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Mathematical Model of Zombie Epidemics Reveals Two Types of Living-Dead Strains

Unknown Lamer posted about a year ago | from the brraaiinnss dept.

Medicine 163

KentuckyFC writes "Epidemiologists have long known how to model the way disease spreads through a population using a computer simulation. This generally involves three populations of individuals: those who are susceptible to disease, those who are infected and those who recover, return to the population and are no longer susceptible. Researchers then feed data about the number of infections and so on into the model which can then work out the disease characteristics such as infection rates. And with this information, they can predict the future evolution of the disease. Now researchers have used a similar model to simulate the spread of infection during a zombie epidemic. They've gathered infection data from real zombie movies, put this into the model and used it to predict the disease characteristics. The results show two clear types of zombie infection which differ in what happens to people after they die. In the first, epitomized by Night of the Living Dead, everybody who dies becomes a zombie. In the second, as in Shaun of the Dead, not everyone who dies becomes a zombie--contact with a zombie beforehand is required. This allows the interesting dynamic of escaping zombification by committing suicide. It also shows how close these zombies have come to winning. The research isn't entirely frivolous. The researchers say exactly the same process of model-building, data gathering and simulation works equally well on real diseases such as influenza. So their approach is a useful teaching tool for budding epidemiologists of the future."

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hehe (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45582043)

"They've gathered infection data from real zombie movies"
Good! I was afraid they would just make things up.

Re:hehe (5, Funny)

ketomax (2859503) | about a year ago | (#45582105)

Somebody needs to do some number crunching on real vampire television series and then overlay the two data sets

Re:hehe (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45582111)

What about werewolfs?

Re:hehe (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45582143)

What about werewolfs?

Pfft, silly, everyone knows werewolf movies aren't real!

Re:hehe (2)

ketomax (2859503) | about a year ago | (#45582153)

werewolves were made extinct by werepanthers

Re:hehe (1)

The Grim Reefer (1162755) | about a year ago | (#45582581)

werewolves were made extinct by werepanthers

I thought it was the DevilBunnies.

Re:hehe (3, Funny)

Virtucon (127420) | about a year ago | (#45582385)

Don't tell Twilight fans that. You'll have all the little girls crying out there.

Re:hehe (1)

stevez67 (2374822) | about a year ago | (#45582807)

There wolves.

Re:hehe (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about a year ago | (#45584357)

Rim...uh...Moon shot!

Re:hehe (5, Funny)

Lueseiseki (1189513) | about a year ago | (#45582141)

So are you trying to tell me Zombieland wasn't a documentary about the Twinkie shortage and Bill Murray's dying showbiz career?

Re:hehe (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45582207)

"Bill Murray's dying showbiz career"

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000195/ [imdb.com]

The only thing dying is Bill Murray, from alcohol poisoning.

Re:hehe (1)

Raenex (947668) | about a year ago | (#45582257)

Bill Murray used to be able to carry a movie. Now he's a bit player in small movies. It's good that he's working, though.

Re:hehe (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45582329)

This reminds me of "A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur's Court". The facts may alter this a bit.

Re:hehe (2)

Bayoudegradeable (1003768) | about a year ago | (#45582373)

good god where are mod points when needed. "Real zombie movies" is among the better laughs I have had lately!

Re:hehe (1)

TWiTfan (2887093) | about a year ago | (#45582815)

Zombie movies are fantasy, and most of them (with the exception of 28 Days Later) strike me as very silly fiction at that. The zombies shown in most movies are way too slow and stupid to be any real threat in the real world. Sure, they would get some initial success at the very beginning, when people didn't realize what they were or the threat they posed--but the second word started getting out about their nature and how to kill them, they would be toast. They would be essentially eradicated pretty quickly. In the movies, they overcome their shortcomings by massing in ridiculous numbers, but there is no way in the real world they would ever get to those kinds of numbers.

My personal favorite for general silliness is "The Walking Dead," where they drive through small towns and suddenly encounter hordes of zombies larger than the whole population of any small town. And how have all these masses of zombies even survived for several years anyway? Their food source is pretty limited. Unless they're magic, they have to get energy from somewhere for all that shuffling.

Re:hehe (1)

fredklein (532096) | about a year ago | (#45583011)

Unless they're magic, they have to get energy from somewhere for all that shuffling.

Exactly.

For zombies to move, their muscles must be working. For their muscles to work, they must have a source of energy. Absent 'magic', that source of energy is blood sugar and oxygen, which needs to be delivered to the muscles by the circulatory system. This means zombies have hearts that beat, lungs that breathe, and blood that flows. (So, basically, aren't they are still alive?) So shooting them Not in the head would still result in blood loss (zombies don't perform First Aid on themselves), and would result in 'killing' them. This also means that zombies need to eat something, otherwise they'd all be dead due to starvation in a few weeks. (no food= no blood sugar= no muscles moving)

This is why the 'infected' type zombies are more logical than the original 'magical dead coming back to un-life' zombies.

Re:hehe (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45583261)

It might not completely absolve TWD of the energy/physiology problem that you detail, but it does show many zombies as becoming increasingly deteriorated as time passes. That, at least suggests some alternate biological mechanism where the soft tissues of the body itself are consumed over time as some alternate form of pathogen-directed energy. As improbable/impossible as that might be, for the sake of a story, at least its an attempt to appear to be realistic.

Something I find equally unrealistic is how they are still driving vehicles around after 4+ years after the collapse of civilization. Gasoline will turn into chemical sludge over time- there are stabilizer chemicals you can put in it, but that just keeps it good for a short period. Now that our gas supply is contaminated with up to 10% ethanol, the problem is worse- you can't store that for any reasonable amount of time.

