Diffusion of the dead: Using mathematics to survive a zombie apocalypse

19 July 2017

Diff of dead

Last month, Dr Thomas Woolley, Lecturer in Applied Mathematics was invited to the National Museum of Mathematics in New York to give a talk on how mathematics can be used to survive a zombie infection outbreak!

The talk, which was titled Diffusion of the Dead, looked at how the use of serious mathematics, such as that behind understanding the spread of infectious diseases like flu or malaria, could be applied to a more humorous application.

Critically, Thomas demonstrated that simple rules could protect the human race from zombie infections. The rules were:

1)    Run! Your first instinct should always to be put as much distance between you and the zombies as possible.
2)    Only fight from a position of power. The simulations clearly show that humans can only survive if humans are more deadly that the zombies.
3)    Be wary of your fellow humans.

“All of these rules seem fairly sensible, but they are not simply based on common sense” explained Dr Woolley, “The mathematical model of disease infection demonstrated that these three rules emerged as the best survival strategy”.

Dr Woolley was invited to the Museum of Mathematics to present the talk as part of their "Maths Encounters" series; the talk attracted around 100 people and the feedback he received was excellent. Thomas said “The American audience were great and their questions were very different from those I normally get. As part of the set up, the organisers asked me to sign one of the posters in case I ever get famous! However, for me, as a mathematician, giving a talk in the Museum of Mathematics, is about as famous as I will get.”

Find out more about the mathematics behind Dr Thomas Woolley’s Diffusion of the Dead.

Diff dead 2