Friday, September 11, 2009
Math and Movies
The math of zombiesYou think you know what zombie flicks are about: the undead’s insatiable desire for human flesh. True, but they’re also about epidemiology. One zombie bite infects a healthy person, who infects others, and so on until the few healthy humans left are holed up in
Wal-Martwith a shotgun, aiming for the head.
The problem of zombies intrigued Philip Munz of Carleton University and his colleagues at the University of Ottawa, who recently wrote a scientific paper quantifying various properties of zombie epidemics. Standard modeling techniques for disease outbreaks weren’t quite sufficient, the authors found. “The key difference between the models presented here and other models of infectious disease,” they wrote, “is that the dead can come back to life.”
After a thorough, if tongue-in-cheek, analysis, the authors found that the optimal method for halting such epidemics involves killing zombies early and often - the rare scientific paper that satisfies both the splatter-film aficionado and the Centers for Disease Control.
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