Listen, with the way things have been going recently, you’re probably not alone in thinking a full-fledged zombie outbreak is only a matter of time. And, if (or when) the insurrection begins, you’ll need a strategy – assuming you don’t already have one. Fortunately, zombie apocalypses (apocalti?) are one of many situations where the solution is simple math. The incomparable Numberphile has released a new video that describes how Z-Day might unfold – and how you may best defend yourself.
When considered on a population-wide scale, zombies turn out to be remarkably similar to virus particles, as anyone who has seen a horror film knows: they move around randomly, disseminate across a population, and either kill or infect whoever they come into touch with. So, using a sort of math known as a partial differential equation, or PDE, you can figure out your best line of action — and it doesn’t involve fighting back, unlike the eerily well-groomed survivors in Hollywood zombie movies.
“It’s definitely better to run away from a zombie than to try to slow them down,” says mathematical biologist Thomas Woolley, whose large brain would almost certainly make him a delicacy for his undead pursuers. “I’m not going to pass judgment on you,” he continues. “I’ll be at the front of the pack [in the race].”
So, what do the numbers say about surviving a zombie apocalypse? It’s actually very self-explanatory: we just need to kill zombies faster than they infect new people. Because the rate of zombie invasion is proportional to their distance from us and their speed of travel, the best course of action is to go as far away from the horde of undead as possible.
Previous mathematical simulations of zombie outbreaks — and there have been a lot of them – have suggested that the northern Rockies are your best option for safety, though rural areas, in general, would likely remain safe for weeks after large towns were zombified.
You might want to stay there for a while, too: according to one study from 2017, zombies will outnumber humans by a million to one within 100 days of patient zero. Humans would have to breed and struggle for a long time before they could regain the world. Of again, since your fellow humans are essentially zombies in potentia, you have another option: a preemptive strike. Now is the time. Woolley, on the other hand, advises against it. Certainly not.