Proof That Countries With National Health Care Still Do Cutting-Edge Research

A team of Canadian researchers has finally done the research on the odds of victory in a "hypothetical" zombie outbreak. The BBC, advising viewers to remain calm and stay in their homes, has the story:

In their study, the researchers from the University of Ottawa and Carleton University (also in Ottawa) posed a question: If there was to be a battle between zombies and the living, who would win?

Professor Robert Smith? (the question mark is part of his surname and not a typographical mistake) and colleagues wrote: "We model a zombie attack using biological assumptions based on popular zombie movies.

"We introduce a basic model for zombie infection and illustrate the outcome with numerical solutions."

How's this for a result everybody already knew: The only way to fight the living dead is to "hit them hard and hit them often... It's imperative that zombies are dealt with quickly or else... we are all in a great deal of trouble."

Encouragingly, Carleton University Prof. Robert Smith?'s study [pdf], results of which appear in the book Infectious Diseases Modelling Research Progress, posits a classic, slow-moving zombie outbreak. (Mark my word: Someday the fast zombie fad will seem as regrettable as pet rocks and Members Only jackets.) The conclusion:

An outbreak of zombies infecting humans is likely to be disastrous, unless extremely aggressive tactics are employed against the undead. While aggressive quarantine may eradicate the infection, this is unlikely to happen in practice. A cure would only result in some humans surviving the outbreak, although they will still coexist with zombies. Only sufficiently frequent attacks, with increasing force, will result in eradication, assuming the available resources can be mustered in time.

Call me a cockeyed optimist, but I think the experts are wrong. A zombie outbreak would result in a lopsided victory for the living, for purely tactical reasons. 1) Their initial recruiting pool -- the already dead -- is about as substandard as you can get, and thanks to cremation and other popular mortuary effects, it is not numerous enough for critical mass. 2) If you've ever been in a fight with a biter, you know a person will go to considerable lengths to avoid letting a set of human choppers attach to his or her flesh; so the number of able-bodied people who get "turned" would be small. (Evander Holyfield would no doubt differ, but for the reason described in Numer 1, the attacker would have neither the strength nor the dentitia of Mike Tyson.) 3. The argument that people would be squeamish about fighting zombified friends and family members is overstated: Who doesn't long for an excuse to shoot family members in the head? (Kidding!) No, the reason zombies are scary has nothing to do with their presenting a plausible threat. It's because they remind us of our own end, that stage when we won't even be able to shamble along miserably.

Update: The BBC has changed its alert and is now advising viewers to get to a rescue station immediately.

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  • Anonymous||

    The cutting-edge research is quite a bit ahead of them, as usual.

  • ||

    When I read this a few days ago, it seemed like they were missing a stage where a zombie becomes unresurrectable through massive trauma, fire, or (in some models) destruction of the head.

    Zombies that are 'defeated' go to the 'removed' group, but no distinction is made between dead humans and defeated zombies.

    'Kill it for good' is such a prominent feature of zombie movies that it seems a strange oversight.

  • PantsFan||

    This man agrees

  • hmm||

    Canadians should worry about zombies. It's a pain in the ass fighting them off with a bolt action .308 or a shotgun. That and their health care system is so good the zombies would probably be extremely healthy and strong. After all you can't deny them health care just cause they are dead.

  • ||

    Beware of maple-sucking-puck-slapping zombies.

  • Some Guy||

    There are too many variables to have one plan. Fast vs. slow zombies, bite-to-turn time, and location of initial outbreak are huge factors.

    If a fast zombie outbreak happened in New York, then much of the Northeast may be lost before effective containment would be undertaken. If slow zombies popped up in Reno, we'd probably all be fine.

  • ||


    Some Guy | August 18, 2009, 8:13pm | #

    If slow zombies popped up in Reno, we'd probably all be fine.



    I see you've been to Harrah's.

  • ||

    Nobody has done a comparison yet between zombies and leftists? Run in packs. A single mindset. Get sustinence from the flesh of others...

    C'mon guys. It's right in front of you.

  • hmm||

    Hell Leftists or Rightwingers both have their raving packs of group mentality retards.

  • ||

    What if it were zombies vs. ninjas?

  • Baylen, Linnekin!||

    [T]he question mark is part of his surname and not a typographical mistake

    WTF.

  • ||

    The question mark as part of the surname is part of the ancient Canadian dialect of douchebagese.

