In the event of a zombie apocalypse in the United States, researchers say your best refuge is the northern Rocky Mountains.
That conclusion is the result of some fanciful research from a team of scientists at Cornell University. After reading the famous zombie outbreak novel, “World War Z,” Alex Alemi, Matthew Bierbaum, Christopher Myers, and James Sethna were curious about the best way to respond if the walking dead were a reality.
The group determined the Rockies as the ultimate safe haven by creating a model which simulated how zombies would spread throughout the United States. Using the simulator, they’re able to estimate how fast a zombie infection would spread. As many TV shows predict, densely-populated areas are the hardest hit. By placing a single zombie in New York City, for example, a horde of the undead will overtake most of Boston and Washington, D.C. within a week.
By contrast, zombies are much slower to spread to rural areas, with the northern Rockies staying the most insulated from biters no matter where the infection began. The key is that there are simply fewer people to bite, and they are mostly spread out, making it more difficult for an infection to proliferate. In the remote mountain range, it’s also more likely that zombies would succumb to extreme cold, starvation, or even natural predators.
The group’s zombie study is based on an actual model for disease transmission called SIR, which divides the infected into groups of susceptible, infectious and recovered/removed. While zombies are a popular fiction, they tend to play on innate fears of a devastating plague, and many authorities are using the idea to teach practical emergency preparedness. The CDC commonly uses zombies to teach people how to deal with a spreading infection in an entertaining way. The team at Cornell University is also presenting their results to a meeting of the American Physical Society.
For most people, however, the priority in a real life zombie apocalypse won’t be managing or understanding it, but escaping it. In that case, it looks like their best bet is to pack their warm clothes and quite literally, head for the hills.