Science & Technology

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.