  • PantsFan||

    From Robert Smith?'s homepage:
    http://www.mathstat.uottawa.ca/~rsmith/

    "Yes, the question mark is actually part of my name, at least according to Australian law. I'm originally from there, but recently completed the marathon application process to become a dual citizen of Canada too. To add to the challenge, I did this while living in the US. People kept asking if I'll be getting US citizenship next and I kept laughing at that. Somewhat hysterically, it must be said.

    People sometimes ask me why I have a question mark in my name. In fact, somebody does this approximately fifteen times a day. (One day, I'm sure he'll get bored and go away.) If you haven't lived with an incredibly common name, then you have no idea what it's like to be entirely invisible on Google. Not that the question mark actually solves that, but at least it differentiates me from that guy from The Cure. It's been twenty years now and sadly his career shows no sign of drying up. "

    More like Australian douchebag.

  • ev||

    Robert Smith?

    Why would you want people to say your name in the manner of a question? Wouldn't you rather have people yell your name authoritatively? "Who's next?...By god! It's...ROBERT SMITH!"

    For quirkyness, I like Robert Smith&. You could add a Wesson in there too.

  • ||

    The question mark as part of the surname is part of the ancient Canadian dialect of douchebagese.

    I think Fry and Laurie examined the British variant of that dialogue here:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hNoS2BU6bbQ

  • ||

    dialogue should be dialect

  • Bingo||

    Zombie research is only cutting edge when done with a chainsaw!

  • hmm||

    Might I suggest,

    Robert Smitho==D

  • ||

    Which side is Chuck Norris on? Is Chuck fighting for the side of the living or is he infected? If we have to face a zombie Chuck Norris, humanity is screwed.

    Besides, Max Brooks already beet the Canuks to the punch. He has wrote 2 books on this (The Zombie Survival Guide and World War Z) with another coming out. Each one cost me about 10 bucks, not the millions of Canadian dollars (which is about $25 American) it cost for this study.

  • ||

    Mark my word: Someday the fast zombie fad will seem as regrettable as pet rocks and Members Only jackets.

    Oh Tim, it already does. It already does.

    See, folks, Romero has already expressed through multiple movies that it's not the zombies that get you so much as it's infighting among humans that causes them to not notice the zombie right behind them.

    This man agrees

    Shop smart--shop S-Mart.

  • Ben Kenobi||

    I'm more interested in the ? after this guy's name than his zombie research.

  • Fluffy||

    The zombies would lose extremely quickly.

    Max Brooks thinks they would come close to winning because they can't have their morale break under fire, and our military doctrine is based on the idea that you're fighting an enemy who will retreat if you hit him hard enough.

    But what he leaves out of consideration is that the zombie enemy cannot refrain from attacking if the living reveal their position, and will happily march right up to a tank company. A single company of M1A1's kept fueled could destroy the entire "zombiefied" population of most states, without even firing its armament, simply by running them over. As long as you kept the tanks fueled, and had relief crews available so your guys could sleep, the zombies would just keep marching up and getting run over until they were all gone.

  • PantsFan||

    I'm wondering why Fark rejected this story outright.

  • ||

    A single company of M1A1's kept fueled could destroy the entire "zombiefied" population of most states,

    Eventually the goop would clog up the works, wouldn't it?

  • Shannon Love||

    Back in the 60's, the military did a study of biological weapons and concluded the ultimately destructive biological weapon would be one that rendered its victims insane but otherwise healthy and mobile. They calculated it took five medical personnel to care for and contain each infected person.

    If you had something highly infectious that could spread by casual contact, the above scenario would be very zombie like. It might even be worse, because a living, thinking but deranged human would be much more dangerous (and faster!) than a zombie.

  • ||

    Yeah, but what if the zombies have tanks? Like, if the initial outbreak occurs at the Podunk, South Carolina SWAT headquarters.

  • Warty||

    There are too many variables to have one plan. Fast vs. slow zombies

    FAST ZOMBIES ARE NOT ZOMBIES

  • Fluffy||

    OK, I read what I just wrote, and to be fair to Brooks, the humans in World War Z eventually take advantage of the fact that zombies are too stupid to refrain from attacking, but even then he has the living fight zombies as infantry, which is just retarded.

    But of course he had to do it that way because if you don't handicap the humans by making them try stupid tactics, you can't write a big Studs Terkel book about the zombie war.

