Research
24 Oct 2014

How to survive a zombie apocalypse

The Open University’s computing expert, Dr Neil Smith has created a programme that models a zombie apocalypse to tell us what our best chance of survival is.

After collating results from 300,000 virtual world scenarios, he found the best ways to survive were to:

1. Avoid other people – groups will attract zombies and once one person is infected, the rest will follow.
2. Find a safe spot and wait it out until scavenging wildlife and decomposing organisms destroy the zombies.
3. Hope that the zombies are weak or not very infectious so that you can avoid them or fend them off.

Researching Artificial Intelligence at The Open University in Milton Keynes, Dr Smith said:

“Really, it’s all or nothing with zombies – either the outbreak subsides, or everyone dies. Personally, in the event of an outbreak, I’ll be fighting the instinct to stay with other people. Running and avoiding others – it’s really the only way to stay safe!”

Underpinning this work is a computer programme that combines technologies to predict the spread of infectious diseases with mapping technologies to simulate the ‘flocking behaviours’ of birds, fish and humans to seek out others for mutual defence, applying this computer modelling and data to a zombie apocalypse scenario.

Dr Smith’s computer programme is freely available for people to download and run themselves with adjustable scenarios. Users will need to install and register on NetLogo, available for free: https://ccl.northwestern.edu/netlogo/ and then visit http://www.computing.open.ac.uk/People/neil.smith.

A student from The Open University recently worked with the OU to arrange a zombie apocalypse to surprise her zombie-mad husband. This formed part of the OU's campaign to offer students the opportunity to say thanks to the people in the lives them that inspired them to study. The moment was captured on video and can be seen here (YouTube): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZWX2Pm7NjYw&noredirect=1

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