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‘Zombie apocalypse’ would wipe out humankind in just 100 days

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Physics students explore feasibility of surviving viral infection

January 5, 2017
University of Leicester
A student study suggests that one hundred days after zombie infection spread less than 300 people would remain alive globally. After one hundred days human survivors would be outnumbered a million to one by zombies. Students worked on the assumption that a zombie would have a 90% probability of turning others into the undead. However, factoring in humans killing zombies and human reproduction rates, world’s population would eventually be able to recover.

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 University of Leicester.

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 from the University of Leicester Department of Physics and Astronomy suggest that by day one hundred there 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 University’s Department of Physics and Astronomy. 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.

As part of the formula, the students looked at S (the susceptible population), Z (the zombie population) and D (the dead population), suggesting that the average lifespan of a zombie would be S to Z to D.

They also examined the time frame over which individuals in the population encounter one another.

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.

The team factored in how over time survivors may also be less likely to become infected after having experience of avoiding or fending off zombies.

They found 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.

Course tutor, Dr Mervyn Roy, a lecturer in the University of Leicester’s Department of Physics and Astronomy, said: “Every year we ask students to write short papers for the Journal of Physics Special Topics. It lets the students show off their creative side and apply some of physics they know to the weird, the wonderful, or the everyday.”

Story Source:

Materials provided by University of Leicester. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Science Daily

23 Comments on "‘Zombie apocalypse’ would wipe out humankind in just 100 days"

  1. onlooker on Fri, 6th Jan 2017 7:00 am 

    What a crud, we all have really things to be concerned about and this cmon give us a break. Oh and notice they said hypothetical “investigated the spread of a hypothetical zombie virus “

  2. Cloggie on Fri, 6th Jan 2017 7:55 am 

    Ah the smell of differential equations! Gives me fond memories to my university years when struggling with Lagrangian dynamics applied to forces and torques on wind rotor blades. Had a copy of this one on my desk:

    Once you had a model, the next step was to turn it into a numerical CSMP simulation program and play with it to optimize parameters.

    You can apply that method to everything, including wiping out humanity with viruses (which in Dutch sounds like “four Russians”).

    You don’t want to know how many here (not me) secretly hope that these “four Russians” will show up as they would solve a lot of “environmental problems”.

  3. forbin on Fri, 6th Jan 2017 8:46 am 

    world’s population would eventually be able to recover.

    from 300 ?

    new meaning to “This is SPARTA! ”

    sorry couldnt resist….

  4. peakyeast on Fri, 6th Jan 2017 9:54 am 

    It is not often it happens… but I find could have done better by not choosing to post this article.

  5. penury on Fri, 6th Jan 2017 10:44 am 

    There are possibly worse time wasters than articles like this, for instance you could read the NYT or WAPO and find even more interesting fantasies.

  6. Sissyfuss on Fri, 6th Jan 2017 11:31 am 

    Must be a lot free time on hand at the U of Lei. Studying unicorns and searching for Bigfoot next on the agenda.

  7. Cloggie on Fri, 6th Jan 2017 11:34 am 

    Not to mention Atlantis and the Holy Grail.

  8. peripato on Fri, 6th Jan 2017 6:01 pm 

    Typical flatland thinking. Ignore the actual existential threats coming our way, all driven by population overshoot, and focus on things that will never come to be – aliens, giant meteor strike, zombie apocalypse etc.

  9. peripato on Fri, 6th Jan 2017 6:07 pm 

    I also like the obligatory hope at the end of this drivel (people are spending research money on this?!) that kick-ass human animals will prevail, no matter what. Even the death of the sun is no problem for this creative monkey in their mind it seems. More typical flatland thinking.

  10. Cloud9 on Sat, 7th Jan 2017 1:16 pm 

    The Great Mortality is an interesting read. Europe lost upwards to half its population. So, like asteroid impacts and solar flares, these events are rare, a viral outbreak that took down civilization is certainly possible.
    Inasmuch as the government to include the military, Home Land Security and the CDC all have plans to deal with a zombie apocalypse, such an event should not be dismissed out of hand. Once you come to realize that the word zombie is simply a metaphor for the desperate and therefore dangerous golden horde you begin to understand why DHS bought all that ammo.

