Where should you flee when the inevitable zombie apocalypse pops off? A group of statistical mechanics students at Cornell University did the legwork and came up with a pretty appealing answer, since it happens to be a place we'd like to visit anyway: the Rocky Mountains.

The project takes its cue from more traditional disease modeling, though it was chosen for its "fun context," according to Alex Alemi, a graduate student at Cornell University.

In most films or books, "if there is a zombie outbreak, it is usually assumed to affect all areas at the same time, and some months after the outbreak you're left with small pockets of survivors," explains Alemi. "But in our attempt to model zombies somewhat realistically, it doesn't seem like this is how it would actually go down.

Cities would fall quickly, but it would take weeks for zombies to penetrate into less densely populated areas, and months to reach the northern mountain-time zone.

"Given the dynamics of the disease, once the zombies invade more sparsely populated areas, the whole outbreak slows down — there are fewer humans to bite, so you start creating zombies at a slower rate," he elaborates. "I'd love to see a fictional account where most of New York City falls in a day, but upstate New York has a month or so to prepare."

Based on their models, Alemi and his colleagues, who were inspired after reading World War Z, named the Rockies as the ideal place to ride out a zombie outbreak.

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The group realizes their findings aren't exactly practical in terms of real life (until the zombies rise, that is); however, they had broader intentions, and the good humor to deploy a sly "brains" joke, too:

"A lot of modern research can be off-putting for people because the techniques are complicated and the systems or models studied lack a strong connection to everyday experiences," Alemi adds. "Not that zombies are an everyday occurrence, but most people can wrap their braains around them."

Via Smithsonian Magazine

Photo of Nymph Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park by Mark Collins.


Contact the author at cheryl.eddy@io9.com.