  • ||

    How do zombies know something is human/alive and not a fellow zombie, and therefore attack? Figure out how they tell, mimic it, and tag half the zombie population with it, and watch them destroy each other. Viola. Personally, I think it's CO2 trails like mosquitoes.

  • Fluffy||

    Back in the 60's, the military did a study of biological weapons and concluded the ultimately destructive biological weapon would be one that rendered its victims insane but otherwise healthy and mobile. They calculated it took five medical personnel to care for and contain each infected person.

    If you had something highly infectious that could spread by casual contact, the above scenario would be very zombie like. It might even be worse, because a living, thinking but deranged human would be much more dangerous (and faster!) than a zombie.


    Frankly, I think Romero's The Crazies would have a much better chance to win than his zombies.

    The "infected" in the Will Smith version of I Am Legend have a reasonable chance to win, too, given that the virus that creates them is airborne and not transmitted by bites, and the sheer large numbers involved once the plague takes hold.

  • The Angry Optimist||

    you people, honestly:

    Fast Zombies are awesome.

  • Anonymous||

    brotherben | August 18, 2009, 8:31pm | #
    Nobody has done a comparison yet between zombies and leftists?



    What part of "zombietime" escapes you?

  • ||

    Since zombies would be trying to destroy us while Obama is President, are they racist?

  • B||

    I hear prominent zombie-rights activists are suing the authors of this study for inciting zombie hatred. The authors now must appear before a "Zombie Rights Commission". Remember, hate speech is not free speech.

  • ||

    Fast zombies are pure fiction.

  • PantsFan||

    So are you, ProL

  • 2wrongs||

    As a historical note:

    During the last months of WWII in Canada, the government was forced to do a very limited form of conscription due to higher than predicted casualty rates.

    Conscripts, which never went overseas, were referred to as Zombies by the almost entirely volunteer Canadian armed forces.

    I can still remember my Uncle cursing about Zombies.

  • ||

    Back in the 60's, the military did a study of biological weapons and concluded the ultimately destructive biological weapon would be one that rendered its victims insane but otherwise healthy and mobile. They calculated it took five medical personnel to care for and contain each infected person.

    [Citation needed.][Pretty please with sugar on top!]

  • ||

    Back in the 60's, the military did a study of biological weapons and concluded the ultimately destructive biological weapon would be one that rendered its victims insane but otherwise healthy and mobile.

    I remember the project. The microorganism in question was named Liberalis Vulgaris.

  • JB||

    We know exactly how to deal with Obama zombies.

    And yes, AR-15s come in handy.

  • Mantan Moreland||

    Feets Dont Fail Me Now!"

  • Syd Henderson||

    "The BBC has changed its alert and is now advising viewers to get to a rescue station immediately."

    Rescue station = Zombie lunchbox.

  • Drunkenatheist||

    Nice use of the Krishna zombie!

  • Tim Cavanaugh||

    'Kill it for good' is such a prominent feature of zombie movies that it seems a strange oversight.

    A piece of Romero lore that I consider too good to check is that during production of Night of the Living Dead they realized there had to be a way to put some zombies down for good, and debated various methods like spike-through-the-heart or incineration, Somebody (this is a movie with many competitors for authorship) suggested pie-in-the-face. Finally they settled on removing-head-or-destroying-brain. Which means that that one conversation led not only to the brilliant finale of Dawn of the Dead but to a theory that is now almost unanimously believed by the scientific community. It's like IBM licensing MSDOS or the Yalta Conference: People making history without even knowing it.

  • *||

    Who doesn't long for an excuse to shoot family members in the head? (Kidding!)

    One needs an excuse? ;-)

  • Seer||

    Besides, Max Brooks already beet the Canuks to the punch. He has wrote 2 books on this (The Zombie Survival Guide and World War Z) with another coming out. Each one cost me about 10 bucks, not the millions of Canadian dollars (which is about $25 American) it cost for this study.

    This. Also, Brooks idea in World War Z was that the main reason the zombies did so well initially was that government/ media across the world failed to acknowledge the threat until it was already a pandemic. They tried to cover it up as just a form of rabies that people "somewhere else" had to deal with. There's also his idea about slow burners and the futile hope for a cure that bite victims had that kept them traveling amongst uninfected, rather that quarantined.

  • anonymous||

    "Nobody has done a comparison yet between zombies and leftists? Run in packs. A single mindset. Get sustinence from the flesh of others..."

    I think I'd be more likely to stereotype leftists as whiny guilt-ridden vegans; if it carries over, it makes them fairly non-threatening as zombies.

