The chance of a zombie apocalypse going down the way it does in media is damn near-impossible. But given the continued popularity of the concept (The Walking Dead has been on air for six years!), it’s as if we want this kind of thing to happen, just to see how we’d fare. To test that concept, creative researchers from the University of Leicester recently published a paper in the Journal of Physics and Special Topics where they applied the mathematical modeling of how communicable diseases spread to determine the outcome of a zombie apocalypse. The results don’t look good.
In the new analysis, the savvy undergraduates estimated that each zombie would experience 90 percent success at finding and infecting at least one human per day. This confirmed rate would make the zombie virus twice as powerful as the Black Death, a notable virus that plagued Europe in the 1300s. Following further research, the students estimated that each zombie could live 20 days without feeding on civilian brains, which gives the animated corpses a generous window between meals.
It was also concluded that 20 days is all it would take for a single zombie to start an epidemic, and, as their numbers grew, the human population would drop by 181 each day, meaning by day 100, there would be a catastrophic 190 million zombies yearning for our coveted flesh. In the best-case scenario (which means that hordes of zombies wouldn’t flee their current region until there were 100,000 of them), there would only be 273 survivors on earth by day 100. In just over three months, the zombies would have completely eclipsed the human population.
The students did leave out one vital piece of information in their research, however. They didn’t account for the amount of zombies killed by humans, which, if The Walking Dead, Resident Evil and Dawn of the Dead are indicators, would account for a lot of really dead corpses.
Noting this missing piece of vital information, the students followed up with another paper that accounted for more realistic circumstances. They extended the zombie lifespan to one year and gave each human a 10 percent chance of killing a zombie each day. They also accounted for human reproduction, assuming those healthy enough to have children would be able to spawn a baby once every three years, despite the fact that they’d be birthing a child into a post-apocalyptic, zombie-infested planet with limited chances of survival.
This scenario is much more encouraging for us. Though our population would still drop to only a few hundred in no time, these variables computed that zombies would die off completely after 1,000 days, which led researchers to conclude that, under some fairly certain circumstances, the human population could actually recover.
Though it’s also likely humans would turn on each other under such dire circumstances—which was not accounted for in either study—this is the closest we’ll ever get to understanding how the human race would fare against a fictional zombie population. A piece of advice, though: Don’t trust anyone who named his barbed wire-wrapped bat after his deceased wife, unless you want your head beaten to a red, pulpy mess. RIP, Glenn.