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Medicine

Mathematical Model of Zombie Epidemics Reveals Two Types of Living-Dead Strains 163

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the brraaiinnss dept.
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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Mathematical Model of Zombie Epidemics Reveals Two Types of Living-Dead Strains

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  • hehe (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @05:01AM (#45582043)

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

    • Re:hehe (Score:5, Funny)

      by ketomax (2859503) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @05:29AM (#45582105)
      Somebody needs to do some number crunching on real vampire television series and then overlay the two data sets
    • Re:hehe (Score:5, Funny)

      by Lueseiseki (1189513) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @05:40AM (#45582141)
      So are you trying to tell me Zombieland wasn't a documentary about the Twinkie shortage and Bill Murray's dying showbiz career?
      • I take exception with you describing Bill Murray's showbiz career as dying. What other SNL cast member has had as many successful movie roles as Bill Murray? Nobody.
        • by Raenex (947668)

          I guess it's how you define successful, but Eddie Murphy had a better career, especially in his prime. But like Murray, he bottomed out too. Murphy had the donkey in Shrek, anyways, and Murray had the leading role in Lost in Translation. That's about it for anything of note for the two of them for a long time.

    • good god where are mod points when needed. "Real zombie movies" is among the better laughs I have had lately!
    • by TWiTfan (2887093)

      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.

      • by fredklein (532096)

        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 st

        • by g0bshiTe (596213)
          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.
    • by plopez (54068)

      For the definitive documentary on zombies see ""American Zombie" http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0765430/ [imdb.com]

  • by Victor Tramp (5336) <info.ross154@net> on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @05:05AM (#45582047) Homepage

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

  • by Chris Katko (2923353) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @05:17AM (#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.
    • 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,

  • by korbulon (2792438) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @05:43AM (#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: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      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 ex

    • 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 d

    • 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 ta

      • by korbulon (2792438) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @09:44AM (#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.

    • by g0bshiTe (596213)
      I agree it's no different than the Red Cross sanctioning "Zombie Apocalypse" style events.

      http://redcrosschat.org/2012/05/15/its-true-zombies-love-the-red-cross/

      The Red Cross isn't the only group to capitalize on the ZA bandwagon to raise awareness.

      http://trackerspdx.com/zombie-apocalypse/zombie-first-responder.php#.Up4EZYZtyY4
  • by fruey (563914) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @06:08AM (#45582195) Homepage Journal

    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 (Score:5, Informative)

    by RivenAleem (1590553) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @06:10AM (#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.

    • by swb (14022) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @06:38AM (#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.

      • by gl4ss (559668)

        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.

        • by TheCarp (96830)

          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. Yo

      • by Sockatume (732728)

        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.

      • by Trepidity (597)

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

      • by charon69 (458608) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @09:17AM (#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.

        • by swb (14022)

          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 zo

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by charon69 (458608)

            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 millio

            • by dkf (304284)

              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.

              In other words, he's a hack who's just making it up as he goes along and who doesn't want (for reasonable story purposes) to have "And then the military came along and blew up all the zombies. The End." as the second paragraph in his book.

          • 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.

            Hmm. Your ideas are intriguing to me and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter.

      • I saw a Webcomic that tackled that issue head on: http://www.the-whiteboard.com/autotwb1281.html [the-whiteboard.com]

        A Zombie Apocalypse means "Fully Justifiable Carnage!"

    • by ledow (319597)

      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.

    • by Kaitiff (167826) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @07:08AM (#45582341) Homepage

      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.

      • 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

      • by keytoe (91531)

        You are also assuming that everyone knows exactly what is going on and how to 'kill' the zombies.

        What has always struck me the most about any zombie movie I've seen is the fact that they all take place in an alternate universe that has never created any zombie movies.

        Never once in one of these movies has anyone ever said "Oh shit! It's a zombie outbreak! Well, this should be pretty straightforward." No, it's always "Oh God, what's going on?! Let's spend the first act figuring it out!"

    • 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...

    • 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.

    • 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.

      I think you are misunderstanding The Walking Dead and some human anatomy. Humans are remarkably easy to injure or kill, just look at the Black Friday deaths and injuries. In addition, the mythos of that particular series is that everyone is infected with whatever virus. A bite simply speeds up the process, any time anyone dies for any reason they become a zombie. Those 1.5 million people cannot cover the entire country effectively, but they may have some ground in major population centers. You are still fac

    • 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.

      Unfortunately most of those kills per day would be living humans rather than dead zombies.

      A lot of people seem to think that the zombie genre is about the zombies. That's the material for the low pulp material like comic books and B-grade gore movies that buy blood in bulk. Oh look at how horrific zombies are! Shock, awe, puke... No, zombies represent man's inhumanity to man. The good stories are about how people react to a crisis. In this case the crisis is zombies. The real monsters are people.

      So in a hyp

    • 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.

      "The Passage" by Justin Cronin should be an interesting read.

    • by quantaman (517394)

      There's no start of the epidemic.

      Assume the traditional, you get bit you turn.

      Ok, city at ground zero turns, and maybe one or two other cities where someone was bit and fled the city. Either way the whole city turns and then.... the zombies hop on a car and drive to the next city? You'd have a lot of zombie free cities watching what was happening and having a chance to prepare, so no apocalypse.

      Even the Walking Dead scenario where everybody turns on death the virus won't infect the entire planet at once. No

  • The current zombie obsession is loathsome and tiresome.

    Gives a new meaning to "get a life".

    • by gstoddart (321705)

      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.

  • "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 s
  • by Spaham (634471)

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

  • 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.
    • by Culture20 (968837)
      Not true with magical zombies like from night of the living dead and army of darkness.
    • by geekmux (1040042)

      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 breth

      • by Firethorn (177587)

        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.

    • by Sockatume (732728)

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

  • 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

    • Re:Delayed Post (Score:5, Informative)

      by Sarten-X (1102295) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @08:09AM (#45582597) Homepage

      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.

    • by gstoddart (321705)

      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 epidemiol

  • by Anonymous Coward

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

    • by cripkd (709136)
      And vampires, let's not forget the vampires.
    • Re: (Score:2, Offtopic)

      by SternisheFan (2529412)

      ...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

  • 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

    • by Sarten-X (1102295)

      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.

    • 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.

    • by swilver (617741)

      I was thinking more...

      those who are not susceptible to disease ...pretty sure that can be quite a big category as well.

  • by gsslay (807818) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @07:07AM (#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?

    • by gsslay (807818)

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

    • 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.

    • 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"

  • by lagomorpha2 (1376475) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @07:12AM (#45582355)

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

  • 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.

  • ... Duh... fast walkers and slow walkers. Geesh we've known this for ages!
    • It started with the movie, "The Mummy".

      "Oh no! The Mummy's chasing us!"

      "We need to walk a little faster!"

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

  • 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!

  • They list only two method of virus spread, but seem to leave out a third; zombification/infection by both blood AND by latent, airborne contact.

    **This will be kinda spoilery, but mostly open knowledge.**

    In this model, "zombies" are created not just by blood contact, but by an airborne pathogen. So the initial wave of zombies were created due to a spore/fungus. One that was based on a real fungus so I would think that would rank even higher than say, "Shuan of the Dead".

    So the ways to contract this "disease"

  • WWZ (the book) is a great piece of story telling, but it is tragically stupid and requires one hell of a suspension of disbelief. A group of AC-130s ends Yonkers. I would also imagine 5 fully armed rednecks in an F-150 can kill an amazing number of zombies. I get that these things are fascinating models for disease, but a plague would be a whole lot worse.

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