Re:hehe (1)

g0bshiTe (596213) | about a year ago | (#45584497)

Season 1 also ended at the CDC where they showed cat scan at time of death and what happened moments after. Electrical impulses sent to muscles in a severed limb we know already produce movement, so instead of the energy source being blood sugar and oxygen why not the raw energy produced by the brain.

at last, a flu cure! (3, Funny)

Victor Tramp (5336) | about a year ago | (#45582047)

so if i kill myself, i'll avoid influenza! ...wait

Re:at last, a flu cure! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45582069)

I knew those flu vaccines weren't to be trusted

Not exactly written by an expert (5, Informative)

Chris Katko (2923353) | about a year ago | (#45582075)

>They then plug these figures into the model and iterate to find the set of parameters that best fit the data, a process known as Markov Chain Monte Carlo simulation. In total they run the simulations over up to 500,000 iterations.

The author makes Monte Carlo seem like a solver. It's not. You don't use Markov Chain Monte Carlo to model data. You use it to optimize finding solutions by reducing the number of samples required, which allows more complex models with less expensive hardware. You still need the rest of the picture to solve for the data.

That's like saying catalysts cause chemical reactions. No, they don't cause them, they help them go faster.

Reverse Engineering Markov Chains (1)

globaljustin (574257) | about a year ago | (#45583069)

You don't use Markov Chain Monte Carlo to model data. You use it to optimize finding solutions by reducing the number of samples required, which allows more complex models with less expensive hardware. You still need the rest of the picture to solve for the data........That's like saying catalysts cause chemical reactions.

TFA researchers definitely misused the Markov Chain Monte Carlo model, and I'm happy someone pointed it out.

They "reverse engineered" a statistically significant result. It's not science, no hypothesis was tested but that is exactly how many of these research studies get published.

For crying out loud. (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45582103)

Will you give me a break from this pathetic zombie crap. It is so boring and unimaginative and useless.

Re:For crying out loud. (1)

GTRacer (234395) | about a year ago | (#45582693)

MSM would love to, but since all their brains have been eaten by the zombies, they don't have the imagination!

process works equally well on other things... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45582115)

The researchers say exactly the same process of model-building, data gathering and simulation works equally well on real diseases such as influenza.

So do it on something useful instead?!

Suicide? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45582123)

My very close sources say that Suicide has a very common side-effect of sudden death in large amounts of the population.

Sounds a bit risky doc, can't you just prescribe some pain killers so I can get shitfaced and dream about going on a date with Jupiter again?

Re:Suicide? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45582185)

Yeah, but if you come back from the dead, like Jesus or Buffy, then you've avoided becoming a zombie, and you can carry on founding a religion or slaying vampires, or whatever it is you do with yourself, just like before.

Re:Suicide? (1)

michelcolman (1208008) | about a year ago | (#45582511)

OK, looks like you're a friend of Ison [xkcd.com] but before you go on a date with Jupiter, maybe you should first talk to those who knew Shoemaker-Levy 9.

On the surface, this report seems absurd (5, Informative)

korbulon (2792438) | about a year ago | (#45582145)

But this kind of pop media exposure is manna from heaven for researchers. The research itself is fatuous and risible, but the simple fact that a lot of eyes are now focused on these people means that the exposure of their "serious" work has been increased by several orders of magnitude. And often that's what really matters - not the underlying scientific value of your work - but that that work is attuned to tackle problems deemed more fashionable and relevant to society as a whole. Lacking a direct profit motive, fellowship committees have other priorities which are nevertheless rather worldly when determining the allocation of grant money.

Re:On the surface, this report seems absurd (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45582301)

But this kind of pop media exposure is manna from heaven for researchers. The research itself is fatuous and risible, but the simple fact that a lot of eyes are now focused on these people means that the exposure of their "serious" work has been increased by several orders of magnitude. And often that's what really matters - not the underlying scientific value of your work - but that that work is attuned to tackle problems deemed more fashionable and relevant to society as a whole. Lacking a direct profit motive, fellowship committees have other priorities which are nevertheless rather worldly when determining the allocation of grant money.

I don't think that tackling zombie infection models is either fashionable or relevant in determining priority or justification. Seems a few "fellows" have been watching way too many horror movies. This report seems absurd because it is absurd, and the only way it hints at justification is if "they" know something "we" don't about a potential zombie outbreak, which does nothing but feed into the overall government conspiracy/paranoia bullshit (which ironically is fashionable right now)

I suppose I should expect another few million wasted modeling how we humans will develop fish gills after the polar ice caps melt. After all, we have Waterworld to reference as fact...

Re:On the surface, this report seems absurd (2)

Vitriol+Angst (458300) | about a year ago | (#45582889)

What we actually need is a mathematically model to show the viral spread of the Zombie meme. You have a brain-dead, moribund and boring epidemiological paper to shovel out to beg for funding? Add Zombies! The next researcher notices your success and instead of shooting himself, allows himself to become infected because "grants = survival."

The results of my model clearly show that; The number of real Zombies will be exceeded by the number of Zombie Posers.

And how do you show an "evolution" of Zombies, they don't breed? It's the evolution of the Zombie virus. If it doesn't have a carrier that is not harmed in the transaction, such a virus epidemic would show that over time they become more benign. In the real world, you would see a symbiotic relationship eventually, like the Zombie virus infects merely slow people, and somehow Disney gets a percentage. Lawyers then sue anyone who writes about Zombies.

