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Modelling pandemics: The Mathematics of Surviving Zombies

1 March 2022

The mathematics of zombies
The mathematics of zombies

Dr Thomas Woolley from the School of Mathematics has presented a webvid entitled ‘The Mathematics of Surviving Zombies’ that uses mathematical modelling to demonstrate how long humans could survive a zombie apocalypse.

The film’s unique and humorous approach to studying epidemiology through mathematics has proved extremely popular and has been viewed over a quarter a million times online.

Featuring on the Numberphile channel, the film focuses on using diffusion to model the zombie’s stereotypical shuffling and random motion. Wearing his zombie waistcoat, Dr Thomas explains how the mathematical formulation helps to derive interaction times, leading to conclusions on how best to delay the inevitable meeting of human and zombie. He then adds interaction kinetics to the system and considers under what conditions the human race can survive its impending doom.

The study of epidemiology through mathematics has been at the forefront of fighting the global pandemic COVID-19 over the last two years and the maths of zombies demonstrates the same maths as flu, chicken pox, or any other contagious disease.

Dr Woolley said:

“The maths of zombiism is based on work I did in 2014. The maths of epidemics is always a field of growing research and I simply applied a new coat of paint to the maths to make it appeal to a wider audience. Who would have thought that seven years later I would be actually employing this type of mathematics seriously whilst working with the Welsh Government to understand how infections spread in classrooms?”

Dr Woolley has also recently been involved in the creation of a COVID-19 Intervention simulator app for Welsh Government use. The app helps to predict how infection spreads in a classroom under different interventions.

Watch the maths of zombies

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