactly what to do when the first one bites.

Inspired by "World War Z," the scientists embarked on a research project to determine, with accuracy, how a zombie invasion would affect the United States.

Using SIR (susceptible, infected and resistant), a model used by virologists to determine how quickly a given disease will spread, the team developed a zombie simulator, which breaks down exactly how fast a zombie takeover would dominate the country.

The scientists, using data from movies including “Shaun of the Dead,” first had to determine the variables that would influence the zombies' progress.

Once they pinpointed these variables (zombie speed, human kill rate and bite occurrence), they created simulations that show how fast zombies would dominate the country.

It sounds ridiculous, but their method is both scientifically sound and, in a way, helpful in the study of newly identified diseases.

Alemi said,

Modeling zombies takes you through a lot of the techniques used to model real diseases, albeit in a fun context. Each possible interaction -- zombie bites human, human kills zombie, zombie moves -- 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 interactions to fire, where complications arise because one thing happens it can affect the rates at which all of the other things happen.

The team determined that the safest locations to ride out a zombie invasion would be rural areas, such as the northern Rockies, as fewer people to bite means fewer zombies.

You can play with the zombie simulator yourself to determine how different scenarios would affect the undead's progression throughout the country.

Change the variables (bite-to-kill ratio and speed), click an area on the map and watch as one zombie (represented in red) blossoms into thousands -- and eventually, millions.

The tool is, of course, goofy, but provides an interesting, real-life look into how infectious disease really does spread.

Check it out here, and learn more about the project here.

Citations: Scientists explore how a zombie invasion would play out in the US (Vox)