"all press is good press"??? (1)

globaljustin (574257) | about a year ago | (#45583141)

but the simple fact that a lot of eyes are now focused on these people means that the exposure of their "serious" work has been increased by several orders of magnitude.

aw horseshit...you're aware of a problem, but your solution is to **shed all of your values** and **submit to an incorrect system**

you're selling us all out when you try to make this a guiding principle for your decisions:

often that's what really matters - not the underlying scientific value of your work - but that that work is attuned to tackle problems deemed more fashionable

it's people like you that make it difficult to do real science w/o the pop culture bullshit...

the way **we respond** tells society as a whole how to respond...when we play the bullshit game we are teaching society to do the same!!!

you encounter a problem and **roll over** and **sell out** your principles then devote your intellectual energy to justifying your decision and enforcing your perception of events that led to it on others

Re:"all press is good press"??? (4, Interesting)

korbulon (2792438) | about a year ago | (#45583505)

After years in the academic backwater of Little Rock Tech and little to show for it except a few paltry offerings to low-impact journals, Professor Y. realized he was facing the end: his funding pool nearly dried up, he knew he would have to let his post-doc Xian fend for himself - likely he would be deported. The professor loved research, loved the hunt, the lure of bold new ideas, but he just wasn't having much luck lately: Team X at MIT had already beat him to the punch a couple times regarding minor breakthroughs in epidemiology - better staffed, better funded, it was no wonder they had beat him, yet he had come so close . And the worst part? The worst part was that he wold have to start teaching again.

It was with such thoughts that he was ambling down Center Street, eyes cast down and hands sunk deeply in his pockets. He reached a corner and almost walked right into a steady stream of gun-rack laden pickup trucks, one of which had apparently drawn a bead on the absent-minded professor. The driver slammed his brakes just in time and unleashed a semi-intelligible curse regarding questionable inter-sibling liaisons before speeding away in a huff.

Professor Y. suddenly stirred from his reverie and looked up. He had barely registered the indignant driver, but the item he now stared at held his undivided attention. It was a marquee for a feature film: "Brad Pitt. World War Z". Then it hit him, hit him like a thunderclap on an otherwise calm day, and his knees buckled with the enormity of his epiphany. The professor solemnly bowed his head and whispered one word: Zombies.

Re:"all press is good press"??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45584313)

Your grammar and style are punishing, as though you harbor some deep-seated hatred for the readers of your post.

Have they modelled... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45582169)

...the six year old girl who manages to bash the main zombie's head in with a brick after battalions of highly trained marines with guns and rockets were unable to kill it?

Re:Have they modelled... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45582201)

Outlier

Zombie, zombie zombie-eh-eh in your head (3, Interesting)

fruey (563914) | about a year ago | (#45582195)

Article says nothing about the Cranberries.

Modelling epidemics is important. Mass transit and all that just means that the next major flu bug could well screw a hefty percentage of the population.

Zombies were once a semi-real concept, because defining death has been refined only recently. The French word for undertaker is "croque mort", literally the "dead biter" who would bit corpses to make sure they were really dead.

End of the Epidemic (5, Informative)

RivenAleem (1590553) | about a year ago | (#45582199)

If you assume an overnight conversion of 5% of America's population to Zombies (and not a gradual spread of infection) then you have 15.6 million survivors of 320 million people.

If only 1/3 of those people actively went hunting zombies, and managed to kill just one a day, All the zombies are dead in 2 months.

This is why I can't watch shows like The Walking Dead, where zombies are really easy to kill. The level of infection would never reach 95% in a real world scenario where you are required to be infected (by bite or scratch) and killed for it to spread.

According to Wikipedia, the US has an active manpower of almost 1.5 million people. When mobilised, It is safe to assume they with training and equipment they can kill at least 5 a day, meaning the epidemic is over in less than a fortnight.

Re:End of the Epidemic (3, Insightful)

swb (14022) | about a year ago | (#45582261)

What always bugs me about the zombie meme is the forced idea that heavy weapons are ineffective against them.

I can see where spraying an M-16 in full auto at a crowd of zombies would be ineffective, but I would think that anything above a medium machine gun would be fairly devastating. One you start talking 20mm or 30mm rotary barrel guns it's not hard to see a lot of dead zombies.

From there, stuff like any kind of conventional bomb, especially cluster bombs, seems like it would neutralize crowds of thousands very quickly.

Re:End of the Epidemic (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about a year ago | (#45582427)

well, usually the movies just rely on magic as the driving force behind the zombies anyways so whoopi doo.

like, usually their muscles don't require blood or any sort of energy to be transported to the muscles. it's just cheap lazy writing. works for a splatter and humor, not much for anything else.

Re:End of the Epidemic (2)

TheCarp (96830) | about a year ago | (#45583755)

You know what your criticizm of zombies makes me compare Zombies to.....dreams. It has been suggested that dreams provide a sort of "holodeck" where your mind can evaluate threats and train responses to them. There is seldom reason behind things, just situations. Whatever is scary can be brought up, and simulations can be run to find potential responses.

It doesn't matter why zombies showed up, or how they live. It doesn't matter why this guy is mugging you or why you showed up to work with no clothes on. You are here to evaluate responses and outcomes to the situation; not to question how you got here.

Zombies are perfect for that. No shortage of them to try things on, no need to feel bad about killing them, in fact, they are just mindless and a threat that needs to be dealt with. Exactly what you would expect in a dreamscape.

Re:End of the Epidemic (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about a year ago | (#45582505)

Part of the premise of zombie movies* is that the infrastructure for a conventional military response has collapsed by the time the threat is recognised. "Two vast and trunkless legs of stone", and all that.

