If Patient Zero for a zombie outbreak were to turn up somewhere in the United States, how long would it take the hordes of undead to take over the country? With the interactive Zombietown, USA map, you can click on a town and watch the zombies eat their way across the nation.
Zombietown, USA is an exercise in speculative epidemiology from Cornell physics graduate students Alex Alemi and Matt Bierbaum. They explain that their map uses 2010 US Census data and Gillespie dynamics to map the spread of the outbreak in different cities. You can adjust the parameters — changing the kill-to-bite ratio or making your zombies fast or extremely sloooooooow. Then click on a city and watch the infection grow.
The pair have also filed a paper, co-authored with professors Christopher R. Myers and James P. Sethna, where they explain their entire process and what they've learned from running their simulations. According to their system, for certain parameters, certain cities are at a particularly high risk for zombie infection:
After 28 days, it is not the largest metropolitan areas that suffer the greatest risk, but the regions located between large metropolitan areas. For instance, in California it is the region near Bakersfield in the San Joaquin Valley that is at the greatest risk as this area will be overrun by zombies whether they originate in the San Francisco area or the Los Angeles / San Diego area. The area with the greatest one month zombie risk is north eastern Pennsylvania, itself being susceptible to outbreaks originating in any of the large metropolitan areas on the east coast.
Of course, this doesn't cover a Walking Dead, everyone-who-dies-becomes-a-zombie scenario. Then all bets are off.
Zombietown, USA [Matt Bierbaum] You Can Run, You Can Hide: The Epidemiology and Statistical Mechanics of Zombies [arXiv via Boing Boing]