Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Zombie Science. For Real.

The New York Times Magazine has come out with its ninth annual Year of Ideas. There’s some really intriguing stuff in here, like printable batteries and stilleto claws (you know, just in case those six-inch heels were a little too comfy for you). And some creepy stuff, too, like Ruppy the fluorescent dog. But this is my favorite:
Epidemiologists today worry a lot about swine flu. But earlier this year, Philip Munz got interested in a more devastating possibility: an outbreak of zombies. A graduate student at Carleton University in Ottawa, he was watching a lot of movies about the undead and realized that zombification could be regarded as a classic paradigm of infectious spread: people get bitten by zombies, after which they turn into zombies themselves and start biting others. So Munz decided to use the tools of epidemiology to answer a sobering public-health question: could humanity survive a zombie outbreak?

Working with a professor and two other graduate students, Munz built a mathematical model of a city of one million residents, in which an outbreak occurs when a single zombie arrives in town. He based the speed of zombie infection on the general rules you see in George Romero movies: after getting bitten, people turn into zombies in 24 hours and sometimes don't realize what's happening to them until they change.

So who prevails, the living or the undead? Well, let's just say you probably won't be using that time share in Provincetown after all.

Pleasant dreams, dearies!

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