Re:End of the Epidemic (1)

RivenAleem (1590553) | about a year ago | (#45582925)

Yeah, this is another one that really bothers me. Like the idea that zombies do not need to breath and cannot be drowned. As if their muscles do not need oxygen anymore to function.

Re:End of the Epidemic (1)

Ozymandias_KoK (48811) | about a year ago | (#45582947)

Hey now!

Re:End of the Epidemic (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about a year ago | (#45583819)

I woke a five digit user? Better get my affairs in order.

Re:End of the Epidemic (1)

Trepidity (597) | about a year ago | (#45582567)

That's a fairly typical monster-movie premise; same as Godzilla not being fazed by cruise missiles.

Re:End of the Epidemic (5, Informative)

charon69 (458608) | about a year ago | (#45583167)

"World War Z" (the book, not the movie) by Max Brooks actually covers this fairly well.

***Spoilers***

At least in my opinion, the zombies in WWZ are either some form of alien parasite, a nanite plague, or some equivalent mechanism that facilitates some rather severe changes in the zombies' biology. The internals have largely converted to a black, tar-like substance which appears to actually be providing the locomotive force. Gun shots, stab wounds, blunt beatings, etc. just pretty much don't do anything. They're spongy, soft, and simply absorb most impacts. There are no internal organs of any importance. The skeletal structure may or may not still be there, but any injury to it simply changes their mobility slightly. Their 100% immune to any bacterial, viral, or fungal infection, as whatever they've been transmuted into isn't compatible with local microbiology, so they don't rot or decay in any way, nor are do they appear susceptible to exposure. A zombie stuck in extended sub-freezing temperatures simply freezes solid and then thaws and returns to shambling around if and when temperatures increase. Trying to burn them is just as ineffective, as their new physiology has them slowly burn off their clothing and maybe an exterior layer of semi-normal-looking skin before the interior tar-substance makes the flames go out. To paraphrase the book, napalm is useless, as all you end up with is converting a bunch of slowly advancing zombies into a bunch of slowly advancing flaming zombies. And something else that the book goes into detail concerning is the complete and utter lack of fear. There is no such thing as using "shock and awe" tactics on something that literally doesn't care if it dies (since it's already dead anyway). The "Battle of Yonkers" shows this quite clearly, with the military using traditional tactics including large-scale artillery while the horde just continues advancing. A bomb might blow off a zombie's legs and throw it 20 feet to the side, but then the top half just starts clawing towards you again. Then you have the scale issues, as the numbers of infected eventually get so bad that those stuck up on the ISS can see them from space on the Midwest plains ebbing and flowing like herds of buffalo before Western colonization. And finally, you have the "call for help". The book describes the zombies calling to each other whenever "food" is located. And what's worse is that that sets off a chain reaction. Any zombie that hears a call-out will then call out again, so you have an ever-growing network effect where even just one zombie spotting you may be catastrophic. This lead to any roadway being a certain death trap. People would starve to death or dehydrate while trapped in their cars surrounded by zombies. The zombies never got to them, but then the person who died inside might become a zombie from latent infection. That car-trapped zombie then just became a standing warning signal. If somebody passed what appeared to be a deserted car on the road, and the trapped zombie noticed them, then it would call out, and any zombie in ear shot knew that dinner was served.

Tying this back to the original military-force problem, basically any military engagement would, therefore, draw enough attention that you were guaranteed a mass wave of them in a relatively short time frame. Combined with their nigh-invulnerability where literally *nothing* but a head shot was effective, and the military would simply run out of ammunition before they'd come close to dealing with the immediate threat.

Now I'm in no way saying that most zombie descriptions even come close to some of these details. And it's my understanding that Max Brooks' goal was to specifically modify the zombie milieu to account for any unbelievable aspect such as your assertion of military force being effective. So, yeah, in most cases you're right that artillery would probably work just fine. But if you're looking for somebody to try and actually make a *working* description of how a zombie plague might actually beat us, then try out the book. Avoid the movie, IMHO. It completely glosses over 90% of what I described above, which made it a standard, unbelievable scenario, unfortunately.

Re:End of the Epidemic (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45583419)

So they are aliens, then? Aliens that inhabit human bodies, but require nothing of the human structure for locomotion - no skeleton, no nerves, no muscles, no organs. Why, then, inhabit the body at all? Why not grass, trees or, hell, water or air? Why take any recognizable form at all? If you want to make an invincible enemy, have some stones and create one de novo. Why bother spending much time coming up with excuses and justifications when all you're gonna say, in the end, is "you can't kill them, so piss off and die?"

Re:End of the Epidemic (1)

charon69 (458608) | about a year ago | (#45583647)

Point taken.

Brooks does keep the infectious nature, however, so that's at least one possible explanation as to, "Why, then, inhabit a body at all?" If whatever the zombie plague *really* is requires an incubator, then there's your reason.

After full infection, Brooks' zombies seem to require little of the human physiology, but initial infection still requires a live human host for, effectively, reproduction.

Re:End of the Epidemic (1)

swb (14022) | about a year ago | (#45583615)

Bah, Max Brooks just creates a long winded explanation to make the rest of his story plausible, but it makes less sense when you actually look at real cluster munitions strikes or the damage a rotary-barrel machine gun can do, especially when you think of shooting them relatively level into a hoard. .50 caliber projectiles are big and heavy and capable of doing not just wounding damage, but structural damage to bones and possess enough energy to do this to multiple bodies at once. It only gets worse for zombies as you climb into larger munitions, many capable of fragmentation airbursts, designed for targets behind barricades or in buildings.

