Where to Go When the Zombies Strike

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If the Zombie apocalypse does hit, you’ll be safest up in the mountains in Montana, or perhaps the Nevada desert, physics students tell us.

The worst place to be? Northeastern Pennsylvania.

A team of researchers at Cornell University decided to make a computer simulation of what might happen in the U.S. if zombies really did begin to spread.

“It’s supposed to be a fun topic,” said Alex Alemi, a graduate student in physics who led the project. “Zombies are interesting and we thought we’d use some of the techniques used to model ordinary diseases.”

Alemi and his team set up a series of scenarios with zombies first getting infected in a large city, biting and infecting other people and moving across the country.

"The zombies don’t get better. They have to be killed by humans.”

One caveat: it doesn’t look like a pandemic of new flu would — or probably any other real disease.

“' Zombies' is really distinct from normal diseases,” Alemi told NBC News. “In normal disease, people usually recover on their own. The zombies don’t get better. They don’t die from the disease and they don’t recover on their own. They have to be killed by humans.”

But they can kill off a lot of people, the simulation shows. Alemi and colleagues will present their findings to a meeting of the American Physical Society in San Antonio.

“Most of the United States population has been turned into zombies by the first week,” they write in their presentation.

“After four weeks, much of the United States has fallen, but it takes a very long time for the zombies to diffuse and capture the remaining portions of the United States. Even four months in, remote areas of Montana and Nevada remain zombie-free.”

Some areas are surprisingly vulnerable. “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,” Alemi’s team wrote.

“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.”

The simulation doesn’t include air travel. Presumably, a zombie couldn’t get past a determined ticket agent. And that makes a zombie apocalypse different from something like a new flu virus, which would spread fast via infected travelers.

“Most of the United States population has been turned into zombies by the first week."

But Alemi says if something so catastrophic as a zombie apocalypse hit, transportation networks would probably shut down.

If the idea sounds familiar, it may be because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention used zombies as the basis for a prizewinning preparedness campaign.

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