    "Robert Smith?

    Why would you want people to say your name in the manner of a question? Wouldn't you rather have people yell your name authoritatively? "Who's next?...By god! It's...ROBERT SMITH!""

    Then everyone would think they're talking about The Cure's Robert Smith, which would both defeat the point and lead to constant disappointment in the public.

    "FAST ZOMBIES ARE NOT ZOMBIES"

    Fast Zombies = Retarded Vampires

  • ||

    A quick recommendation for any fans of the zombie genre. A series of comics called The Walking Dead. Strangely I picked up first two volumes of it today (issues 1-12) and could not put them down.

  • The Angry Optimist||

    +1 - The Walking Dead is awesome and getting awesomer.

  • ||

    There's also his idea about slow burners and the futile hope for a cure that bite victims had that kept them traveling amongst uninfected, rather that quarantined.

    Would you put yourself down willingly after being bitten? I doubt many people would.

  • anonymous||

    "Would you put yourself down willingly after being bitten? I doubt many people would."

    Quarantine != Suicide

    Offing yourself is giving up hope, but failing to minimize the risk of hurting others if you do turn (i.e. quarantine) is simply irresponsible.

  • zoltan||

    Zombie research is only cutting edge when done with a chainsaw!

    I can't wait to do some research of my own once Left for Dead 2 comes out!

  • ||

    Field Reporter: Are they slow-moving, chief?

    Sheriff McClelland: Yeah, they're dead. They're all messed up.

  • ||

    brotherben | August 18, 2009, 8:31pm | #

    "Nobody has done a comparison yet between zombies and leftists? Run in packs. A single mindset. Get sustinence from the flesh of others..."

    "C'mon guys. It's right in front of you."


    hmm | August 18, 2009, 8:34pm | #

    "Hell Leftists or Rightwingers both have their raving packs of group mentality retards."


    It should be noted that both groups are also pathologically devoid of humor (both figuratively and, from a histological POV, literally).

    Yet another strong argument against the sale and use of worchestire sauce.

  • ||

    Which also begs the question, would said re-animated cadavers have rights, or were rights to life(?), liberty, and the pursuit of happiness (cerebral gluttony) rendered nill upon primary death?

    Personally, I say feed 'em vegans as the ultimate irony.

    Anyone remember the schlocky classic, "Re-Animator"?

  • Solanum||

    What Fluffy said. That's the first thing I thought after reading WWZ. A single, well-fueled tank could literally roll over and turn thousands of zeds into mush. An airborne pathogen in which a tiny percentage of the population was immune would really be the only scenario in which a total zombie apocalypse could occur.

    FAST ZOMBIES ARE NOT ZOMBIES



    QFT

  • ||

    My problem was always that biting was the vector of infection. If it was a biological disease, why would it only be present in the saliva? Surely it would be in all the bodily tissues and fluids that bullets, bombs, and chainsaws were flinging around. How long would a virus that already lives in suppurating flesh stay viable after the host is not dead, but merely immobile? Long enough to enter the water supply? Maybe even mimicking the infection model of cholera, the original disease of the living dead?

    Despite not being a zombie film, 28 Days Later was a more logical presentation of infection vectors, even if the speed with which the virus "takes over" the host is ridiculously fast, an incubation period of just a few seconds.

  • ||

    I don't think Brooks was attempting to solve a wide-spread zombie outbreak, but rather describe a scenario in which one could occur. Human stupidity, hubris, and the awesome denial of basic facts of reality that can occur in even fairly rational people fueled the Z-War more than the gnashing teeth of the dead.

    I doubt the lack of tanks was an oversight on Brooks' part anymore then no one thinking to call Child Services on Mrs. White to keep Carrie from ultimately killing most everyone at prom was an oversight by Stephen King.

  • Solanum||

    A series of comics called The Walking Dead. Strangely I picked up first two volumes of it today (issues 1-12) and could not put them down.

    Hope you're not too squeamish, because issues 43-48 ("Made to Suffer" vol 8) are brutal. And vol 10 (issues 55-60) just came out a few days ago. Still awaiting for my copy to arrive.

  • Solanum||

    SF, that's what I gathered from Brooks as well. It was more about how humans reacted to the epidemic than the epidemic itself. I still found WWZ an enjoyable read, as any departure from "realism" was easily overlooked.