I think there's probably real tactical value to damaging zombies as much as possible -- a zombie missing his legs may still be capable of advancing but not like an actual zombie capable of bipedal motion. Many may actually be rendered immobile if they aren't actually killed.

And then I think of even simple mechanical machines. Look at a flail deminer -- it's basically a horizontal shaft with chains attached to heavy steel weights. It spins and pounds the ground in front of it to set off mines. Driving one of this into a hoard would simply shred the zombies. An even better effect would be the same kind of mechanism, but with the shaft horizontal and the weights spinning in the horizontal plane. Guaranteed to crush skulls.

Re:End of the Epidemic (3, Insightful)

charon69 (458608) | about a year ago | (#45583957)

Best I remember, Brooks' explanation for why your suggestion above proved ineffective is a combination of two things: 1) amount of ammunition available and 2) fear and confusion.

I absolutely agree that large-scale munitions are going to do structural damage to multiple targets. That's a given. Brooks' point was that it simply didn't do *enough* to stop a steadily-advancing horde with a large population difference between the attackers and defenders. If you have a thousand troops trying to fight off a million or more zombies, then the question becomes more about how quickly and effectively you're using those heavy munitions and are you slowing down their advance quickly enough with structural (rather than lethal) damage to keep them from overrunning your position.

Also, Brooks did keep the genre-standard of the concept of a "zombie" being largely absent from the collective awareness. Those previously-mentioned thousand troops, then, not only have to deal with the possibility of running out of ammo and not stopping the advance, but also the uncertainty of *why* their munitions seem to be so ineffective. Troops, not understanding what's going on, have their nerve break, and then you have collapsing formations and the zombies pushing a wedge through your protections.

With more experience later in the book where humans start pushing back (after years of learning what does and doesn't work), then military encounters *do* become effective with only slight modifications to their tactics. So you're speaking from their perspective, and you're right. It does work, and you can take down a massively-imbalanced zombie horde with even just a small, organized military force. But you have to know what you're doing first.

Re:End of the Epidemic (1)

operagost (62405) | about a year ago | (#45584481)

If the black, tar-like substance provides chemical energy, then it burns. I mean, it's certainly not providing a matter/antimatter, fission, or fusion reaction. So flamethrowers and napalm would be the best weapons.

Fail.

Re:End of the Epidemic (1)

ledow (319597) | about a year ago | (#45582297)

But if 1/3 of those zombie went active hunting for uninfected every day, they could wipe out the survivors in a matter of days.

Re:End of the Epidemic (4, Insightful)

Kaitiff (167826) | about a year ago | (#45582341)

I think you are overlooking the fact that EVERYONE is infected with a version of the zombie virus. It doesn't matter HOW you die, when you die you come back a zombie if any significant portion of your brain stem is intact. In a post-apocalyptic event there will be a significant percentage of people that die without a zombie doing the killing. The latest few episodes of The Walking Dead addresses this pretty well... a simple flu bug (albeit a nasty one) has a very high mortality rate, and sometimes within minutes of succumbing the dead rise up and attack the living. You are also assuming that everyone knows exactly what is going on and how to 'kill' the zombies. It always did aggravate me that there were no military enclaves that survived long term; they should have the training and perspicacity to remain organized enough to survive.

Re:End of the Epidemic (1)

Ozymandias_KoK (48811) | about a year ago | (#45583067)

The problem with The Walking Dead, at least the TV show (never read the comic) is that the writers are lazy and almost everything driving the show is a result of the near-parody level of stupidity typically shown by ALL the survivors. Building fires in the open? Camping out in tents? Not locking, or at least chaining cells of the people who could die from your mentioned virus at any minute and start eating you? Not going around armed at all times? At the end of the day, you simply have to accept that a zombie movie by definition isn't going to exhibit high levels of logic and reality. Hopefully they aren't egregiously bad such that it pulls you out of the story, but that's the risk you run.

Re:End of the Epidemic (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45582915)

Just shows that the original "Night of the Living Dead" predicted this. At the end of the movie there was a wrap up of the infected and all bodies were being burned.

zombies cant feed themselves (1)

globaljustin (574257) | about a year ago | (#45583237)

Walking Dead is horrible in every way save for some of the cinemetography and special f/x...and most other zombie films aren't much better.

Only 28 Days Later actually depicts the *end* of such an epidemic accurately.

Zombies can't prepare a meal, they can't grow food, their bodies don't function...

The fact that there could theoretically have been a discussion like this by actual funded PhD scientists is ludicrous to me, BTW...

Re:End of the Epidemic (1)

ducomputergeek (595742) | about a year ago | (#45583959)

It's more like 8M by the time you figure in law enforcement at all levels. And then there is the fact that there are over 100M households with firearms in the United States.

bleah (0)

cascadingstylesheet (140919) | about a year ago | (#45582203)

The current zombie obsession is loathsome and tiresome.

Gives a new meaning to "get a life".

Re:bleah (1)

gstoddart (321705) | about a year ago | (#45582675)

And this 'current zombie obsession' has more or less been happening in film since at least the 40's.

And as to why this would be more loathsome and tiresome than superhero movies, car chase movies, Disney movies or any other genre of film -- I have no idea.

It's a form of entertainment, some people like it, some people won't. The rest is mostly irrelevant.

