2nd zombie paper rises from dead

By Paul Jay, A group of University of Ottawa researchers who wrote about an outbreak of zombie-ism earned the unique distinction of publishing the first paper modelling a fictional disease. But as it turns out, they aren't the only Canadian mathematicians to consider "the zombie problem."

Looking for comment from researchers in the field of disease modelling, I called Troy Day, an associate professor at Queen's University and the holder of a Canada Research Chair in mathematics and biology.

Day, who read the study with interest, said the work of professor Robert Smith? and his students did provide a set of general principles one could use in real-life to model the spread of an infection.

And, perhaps because great minds think alike, it turns out he and a graduate student, Mike Delorme, whipped up their own paper a few years ago.

The unpublished paper entitled, The efficacy of vaccination for the eradication of rage-virus mediated zombieism, looked at the more fleet-of-foot zombies seen in the film 28 Days Later, rather than the plodding zombies the Ottawa researchers studied. And they focused instead on vaccinating against the "disease."

The findings, however, were spookily similar.

"A vaccine can never eradicate the disease if its effectiveness is less than approximately 0.09 (i.e., the vaccine must reduce transmission by at least 91%). Furthermore, even for highly effective vaccines... the vaccination coverage required for eradication is unrealistically high. Consequently, other control measures, such as the slaughter/incineration of infected individuals... are likely to provide a better approach."

There are two important lessons here.

One, zombies, if they were to ever make the leap from fiction to reality, pose all kinds of problems for mankind. And two, mathematicians have a wicked sense of humour.

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Matt Innes

I'm fairly sure neither of these is the first academic paper on the spread of zombie-ism or other imaginary infection disease.

Google "World of Warcraft epidemiology" and it returns over 11,000 hits. There was an accidental epidemic in August of 2007 and an intentional one at the release of the Wrath of the Lich King expansion in October/November 2008, both of which led to some academic activity.

Posted August 19, 2009 01:55 PM



What a RIDICULOUS WASTE of my time and yours.
It's pathetic that our 'higher' educational institutions are actually publishing studies based on the spread of 'zombie infections'.
Why aren't we OUTRAGED as a tax paying public for the BLATANT mis-use of our tax dollars not to mention the gall of certain administrators thinking that we the TAX PAYING PUBLIC actually care about such a fantasied, irrelevant and juvenile scenario to begin with? What rubbish.

Posted August 19, 2009 08:13 PM

Gail Cooke


Lighten up. Not everything in this world has to be serious. I get that money is tight and perhaps it could have been rerouted to something more valuable. At this point though, the Canadian Government wastes so much of my money it hardly makes a difference. At least it's not spent on the hideous bridge that the municpal government here is ready to lay waste to my tax dollar. This has entertainment value.

Personally, I think we should all get ready for the Zombie Apocalypse. Or the H1N1 Apocalypse...take your pick.

Posted August 20, 2009 11:54 AM

Anthony H


If you read the article properly, this research does have purpose in that it can be used as a reference material for real life "disease" transference. Just as we saw with H1N1, it was basically impossible to stop its transference across state/country/international borders.
Quote"Day, who read the study with interest, said work of professor Robert Smith and his students did provide a set of general principles one could use in real-life to model the spread of an infection."end quote
so whiel the disease is a fantasy, the actions and consequences of it are not and therfore have real world applications.

Posted August 20, 2009 11:33 PM

Robert Smith?


Brad: you can relax. Not one dollar of taxpayer's money was spent on this research. That's the beauty of mathematics. Surprising as it may seem, we didn't collect specimens or travel to exotic locations to observe zombies in the wild. Not that we didn't want to, of course...

Posted August 21, 2009 08:46 PM



Brad: Your tax dollars are not wasted... the students pay for the professors salary.. more than you ever will.

Posted August 27, 2009 08:41 AM



I would like to observe zombies in the wild.

Posted August 27, 2009 02:00 PM

Gail Cooke


I too would like to observe zombies in the wild...but I believe I have observed domesticated zombies at the office on occasion...

Posted August 27, 2009 05:13 PM



Dr. Smith, there are lots of zombies to study here in Japan. They slowly stagger around in wavy lines, staring at their cell phones as they text message, murmuring in low tones, and occasionally running into things because their vision is limited to the distance of a cell phone screen held at arm's length. Some of them have even learned to ride bicycles.

Posted August 28, 2009 10:12 AM

Dwight Williams

Brad, do you have a problem with researchers having a sense of humour and a self-admitted fandom affiliation in the course of their work?

Posted August 28, 2009 05:19 PM



I think the idea of zombies rising and attacking humanity is silly however if they ever did I feel that the human race would be doomed since there is a lack of unity in the world perhaps the un-dead Apocalypse would unite the world on the basis of a common foe thus putting aside our differences to remain at the top of the food chain in a sense.

as was said before when or if the Apocalypse ever does come I rather fight zombies then be wiped out in a Nucular Apocalypse or some sort of H1N1 or SARS or So on and so far.

IF the zombies do come, would the canadian government allow looting for the sole purpose of survival or will it be a state of martial law kind of situation such as hurricane Katrina was ?

Posted September 1, 2009 03:15 PM

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