Sunday, August 16, 2009

Epidemic Model of Zombie Outbreak

This is too good to make up.

Some mathematicians have recently published (though apparently in a non-prominent venue or at least one that is unfamiliar to me) the following epidemic model of a zombie outbreak. It uses the standard ODE compartment models used for studying disease dynamics, although they change some terminology to suit their "application". For example, the SIR model is now known as the SZR model. (The symbol "I" stands for "infected", whereas "Z" stands for zombie.)

Basically, I don't know whether to laugh or cry---well, to be honest, I'm doing a little bit of both right now. Talk about "awesome" research. Wow.

To be fair, if you take a look at the text, this paper appears to have arisen from a class project, and I bet the students involved had a lot of fun with the project and learned a lot. I think there do exist appropriate venues for publishing such papers, assuming that the paper is written in an expository manner so that, e.g., other students can benefit from it. This paper seems to have been published in a compendium about research on modelling of infectious diseases, which is not the venue where such an audience would typically look. (It would be more appropriate to write about this kind of playful "application" in a venue such as American Mathematical Monthly that university students actually read. Then I think there can be considerable benefit to such a paper, as it can suck in some of the younger crowd.)

(Tip of the hat to Mariano Beguerisse Díaz.)

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