I wonder if this can be used to model the spread o (-1, Troll)

Chrisq (894406) | about a year ago | (#45582209)

I wonder if this can be used to model the spread of Islam. very similar to the zombie situation - once turned they will be killed if they change back and have a mandate to kill or convert non muslims

Strange connections (1)

pla (258480) | about a year ago | (#45582223)

"This allows the interesting dynamic of escaping zombification by committing suicide [...] The researchers say exactly the same process of model-building, data gathering and simulation works equally well on real diseases such as influenza"

Y'know, We all know that sometimes the flu makes you feel like you'd rather die then spend five more minutes sick, but did TFA actually suggest (accidentally or not) suicide as a means of avoiding the flu?

"Stop-n'-Drop brand suicide booths: Better selling than Nyquil since 2017!"

friday (1)

Spaham (634471) | about a year ago | (#45582227)

what about the type that engulfs into the supermarkets on black friday ?

Re:friday (1)

nightsky30 (3348843) | about a year ago | (#45582405)

what about the type that engulfs into the supermarkets on black friday ?

I avoided that situation...well...like the plague ;)

Zombie nutrition (1)

Tekoneiric (590239) | about a year ago | (#45582247)

One thing I never see is that Zombies would eventually have to run out of energy if they don't get any food. The rate of zombie demise from starvation would need to figure into it. Eventually they will die from lack of food, water and electrolytes, the latter would immobilize their muscles. Zombies aren't known for having a balanced diet. Eating just meat wouldn't provide them the energy needed to keep going. Lying inert still uses energy.

Re:Zombie nutrition (1)

Culture20 (968837) | about a year ago | (#45582387)

Not true with magical zombies like from night of the living dead and army of darkness.

Re:Zombie nutrition (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45582395)

No.
Zombies don't exist, so science doesn't apply for them.
Zombies will just live forever if that is what the script calls for.
Otherwise, without breathing and a beating heart (being alive) zombies would run out of energy and stop being able to move minutes after dying.

Re:Zombie nutrition (1)

geekmux (1040042) | about a year ago | (#45582397)

One thing I never see is that Zombies would eventually have to run out of energy if they don't get any food. The rate of zombie demise from starvation would need to figure into it. Eventually they will die from lack of food, water and electrolytes, the latter would immobilize their muscles. Zombies aren't known for having a balanced diet. Eating just meat wouldn't provide them the energy needed to keep going. Lying inert still uses energy.

So for the sake of research based on "science", if we were to consider vampires in this model, would you consider Tom Cruise's survival characteristics in Interview with a Vampire an outlier?

If a vegan becomes a zombie, are they classified as a zombie if they continue to not desire meat? Are they technically a vegetable and not a zombie? If so, how do you feel self defense laws would apply in that scenario, since it is likely assumed that shotgun-to-the-face is perfectly legal for their meat-craving brethren...

Shit, I better stop now before this goes straight to plaid.

Re:Zombie nutrition (1)

Firethorn (177587) | about a year ago | (#45582539)

So for the sake of research based on "science", if we were to consider vampires in this model, would you consider Tom Cruise's survival characteristics in Interview with a Vampire an outlier?

Sure, there's always a few. Numerous species,including our own, have avoided outright extinction only by the survival of outliers. Evolution at it's harshest.

Re:Zombie nutrition (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about a year ago | (#45582515)

They're literally undergoing necrosis. I don't think a lack of energy is the main issue here.

Delayed Post (1)

gravis777 (123605) | about a year ago | (#45582255)

April 1st was 8 months ago.

In all seriouisness, I don't see how this relates to real-world data-gathering. Plugging data into an algorithim that you gathered on movie night while beer-drinking and smoking crack with your fraternity brothers is very different than gathering real data in real labs. It sounds like some students were just trying to justify a school project that let them have a zombie-movie marathon. I mean, if, as they say, the same model can be used to chart flu outbreaks, then why didn't they chart a flu outbreak? There is no rhyme or reason to Zombie movies, and most do not follow some established storyline or mythology. Trying to establish a pattern based on a bunch of disjointed movies may actually prove more difficult than using data for a real disease.

Sadly the main link is blocked for me, so I cannot see if there is any more information there. There may be more information there that clarifies what they are doing, but it all sounds rather pointless to me.

Re:Delayed Post (4, Informative)

Sarten-X (1102295) | about a year ago | (#45582597)

The summary is crap.

The mathematical model that describes conventional epidemics is known as the susceptible- infected-recovered model. Individuals start off being uninfected but susceptible. When they come into contact with the disease, they become infected. And when they recover, they return to the general population but are no longer susceptible.

Back in 2009, researchers used this approach to build a simple model of zombie apocalypses. It suggests that zombies, once cured, return to the population to live out the rest of their years. And although no longer infectious, they are still zombies.

So a proper mathematical model of zombie epidemics has to allow for [zombie destruction]. Indeed, death is a potential outcome in many diseases so this kind of model better represents what goes in in the real world too.

In other words, most epidemic models assume a high chance of recovery and a low chance of reinfection. In some cases, fortunately rare in the real world, these assumptions don't hold true. The researchers therefore worked out a model that allows the infected to die permanently, then validated their methods using Markov Chain Monte Carlo simulations based off of information pulled from zombie movies.

The old model would accurately describe a flu outbreak, where a single strain of influenza runs through the population, but pretty much everyone survives and is then immune to reinfection. A worst-case epidemic, where a rapidly-mutating strain repeatedly infects the population with a high mortality rate, is better suited to this new model.

Re:Delayed Post (1)

gravis777 (123605) | about a year ago | (#45582743)

Mod parent up

Re:Delayed Post (1)

gstoddart (321705) | about a year ago | (#45582747)

In all seriouisness, I don't see how this relates to real-world data-gathering.