  11. Cloggie on Sat, 7th Jan 2017 1:39 pm 

    More typical flatland thinking.

    More flatland thinking:

    Life wouldn’t end if electricity production would be reduced to 1/3. Far from it.


  12. efarmer on Sat, 7th Jan 2017 1:57 pm 

    I see the zombie virus threat as minimal, but perhaps while we contemplate it we find out it is really false news from the bogeyman and it allows the bogeyman to get the drop on us. If that happens there is a long shot at protection, get a bag of cheetohs, crush the curls and apply the powder to your face.
    One guy that did this has outstanding protection from rotating city police as well as the very best federal agents working in tandem.

  13. GregT on Sat, 7th Jan 2017 2:12 pm 


    There were 3.7 billion humans on the planet in 1970 Cloggie. Less than half as many as today.

  14. Cloggie on Sat, 7th Jan 2017 2:37 pm 

    I was talking about the Netherlands where population didn’t double since 1970. My point is that if Western countries all of a sudden would have 2/3 less electricity available, the world won’t stop turning and life will continue, albeit in a lower gear.

    Should actually be an attractive proposition for you 😉

    Regarding the global situation: we are not Atlas designed to carry the weight of the entire world on our shoulders. If they breed excessively then they have to bear the consequences.

    We have wiped the a* of the third world since the sixties, pumping billions and billions of development aid, only enabling them to grow in ever larger numbers. Perhaps Mother Nature should take over.

  15. GregT on Sat, 7th Jan 2017 2:43 pm 

    “If they breed excessively then they have to bear the consequences.”

    ‘They’ are human beings Cloggie, just like you and I. Overpopulation is a planetary problem. We humans are all in this together. There isn’t an imaginary force field around the Netherlands. Sorry to burst your bubble.

  16. peakyeast on Sat, 7th Jan 2017 4:38 pm 

    In short the article says:

    If we assume everything – the result can be anything.

  17. JuanP on Sat, 7th Jan 2017 11:43 pm 

    Cloggie “My point is that if Western countries all of a sudden would have 2/3 less electricity available, the world won’t stop turning and life will continue, albeit in a lower gear.”
    If everyone in the Western world died today the world won’t stop turning and life will continue, albeit in a lower gear. Most of the rest of humanity would be really glad to see this happen and it wouldn’t change things much in the long run. We would still end up destroying the biosphere; it would just take us a couple of decades longer.

  18. Cloggie on Sun, 8th Jan 2017 3:32 am 

    If everyone in the Western world died today the world won’t stop turning and life will continue, albeit in a lower gear. Most of the rest of humanity would be really glad to see this happen and it wouldn’t change things much in the long run.

    OK, well at least we have that one straight.

    Well maybe that life in that Lilly-white (88%, much whiter than the US) enclave Uruguay of yours wouldn’t change too much (provided you can keep the desperate hordes from Brasil out), but for much of the rest of the world it would be disaster.

    You are not entirely white, right JuanP? And that is enough for you to gloat about the (imaginary) demise of white people. Proving my point that it is an extremely bad idea to mix different groups of people, who at some point will go at each others throat.

    ‘They’ are human beings Cloggie, just like you and I. Overpopulation is a planetary problem. We humans are all in this together.

    So what? And you (pretend to) volunteer to come to the aid of the third world billions from your private safe space complete with solar panels, deep in the Canadian forest, as far away from other people as possible? LMAO.

    Already managed to sell your private plane, Greg? Did you already visit the Amazon rain forest and Picchu Machu as you said you intended to do?

  19. makati1 on Sun, 8th Jan 2017 5:14 am 

    GregT, Cloggie is just jealous that you live in a safer place than he does. That is also why he puts me down. We will have the last laugh.

  20. Cloggie on Sun, 8th Jan 2017 5:35 am 

    I used to think that Cloggie was playing devil’s advocate, but the more he plays his little games, the more I would have to agree with you. Troll, with a capital T.

    Whooptido, the gloves are off. I really pissed you off during our last confrontation about whether or not a 100% renewable energy base can exist or not, did I. And now that I have a diverging opinion, denying the inevitability of humanity being wiped out in 120 years, as you claim will happen, I must be demonized as a “troll”. Congratulations, it took you five years to figure that out, but you finally saw me through, chapeau!