  • Abdul||

    The big problem with zombies wouldn't be the zombies, it would be with the bleeding heart humans who insist on not discriminating against them merely because they are "differently alive" or "breathing challenged."

  • ||

    Abdul, I bet christians would treat zombies better than they treat gays.


    Wait. Do zombies have money?

  • Fluffy||

    The big problem with zombies wouldn't be the zombies, it would be with the bleeding heart humans who insist on not discriminating against them merely because they are "differently alive" or "breathing challenged."

    One of my favorite scenes in Romero's Dawn is when they're still at the TV station and they're having an impromptu talk show and when the talking heads say that the zombies are the undead and need to be destroyed, the studio audience howls with rage and disapproval [indicating that many people think their relatives are just "sick" and can be saved.]

    I don't think that would actually happen, though, because zombie lore is so ingrained in the culture now that people would immediately say, "Hey, these are zombies!" and would skip the phase where they think it's a weird disease.

    Actually, we need a zombie movie set in a world where people already know about zombies from seeing lots of zombie movies. Every time a new zombie movie comes out, it's set in some weird culture where no one has ever heard of zombies before and you get lines like, "What are these things?" or people who are surprised when their friends get bitten and turn into zombies. We need a movie where the zombies come, and everyone immediately says, "Oh shit, zombies! Shoot 'em in the head!" and puts their various secret zombie survival plans into action - but then the zombies don't work by any of the existing sets of zombie "rules", so all the plans don't work. Like shooting them in the head doesn't work, or like having slow zombies that can climb and swim, or not every bitten person turns, stuff like that.

  • Another kevin||

    What about zombies 'starving'? On question I've never seen completely answered is how do zombies continue to be motile without regular feeding on human flesh? If you had a large population of zombies, wouldn't they run out of food in a given geographical area once the humans were all eaten/converted?

  • ||

    Another kevin,

    The standard explanation is the the zombies do not eat for sustenance, but rather that they mindless eat because their higher brain functions have been destroyed and they run on pure instinct.

    Although I don't think this is insufficient to explain why they don't eat each other, the unreanimated dead, animals, or garbage/food waste.

    You might be left with: "The dead hate the living."

  • ||

    "is sufficient"

    Leave me alone, I'm sick.

  • Citizen Nothing||

    I am sadly deficient in zombie lore. I guess I need to contact Netflix pronto.

  • y||

    starving zombies!

  • Abdul||

    Abdul, I bet christians would treat zombies better than they treat gays.

    It depends on the denomination. Catholics, Mormons, and Southern Baptists would treat them equally badly. Episcopalians would be racing Reform Jews to see who could install a lesbian zombie vampire into the clergy first.

  • ||

    Actually, we need a zombie movie set in a world where people already know about zombies from seeing lots of zombie movies.

    Shaun of the Dead, Fluffy. However, that's a comedy, and I think you were thinking of a serious film.

  • ||

    Good call by everyone who has recommended The Walking Dead. Absolutely fantastic comic. Also, the rights to a television series for the comic have been picked up by AMC.

  • ||

    Hey Tim,

    I just wanted to let you know that THEWEEK.com has featured this article as Best Opinion in an article we wrote, titled "Zombie attacks and epidemics" (http://www.theweek.com/article/index/99676/Zombie_attacks_and_epidemics).

    We really enjoyed your take on the subject.

    Thanks, and all the best,
    Harold Maass
    Online Editor
    THEWEEK.com

  • nh||

    sugarfree,

    If you go by "Return of the Living Dead" rules, they eat delicious brains because it eases the pain of being dead.

  • ||

    We would survive because of our extreme intelligence. I,and the people that I associate with, concluded after many pints of serious ale,that even in a worse case scenario,one could survive by eating the zombies. We also decided that most animals that are found dead on the road have been zombified,that is where the expression'deer in the headlights' comes from. Or for those on the prairies 'stupid f'en gopher didn't even move'.Don't be fooled and don't feel guilty,those animals are or were zombies... A culinary tip for those who may have the misfortune of waking up in an isolated cabin surrounded by the undead,watch closely at the outer circle of zombies.You will notice one or two that look like they would rather be somewhere else,maybe at an anti-war protest or possibly a Michael Moore movie. Those are the ones that you want to harvest,cooked properly they taste just like chicken.

  • ||

    And further to my above post. Google deer, windshield,brains. That vapid look in their eyes that you contact is actually directed at your forehead.If gophers ever master stilts,we are doomed.Doomed,I tell you.

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