Except, it says it right there in the summary:

The research isn't entirely frivolous. The researchers say exactly the same process of model-building, data gathering and simulation works equally well on real diseases such as influenza. So their approach is a useful teaching tool for budding epidemiologists of the future.

In other words, while the subject matter is somewhat silly from a real-world perspective, modelling the epidemiology and the like is still sound.

All you really need to be doing is modelling something based on definable parameters (which become the variables you tweak to see how badly it hits everyone).

Short of making up a notional disease, assigning characteristics to it, and going from there -- it seems like picking one that most people can understand but which still gives you valid modelling would be an entirely reasonable approach.

And, really, there's probably more interest in their work now than if it had been on something else. In which case, more people will read it, comment on it, and then refine it. And that, oddly enough, is how we do science for the most part.

Seriously... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45582263)

...can someone explain to me this (american) obsession with zombies?

Re:Seriously... (1)

cripkd (709136) | about a year ago | (#45582393)

And vampires, let's not forget the vampires.

Re:Seriously... (1, Offtopic)

SternisheFan (2529412) | about a year ago | (#45583097)

...can someone explain to me this (american) obsession with zombies?

I can't explain it, for me it was just a weird cult film from the 1970's, pure 'safe' entertainment. Why do people pay to go on rollercoasters, but wouldn't want to get on on a commuter train if they knew it would crash? I did some googling and found these explanations. the first from LiveScience ...

The reason for this popularity may trace back to an unexpected source, according to a new analysis: In fact, zombies may be helping us cope with the aftermath of World War II.

"We use fictional narratives not only to emotionally cope with the possibility of impending doom, but even more importantly perhaps to work through the ethical and philosophical frameworks that were in many ways left shattered in the wake of WWII," Stanford literary scholar Angela Becerra Vidergar said in a statement.

Vidergar, a doctoral student in comparative literature, analyzed mass disaster stories in pop culture for her dissertation. She found that mass disasters such as the Holocaust, Hiroshima and Nagasaki opened up new realizations about the human capacity for violence, casting doubt about the upsides of modernized society.

"Instead," Vidergar said, "we are left with this cultural fixation on fictionalizing our own death, very specifically mass-scale destruction."

Predictions about the end times are nothing new, of course. Doomsday believers have been promising that the end is near for centuries, with the December 2012 "Mayan apocalypse" just one in a long line of failed predictions.

In the aftermath of traumatic events like World War II and the Sept. 11, 2011, terrorist attacks, interest seems to spike, Vidergar said. Shows like the National Geographic Channel's "Doomsday Preppers" profile people who go beyond pondering the end and start planning for it.

Though few real-world preppers worry about zombies, fantasies about the zombie apocalypse make up a large chunk of post-apocalyptic pop culture, Vidergar found.

Shows like AMC's "The Walking Dead" and movies like 2007's "28 Weeks Later" help people work through how they'd act in a survivalist situation, she said.

"Zombies are important as a reflection of ourselves," Vidergar said. "The ethical decisions that the survivors have to make under duress and the actions that follow those choices are very unlike anything they would have done in their normal state of life."

What's more, Vidergar said, zombie apocalypse tales actually invoke hope amidst destruction and death, as survivors battle for their lives.

"Even if as a society we have lost a lot of our belief in a positive future and instead have more of an idea of a disaster to come, we still think that we are survivors, we still want to believe that we would survive," Vidergar said. http://www.livescience.com/27287-zombie-apocalypse-world-war-ii.html [livescience.com]

And from http://www.policymic.com/articles/29334/the-walking-dead-why-are-americans-so-obsessed-with-zombies [policymic.com]

In order to understand the connection between zombie movies and American unhappiness, we have to start at the beginning. The first popular zombie movie was in 1968, a tumultuous year in American politics with the Vietnam War, the unrest at the Democratic Convention, and the general malaise of the 1960s. The film, (which, incidentally, was one of the first movies to have a black man play a lead character), “terrified” audiences around the country with its portrayal of huge mobs eating all they come into contact with and destroying society in a blithering mass. The film’s iconic images of the dead, staring blankly into the eyes of horrified survivors, are not hard to tie to the growing disconnect between the youth and the more established generations, the fear of collectivist Communism, and even the increasing presence of marketing and consumer culture. But what gives now, during the modern resurgence (or, if you will. resurrection) of zombie culture?

“We are more interested in the zombie at times when as a culture we feel disempowered,” Lauro said. “And the facts are there that, when we are experiencing economic crises, the vast population is feeling disempowered Either playing dead themselves or watching a show like Walking Dead provides a great variety of outlets for people.”

The United States, while not yet in a zombie apocalypse, is certainly in decline. With incredible income inequality and incidence of unemployment, the country’s former standards of economic achievement and quality of life seem further away. The dehumanization that comes from falling so far away from one’s original expectations is not hard to attribute, as Lauro suggests, to a greater feeling that we’re all, in a sense, dead inside. We can only hope that America’s economic and cultural prospects are not as dead as the zombies that represent them in our collective psyche.

you FAIL It (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45582319)

community. The You can. When the The Mundane chores since we made the

yoda (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45582971)

yoda, one too many uh?

Three group clarification (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about a year ago | (#45582335)

those who are susceptible to disease
those who are infected
those who recover, return to the population and are no longer susceptible.

What about the ones who die?

To clarify:

1. Individuals not yet infected with the disease, or those susceptible to the disease
2. Individuals who have been infected with the disease and are capable of spreading the disease to those in the susceptible category
3. Those individuals who have been infected and then removed from the disease, due to either immunization or death

Re:Three group clarification (1)

Sarten-X (1102295) | about a year ago | (#45582607)

That's the point of the research. The usual model assumes low mortality. These researchers created a model that works for epidemics with high mortality.