    Seriously, the most likely reason why you have such an angry attitude is because you have build your entire (later part of your) life around this mind set. Exactly like makati. The only difference is that you are not willing to break the bonds with your family. And when somebody comes along with a different opinion, he inevitably is a threat to your excessive doomerish world view. Your reaction is analogous to an old-school communist who is being told that central planning sucks. Or a Muslim who is told that sky daddies like Allah are nothing but a brain fart. All their life-long intellectual and emotional investments are declared of null value, so obviously they revolt against the “capitalist imperialist”/”infidel”. I suspect that you broadcasted your doom-opinions to far more people than just your immediate family & friends. Comparable to ShortOnOil. They could very well be part of your income (author, public speaker, columnist, whatever) and as such essential for your personal (economic) survival. That’s why you are so mad.
    In Internet slang, a troll (/ˈtroʊl/, /ˈtrɒl/) is a person who sows discord on the Internet by starting arguments or upsetting people, by posting inflammatory,[1] extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community (such as a newsgroup, forum, chat room, or blog) with the intent of provoking readers into an emotional response[2] or of otherwise disrupting normal, on-topic discussion,[3] often for the troll’s amusement.

    [part 1]

  21. Cloggie on Sun, 8th Jan 2017 5:36 am 

    Let me see…

    inflammatory/discord – over the past five years the people who invested most time on this board are Davy, makati, Rockman and you Greg. I can’t remember to ever have insulted any one of those four with personal name calling, like a*hole. It is only that lately I began to be irritated by the incessant gloating of makati about the demise of the US and the West (which implicates his own family) that I began to tease him a little (I still don’t consider makati my enemy). It is true that if I am attacked below the belt (Friday comes to mind) that I respond vigorously and, I admit, not entirely without joy in the verbal battle. But for the rest the opinions I have and express here are based on a life-long experience and reading and conversing and have nothing to do with “trolling”.

    Again a short summary of my opinions, all repetitions of what I have said before. It all began for me with the Report of the Club of Rome in 1973, which had a deep impact on my society and me. A few years later I went to college and made the decision to “help doing something about it”. For years I worked on solar cells, wind turbines and storage of seasonal heat. I would have probably done that until today, until in the US Reagan came to power and the entire environmental movement bled dry, certainly in US-colony Holland. I couldn’t find a relevant job anymore, so I decided to jump on the IT-bandwagon (mortgage, girlfriends and stuff). Until today. I was a leftist liberal-leaning (money-oriented) yuppie for two decades, until in 2005 I discovered Heinberg and rediscovered my original field of interest. I began to post on forums, first and when they closed shop I went to (Jan 2012 I believe) and in parallel began an energy blog. I was fully convinced of the truth of the ASPO-2000/Heinberg message: peakoil and the end of industrial society was immanent and by 2015 we would all begin to feel the impact. Nothing of the sort happened or likely will happen during our lifetimes. It was exactly the rason why the oildrum closed down. They counted the beans an realized that the ASPO-2000 message (everything downhill after 2015) would not materialize. Or rather: peak conventional oil would not be a watershed event. Since I have been focused on renewable energy all my life (since the mid-seventies), I missed the fracking potential completely until it actually happened, with benevolent flanking comments by Rockman.

    I must admit that I have been severely burned by this peak oil fiasco and am weary about stampeding in yet another potential illusion swamp, like GW and CC could be. Nobody talks about peak oil anymore. So the fact that there is now yet another subsidized global group of people making a living of outlandish horror stories makes me suspicious. Not to mention leftist politicians who smell the potential for global governance and jetting from one CC conference to the next.

