New York Times ninth annual "Year in Ideas" issue

The NYT Magazine's "Year in Ideas" issue is a fantastic collection of short, intriguing proposals, problems, and possibilities.
Zombie-Attack Science

Working with a professor and two other graduate students, Munz built a mathematical model of a city of one million residents, in which an outbreak occurs when a single zombie arrives in town. He based the speed of zombie infection on the general rules you see in George Romero movies: after getting bitten, people turn into zombies in 24 hours and sometimes don't realize what's happening to them until they change.

When he ran the model on a computer, the results were bleak. "After 7 to 10 days, everyone was dead or undead," he says. He tried several counterattacks. Quarantining the zombies didn't work; it only bought a few extra days of survival for humanity. Even creating a "cure" for zombification led to a grim result. It was possible to save 10 to 15 percent of the population, but everyone else was a zombie. (The cure in his model wasn't permanent; the cured could be rebitten and rezombified.)

There was only one winning solution: fighting back quickly and fiercely.

New York Times ninth annual "Year in Ideas" issue (Thanks, Daniel!)

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  1. For once the movies didn’t lie to us. Excellent.

    I am currently reading Max Brooks Zombie Survival Guide. Quite a cool book, as was his book World War Z

  2. The headline for this should be: Mathematical model decisively proves what we already know to be true.

  3. There was only one winning solution: fighting back quickly and fiercely.

    Anecdotal, personal evidence would suggest that that’s always already the only solution, whatever the problem!

  4. It’s just like the military says, when faced with a triggered ambush – attack attack attack! Otherwise, everybody dies. (or becomes Zombies, in this case).

  5. His “research” is fundamentally flawed and biased in such a way that apocalypse is the only outcome. The zombies that are “killed” that is, have their limbs riped off heads blown off or are blown into a million pieces by a grenade are sent into the same “pile” as dead humans, and these are all reanimated on equal footing. The effect is ofcause that zombies are immortal, so no wonder they end up concluding that we cannot win.

    The only “Solution” is a stable state where the zombie level is held constant through very heavy combat, which ofcause still doesn’t let us win, since we can’t kill the bastards using his model.
    Though the article doesn’t actually mention this.

    It’s the time old case of bad science, his model is wrong, but he just forces it into a state which resembles his predefined conclusion and interpretates it enough that he ends up predicting what he set out to. And of cause noone cares because his treatment is interesting and his conclusion rational.

  6. Ummm … forget Romero. Danny Boyle’s zombies are a little more problematic. That’s what’s gonna happen! And Paul Anderson’s nasties … now that’s difficult. Charlie Brooker did some lovely nasties, who homed in on living humans, slowly but surely.

  7. I play Zombies aND pLANTS WITH MY GRANDSON WHO IS 8.. AND HE HAS CONNIPTIONS BECAUSE i SAY I’M ON THE SIDE OF THE ZOMBIES… aCTUALLY I AM (SORRY NEW COMPUTER COMING SOON, SWITHING INTO UPPER CASE IS NOTHING NEW)/ i’LL TRY AND EMAIL THIS TO HIM. sTUPID PLANTS, i SAY TO HIM AND ‘c’MON zOMBIES” AND HE GETS REALLY SQUINTY EYED AT ME AND FORGETS HE LOVES ME. ‘bRAINS, bRRRRAINS’ i INTONE AS HE TRIES TO ZAP THE ZOMBIES. Psycholically, i try to explain that the plants have ‘nature’ on their side and the zombies have only what wits they have.

  8. Del Toro and Hogan, “Strain,” vol. 1 of a trilogy. Check it out — then wonder who stole whose ‘research’ on infection rates ~_*

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