Re:Three group clarification (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about a year ago | (#45582721)

What about the ones who die?

What about them? They're no longer part of the population, so irrelevant to any discussion dividing the population into groups.

Enough with the Zombies (4, Insightful)

gsslay (807818) | about a year ago | (#45582339)

I think I've said it before, but it only keeps getting truer.

The whole "let's pretend that zombies are real" lark got old very quickly. It was hardly hilarious at first and now it's just very unoriginal.

Maybe we leave it where it belongs in the realms of fiction now, and get back to researching/discussing actual diseases that affect real people?

Re:Enough with the Zombies (1)

gsslay (807818) | about a year ago | (#45582345)

Or at the very least, come up with a new joke. We've heard this one.

Re:Enough with the Zombies (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45582415)

and get back to researching/discussing actual diseases that affect real people?

Real diseases like the belief in zombies? That one seems to be at least as contagious as any zombie disease, and turns the victims into mindless husks who do nothing but lust for more zombie fiction.

Waitaminute...

It isn't about zombies (2)

Sockatume (732728) | about a year ago | (#45582491)

The "zombie" research is from 2009. The 2013 paper is about applying that methodology (including estimating the parameters from vague and inconsistent sources) to influenza. Of course TFS misses this.

Still Utterly Pointless (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45583007)

The whole thing is based on complete fiction. It cannot be extrapolated to real life infections and epidemics.

This is no different than me saying that my analysis of Unicorn population expansion and distribution due to flying Narwhal cross-breeding with mules(!) is an effective methodology for studying influenza, or ANYTHING. It is an absurd and completely fictitious fantasy. Nothing more!

Re:Still Utterly Pointless (3, Interesting)

Sockatume (732728) | about a year ago | (#45583799)

The zombie study was itself based upon basic and well-accepted work in epidemiological forecasting. They're just closing the circle.

Re:Still Utterly Pointless (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45584035)

There are two different concepts being conflated.

1. Take a real phenomenon, observe, try developing a formula to describe it, then adjust variables and observe other possible outcomes or problems in the formula. This "could" be used for epidemiological forecasting.

2. Take a real phenomenon, observe, try developing a formula to describe it, throw in a bunch of completely random shit(zombies or unicorns)(salt [wikipedia.org] ), then adjust variables and observe other possible outcomes. This is cryptographic hashing with the likely result that the hash is a one-time pad(meaning it's unique and not reversible) which is utterly useless for epidemiological forecasting.

The only circle being closed is a Zombie circlejerk!

Re:Enough with the Zombies (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45582521)

Don't listen to this guy, it's an obvious cover up from the government. You know, one day the infection will be so widely spread that the authorities won't be able to hide it anymore.

Re:Enough with the Zombies (0)

LWATCDR (28044) | about a year ago | (#45582569)

I blame World War Z and the idiots that loved the book. It was pure cliche from start to finish.
The military always fights the last war.
People with no military experience know more than the military.
The Military used the most complex and expensive solution.
The Military does not listen to the grunts that do the actual fighting.
Eating meat is bad.

Re:Enough with the Zombies (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45582603)

I think I've said it before, but it only keeps getting truer.

The whole "let's pretend that zombies are real" lark got old very quickly. It was hardly hilarious at first and now it's just very unoriginal.

Unfortunately, for far too many members of a generation now in its 30s or so, a crippling addiction to media is quite literally the only thing they understand. If they lose that, they lose everything they have, and then we'd have to put up with a bunch of 30-year-olds crying like toddlers every time the scant few of us with real-world perspectives and senses of responsibility go down to get some damn coffee.

Re:Enough with the Zombies (1)

Agares (1890982) | about a year ago | (#45582735)

I agree with this completely. The whole Zombie thing has been going on since I was in high school, and quite frankly I am very tired of it already.

I third the motion if there is such a thing (1)

Marrow (195242) | about a year ago | (#45584149)

Zombie movies are written by screenwriters that hate writing dialog or developing characters. Kinda hard to have zombie dialog.
"Hey, how's it going?" / "Brains"
"Oh, I see, and your familiy?" / "Brains!" (more emphasis)
"Been a pretty tough year huh?" / "Brains!!! (scream)
"Yeah, I am right there with ya pal"

Ig Nobel (2)

lagomorpha2 (1376475) | about a year ago | (#45582355)

Sounds like someone is trying really really hard for an Ig Nobel.

Supernatural vs. Pathological zombies (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | about a year ago | (#45582579)

The "everyone who dies becomes a zombie" type is what's more commonly referred to as supernatural zombies...when they die they become zombies because magic. A highly contagious disease that lies dormant and only causes the rabies-like symptoms to appear when the host is near death could provide a hard sci-fi explanation for it.

sigh... can we move on from Zombies now please? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45582631)

I know the marketers of the world would disagree, but I think the zombie world is tapped out. Let's try something else for awhile and come back in about 10 years, shall we?

The two types are... (1)

FlopEJoe (784551) | about a year ago | (#45582741)

... Duh... fast walkers and slow walkers. Geesh we've known this for ages!

Real zombie movies (1)

Curunir_wolf (588405) | about a year ago | (#45583107)

What is a "real zombie movie?" Do we compare this to fake zombie movies?

It hurts to read! (1)

Digital Vomit (891734) | about a year ago | (#45584059)

This generally involves three populations of individuals: those who are susceptible to disease, those who are infected and those who recover, return to the population and are no longer susceptible.

For goodness' sake, learn to comma!

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