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Day of the Dead, Night of the Living Dead, Return of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, Shaun of the Dead, The Walking Dead… The public appetite for zombie tales shows no sign of waning. And now a bunch of physics students from the University of Leicester has calculated what any thinking horror film fan already suspects – that if there really was a zombie apocalypse, it would wipe out humankind in just 100 days.

The students wrote two research papers – one that assumed humans wouldn’t be able to fight back, and another that assumed they would. As you might imagine, the second has a rather more encouraging outcome.

In the first paper, the students reckoned that there would be fewer than 300 survivors worldwide just 100 days after the start of the apocalypse – that’s assuming each zombie has a 90 percent chance of infecting a human, and that it can find one victim a day. The 273 remaining humans at day 100 would be outnumbered a million to one by zombies.

So how did they do it? They used the SIR model, which, if you really want to know, is a differential equation model used to predict the spread of infectious disease, where S is the number of susceptible people, I is the number of infected people and R is the number of recovered people. The students also looked at how frequently people come into contact with one another to get an idea of timescales.

The second study used the same model but this time it took into consideration the fact that, in time, humans may learn how to kill zombies or stop themselves being attacked. Under these conditions, the students found that the world’s human population not only would survive, but that eventually the zombie population would be wiped out.


It’s not the first time Leicester University has encouraged its students to indulge in a bit of fun. Apparently, previous studies have questioned whether or not Batman’s cape-gliding technique could really save him from a fatal crash, or whether Winnie the Pooh suffers from a vitamin B12 deficiency, and even what would happen if Miley Cyrus really did ‘come in like a wrecking ball’.

Who said science was boring?

The findings were presented in a series of short articles for the Journal of Physics Special Topics, a peer-reviewed student journal run by the University’s Department of Physics and Astronomy.

I dedicate this post to my lovely husband Nick, a genuine zombie film fanatic.