Zombie apocalypse would potentially wipe out humanity in just 100 days students calculate
A real-life zombie outbreak would leave the world’s population in shambles, with less than 300 survivors remaining a mere one hundred days into the apocalypse, according to students from the Department of Physics and Astronomy.
Assuming that a zombie can find one person each day, with a 90 per cent chance of infecting victims with the zombie infection, the students suggest that by day one hundred there would be just 273 remaining human survivors, outnumbered a million to one by zombies.
The students presented their findings in a series of short articles for the Journal of Physics Special Topics, a peer-reviewed student journal run by the Department. The student-run journal is designed to give students practical experience of writing, editing, publishing and reviewing scientific papers.
The student team investigated the spread of a hypothetical zombie virus using the SIR model – an epidemiological model that describes the spread of a disease throughout a population. The model splits the population into three categories - those susceptible to the infection, those that are infected and those that have either died or recovered. The SIR model then considers the rates at which infections spread and die off as individuals in the population come into contact with each other.
The initial study did not factor in natural birth and death rates, since the hypothetical epidemic took place over 100 days, resulting in natural births and deaths being negligible compared to the impact of the zombie virus over a short time frame.
Without the ability for humankind to fight back against the undead hordes, the students’ calculations suggest that if global populations were equally distributed in less than a year the human race might be wiped out.
However, in a more hopeful follow-up study, the students investigated the SIR model applied to a zombie epidemic and introduced new parameters, such as the rate in which zombies might be killed and people having children within the nightmare scenario. This made human survival more feasible, suggesting that it would be possible for the world’s human population to survive the zombie epidemic under these conditions – and that eventually the zombie population would be wiped out and the human population would recover.
The study has been widely covered by media outlets including the Telegraph, the Daily Mail, the Sun and the Daily Star.
- Press release
- Student paper ‘A Zombie Epidemic’
- Student paper ‘Another Zombie Epidemic’
- This story was featured as HE consultancy Gerard Kelly & Partners (GKP)'s number one story of January 2017 from the sector
- The student calculations were featured as one of AlphaGalileo's top 5 most read research stories of the month
- Read an article on why it is important to make physics and science education relevant and accessible to the public here