    [part 2]

  22. Cloggie on Sun, 8th Jan 2017 5:37 am 

    Summarizing my tentative opinions:

    – Peak Oil 2015 probably happened, sort of
    – There is solid reason to assume that there is for centuries worth of fossil fuel in the earth’s crust that could be exploited with new technology (not that we should), ensuring we won’t run out of fossil fuel halting transition efforts.
    – Renewable energy has the potential to phase out fossil fuel completely; it will take decades for Europe and longer for the rest, but it can be done. And it should be done. There are no laws of physics stopping us. And with every passing year the quality and effectiveness of renewable technology will increase and at some point supersede non-conventional fossil fuel, if it doesn’t do so already under favorable circumstances:
    – Global warming is an undisputed fact, 1 C already over the previous century and perhaps another 1 C in the cards. The question is what causes it. CO2? Very well possible but not 100% sure. And even more important: is a little GW really that bad? It would require less fossil fuel for space heating. Also undisputed is that increased levels of CO2 means vastly increased vegetation (CO2 air fertilizer and ever more applied in commercial green houses). That’s good, a greener planet, right?
    – Overpopulation (in the third world) is very real and indeed a mortal threat for our (European) civilization, as hundreds of millions of third world “deplorables” will seek a better life, they can’t create themselves, with their former white masters, aided by the EU leftist lackeys of the US empire of warmongers (that empire can’t be auto-destroyed fast enough. At least the Russians and Chinese don’t require us Europeans to phase ourselves out of existence, but then they are not (c.q. no longer) ruled by the Zionist mob that has the US in an iron grip, something that Greg understands better than anybody else here).
    – Collapse. I no longer think that resource depletion and CC/GW will have a severe impact on any of us during the remainder of our life times. Nevertheless the possibility of catastrophe in our life time is very real. The West is aging and its elite (including most posters on this green-leftist forum and certainly Greg) embraced fatal egalitarian humanitarian values. The Western elite has basically signed its own suicide note. That may be a cause of joy for JuanP, but the western “deplorables”, denounced by the elites as “populists” , are not amused. And they are going to revolt. With arms. The collapse of the US-Western empire will therefore be much bloodier than the collapse of that other commie shithole, the USSR. And likely will lead to the dismemberement of the US and the rest of Anglosphere. Now that’s a collapse possibility to chew on. You think Syria/Yugoslavia/Ukraine can’t happen to you? Think again. The idea that hostilities will be initiated after Trump or a financial collapse are far more realistic than that 120 year remaining life-span of humanity, Greg thinks will happen. And that CW-2.0 will be bloody, think millions of deaths. That’s the collapse you should prepare for, not that silly 2 mm sea level rise/year.

    For the rest you can stick your troll-accusations in a place where the sun doesn’t shine and better concentrate on a more constructive attitude, rather than giving in to boundless nihilism and retreating in the forest.

    [part 3]

  23. Davy on Sun, 8th Jan 2017 6:05 am 

    Clog, I am glad you are here. I appreciate your technical impute. I accept you even though we see differently. I hope some of what you have to say has a future. I feel you are hopelessly into hopium and your adapted sky daddy technology to me is a false prophet. Yet, hope is what gets us out of bed in the morning and technology provides the hot coffee. I am just suspect of too much technology. I cannot embrace hopium completely with such an uncertain future. I might add an uncertain future well documented by science. I find denial of death a handicap and that is what excessive hopium is in the end.

    I attack optimism not because it is bad but because current optimism is weak when it comes to the truth. Today the truth is painful and so many people don’t want pain and suffering. They don’t want decay and decline. They want happiness and a future. Do you ever see a sad commercial without any hope, hell no. We can have an adapted and realistic happiness and a realistic future if we learn to live with the pain and suffering. We can have these things if we reject fantasy and get tough. Everyday above ground is a good day. The very best of man comes out in the worst of times. Seek out your higher nature but accept your mortality and nothingness.

    I am glad you are here clog unlike many board assholes at least you have manners. You are not a populist loving weak individual. Many here says things because their personal life is a failure so they seek out a sick companionship of sorts. Clog, you have a good life and reason to be optimistic. You are correct to be optimistic and part of the European effort to beat the odds. I think you all will fail but I hope you will win and spread your winning ways.

    I don’t agree with your racism and many of your history revisions. Yet, I agree we need to limit immigration and some segregation is advisable in a world in material decline and overpopulation. I feel 20th history is a failure and mainly a European failure. Yes, the Anglosphere is your bastard child. I feel 20th century history is now irrelevant so your dissertations fall on my deaf ears. Stick around clog I am your friend. Screw your enemies many of whom are my enemies.

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