San Antonio, Texas (CBS HOUSTON) — Cornell University researchers suggest that in the event of a zombie outbreak the best place for Americans to hide during the full-scale takeover would be the northern Rockies – or just about anywhere but a major city.

World War Z’s oral history of the first zombie war and analysis of actual virus outbreak data allows the Cornell researchers to manufacture their own fictional zombie outbreak testing rates of infection and other models used to study real disease epidemics. The group will present their “statistical mechanics of zombies” at the March 5 American Physical Society meeting in San Antonio.

“Modeling zombies takes you through a lot of the techniques used to model real diseases, albeit in a fun context,” Alex Alemi, a graduate student, who told Phys.org it is a good introduction to disease modeling in the real medical world. “It’s interesting in its own right as a model, as a cousin of traditional SIR [susceptible, infected, and resistant] models—which are used for many diseases—but with an additional nonlinearity.”

The group used various equations factoring in population and rate-of-infection to determine how and where a fictional zombie outbreak would spread across the U.S. Simulations showed the researchers how a series of “chemical reactions” would play out in the post-zombie world.

“At their heart, the simulations are akin to modeling chemical reactions taking place between different elements and, in this case, we have four states a person can be in—human, infected, zombie, or dead zombie—with approximately 300 million people,” Alemi told Phys.org.

“Each possible interaction—zombie bites human, human kills zombie, zombie moves, etc.—is treated like a radioactive decay, with a half-life that depends on some parameters, and we tried to simulate the times it would take for all of these different interactions to fire, where complications arise because when one thing happens it can affect the rates at which all of the other things happen.”

The researchers note that films often portray a zombie outbreak as affecting “all areas at the same time” but Alemi says that’s now “how it would actually go down.”

“Given the dynamics of the disease, once the zombies invade more sparsely populated areas, the whole outbreak slows down—there are fewer humans to bite, so you start creating zombies at a slower rate,” he elaborates. “I’d love to see a fictional account where most of New York City falls in a day, but upstate New York has a month or so to prepare.”

Alemi recommends that the best possible place for survival is the northern Rockies. Major cities would fall quickly, but zombies may take weeks or even months to penetrate into the less densely populated areas of the country.

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