Study: If a zombie outbreak occurs, the human race is doomed

6 Jan 2017

Not a zombie. Image: RAYBON/Shutterstock

Physics students wanting to see how the world’s population would fare in the event of a zombie outbreak discovered that after just 100 days, our species would be doomed.

Despite the saturation of zombie outbreak movies and TV shows out there, the possibility of the dead coming back to life and eating us is as unlikely as they come.

But as we have seen over the past few years, governments have at least toyed with the idea, largely as a means of testing worst case scenarios during periods of civil unrest.

But now a new simulation has been conducted by physics students at the University of Leicester (UL), who found that if it were to actually happen, the vast majority of us would be dead within 100 days.

According to the team’s research paper published in the Journal of Physics Special Topics, the team wanted to see how a zombie virus would spread using the SIR model – an epidemiological model that describes the spread of a disease throughout a population.

The model splits humans into three categories: people susceptible to infection (S), people infected (Z) and people recovered or dead (D), and examined the time frame (100 days) over which individuals in the population would encounter one another.

Within that short a period of time, the study found there would be only 273 remaining human survivors, with zombies outnumbering us by a factor of 1m.

Not all hope is lost

With no ability to fight the effects of the virus, the students’ calculations suggest that if global populations were equally distributed, the human race would probably be wiped out in less than a year.

It isn’t all doom and gloom however, as a follow-up study conducted by the same team – which included new parameters like a faster rate of zombie killing and human births – found that it was possible for the human race to survive and start again.

The team also factored in the possibility that over time, survivors would be less likely to become infected, after experience of avoiding or fending off zombies.

The real reason behind the study, UL’s course tutor Dr Mervyn Roy said, was to teach students how to write appealing physics papers to further their careers.

“Every year, we ask students to write short papers for the Journal of Physics Special Topics,” he said. “It lets the students show off their creative side and apply some of physics they know to the weird, the wonderful or the everyday.”

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic