Pages Menu
Categories Menu

Posted by on Aug 18, 2009 in Epidemiology, Infectious diseases, Popular culture

Imaginary Pathophilia Goes Viral!

Imaginary Pathophilia Goes Viral!


Sweeping the web with lightening speed, unlike the glacial pace of a classical zombie!

News of the newly available, When Zombies Attack!: Mathematical Modelling of an Outbreak of Zombie Infection, by 4 Canadian mathematicians. Their mothers, despite the authors’ statistically probable dateless existences,* must be so proud. The web server for the University of Ottawa math department is inundated, just like the Winchester pub in Shaun of the Dead!

For the mathematically unsophisticated, the bulk of the paper is a blur of italicized English or Greek letters and a few arabic numbers, organized by the obligatory parens, brackets, and braces. The occasional chart and what look like electrical diagrams (really model flow diagrams) make the paper unreadable to the ignorant. At least, until the amusing Discussion section.

Making a half-hearted nod to similarities between a zombie attack and an of-this-world biologic pandemic, the authors conclude, “An outbreak of zombies infecting humans is likely to be disastrous, unless extremely aggressive tactics are employed against the undead.” Eradicating the zombies, which requires removing the head or destroying the brain, is not predicted by their formulasunless attacks are “sufficiently frequent” and with “increasing force.”

The best possible scenario is humans coexisting with zombies in some kind of equilibrium. The 2 big problems with zombie-ism are that a) there is no immunity and b) the dead can always rise. Also, if the zombie attack is prolonged, the authors predict that zombies will completely eradicate humans; ongoing human births and deaths will provide the zombies with a limitless supply of infectees. (But this doomsday scenario begs the question: What happens when the world is populated solely by zombies?)

The authors propose that their mathematical models may be applied practically to cases of “allegiance to political parties” (heh-heh, way to slide one in) or infectious diseases with a dormant phase.

* Okay, I really have no idea. The authors could be totally cool operators, with children (ie, zombie noshes) peppering the globe.

Zombies from Night of the Living Dead from Wikipedia.

Addendum: The “?” after the anchor author’s name (Robert J. Smith?) is evidently not a typo.

bmartin (1127 Posts)

A native East Tennessean, Barbara Martin is a formerly practicing, board-certified neurologist who received her BS (psychology, summa cum laude) and MD from Duke University before completing her postgraduate training (internship, residency, fellowship) at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. She has worked in academia, private practice, medical publishing, drug market research, and continuing medical education (CME). For the last 3 years, she has worked in a freelance capacity as a medical writer, analyst, and consultant. Follow Dr. Barbara Martin on and Twitter.