Zombietown USA

7 Apr

I’ve written several posts about zombies and science, and I probably shouldn’t be writing another one now, but I came across something which I couldn’t resist writing about, and this is Zombietown USA. Zombietown USA is a simulation of a zombie outbreak in the contiguous states of the USA which uses a standard epidemiological model to examine how it would spread.

There have been plenty of these types of models before, even on the spread of zombie diseases, but this one is different. Why? Because it lets you change the parameters and explore exactly what effect this has on how the disease spreads. This means you can not only create your own personal zombie apocalypse, but you can also work out exactly where the best place to hide would be, in the event of one ever happening in a town near you.

So what are the parameters you can play around with? Well, they’re quite simple. They are the starting location, the kill-to-bite ratio and the time it takes a zombie to walk one mile. The start location and the speed that zombies can move are both self-explanatory (although it’s nice to see that they have modelled both traditional slow zombies, and the more recent fast zombies), but the kill-to-bite (KTB) ratio needs some explanation. The KTB ratio is the relative effectiveness of zombie biting humans to humans killing zombies. According to this article from Computing World, they initially used a KTB ratio of 0.8 (meaning that for every zombie killed, 1.25 humans were bitten and infected), which they derived from watching zombie films such as Night of the Living Dead and Shaun of the Dead.

Once, you’ve set these parameters to whatever values you want to use, and chosen your starting location, you can then set the modelling running and see what happens. Perhaps unsurprisingly, when they did this for themselves using various different scenarios, the physicists behind the model found that it would take about four weeks (or 28 days – a familiar number to zombie fans!) for most of the continental US to become overrun. Interestingly, however, it would then take a lot longer for the remaining few pockets of humanity to fall, and these would be in sparsely populated areas like Montana and Nevada. They also found that if you live in a densely populated area, like northern Pennsylvania, they you are pretty much screwed!

These, however, are just general patterns. If you live in the continental US, and you want to find out what would happen if there was a zombie outbreak in your town, and where you could best go to survive it, then you can go to the Zombietown USA website, set the parameters to your own chosen values and start the model running (although, you should note that your browser will need to be able to run JavaScript for it to work, and I needed to use Google Chrome rather than Internet Explorer for this reason, in order to get it to work). I promise you that watching as the outbreak you’ve just started creeps slowly across the map will be hypnotically addictive (although make sure you set the step rate high enough so that you can see what’s happening), and you could easily waste a whole day playing with different scenarios, but then again, is there anything wrong with that? So, if you’re a zombie fan, then I would urge you, forget work for a while and go check it out*.

*Note: Follow this advice at your own risk, and the author bears no responsibility for loss of income, angry bosses, unfinished reports, missed presentations, getting fired, or any other unpleasant side-effects of doing so!

From the author of For Those In Peril On The Sea, a tale of post-apocalyptic survival in a world where zombie-like infected rule the land and all the last few human survivors can do is stay on their boats and try to survive. Now available in print and as a Kindle ebook. Click here or visit www.forthoseinperil.net to find out more. To download a preview of the first three chapters, click here.

To read the Foreword Clarion Review of For Those In Peril On The Sea (where it scored five stars out of five) click here.

One Response to “Zombietown USA”

  1. Jack Flacco 10/04/2015 at 12:26 #

    Bookmarked it, and I’ll def. check it out, Colin!

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