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How Zombies Can Save Us from a Real Apocalypse

How Zombies Can Save Us from a Real Apocalypse

By Nick Beeton, Alexander Hoare & Brody Walker

Mathematical modelling of a zombie apocalypse has real-world applications in our responses to infectious diseases such as Ebola and HIV, wildlife conservation and even the teaching of statistics.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

Zombies are big right now. They’re on your TV screens (The Walking Dead), in your computer games (Plants vs. Zombies) and have even snuck into classic literature via such books as Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. They’ve become one of those internet memes that just won’t die; people seem ready to squeeze them into every conceivable situation.

It’s probably not surprising that zombies have also attracted the attention of scientists. After all, we’re traditionally a pretty geeky bunch. As geeky scientists ourselves, we contributed a chapter to a book called Mathematical Modelling of Zombies. Its chapters cover a range of potential issues around a hypothetical zombie apocalypse.

Although some might consider this kind of work a waste of time, what is surprising is that studying zombies can actually have real-world benefits. Among other things, preparing for a fictional zombie apocalypse can help us plan for diseases that, despite being very real, are more similar to being besieged by a plague of the flesh-eating undead than you’d think.

In real life, deadly infectious diseases don’t usually cause the extinction of their host species. To be able to sustain itself, a disease needs to be able to infect, on average, at least one new individual every time it finds a host. To do this it needs to be infectious enough to be able to spread, but not too immediately...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.