Saturday, 6 February 2016

Diffusion of the dead - The maths of zombie invasions. Part 8, Surfing the infection wave.

Last time we considered the interaction rules
  1. humans kill zombies;
  2. zombies kill humans; and
  3. zombies can transform humans into zombie,
and produced the following system of equations,
\begin{align}\frac{\partial H}{\partial t}&=D_H\frac{\partial^2 H}{\partial x^2}-\alpha HZ\label{Human_PDE}\\\frac{\partial Z}{\partial t}&=D_Z\frac{\partial^2 H}{\partial x^2}+\beta HZ\label{Zombie_PDE},\end{align}
which predicts the evolution of the human population, $H$, and the zombie population, $Z$.

To see how quickly the infection moves through the human population, we look for a particular type of solution, known as a "Fisher wave". This type of wave travels at a specific speed and does not change its shape as its travels. Such a solution can be seen below.
 Movie: The black line represents the human population. The red dashed line represents the zombie population. Initially, there are only a small number of zombies, but over time the infected population spreads out and transforms the susceptible population.

By manipulating the equations we can show that the wave speed, $v$, has a value of
v^2=4D_Z\beta H_0,
where $D_Z$ is diffusion rate of the zombies, $\beta$ is the net-rate of zombification (a.k.a how quickly the zombie population grows) and $H_0$ is the initial human population. Critically, note that the left-hand side of the equation is positive, because it is a squared value.

In order to slow the infection, we should try to reduce the right-hand side of the above equation.
  • Reducing $D_Z$ amounts to slowing the zombies down; thus, an effective fortification should have plenty of obstructions that a human could navigate but a decaying zombie would find challenging.
  • Reducing $\beta$ occurs through killing zombies quicker than they can infect humans. If we are really effective in our zombie destroying ways then we can make $\beta$ negative. This would make the right-hand side of the equation negative, but the left-hand side of the equation is positive. Since we get a contradiction no wave can exist and the infection wave is stopped.
  • Reducing $H_0$ involves reducing the human population. This could mean geographically isolating the population on an island because if the zombies are unable to get to you then they can't infect you.
The last tactic of reducing the human populations could also lead to a rather controversial tactic. Suppose you don't live near a deserted fortified island. Rather, you work in an office surrounded by people who would not be able to protect themselves from the oncoming hordes. Then you may consider removing the humans around you in a more drastic and permanent way. This is because everyone that surrounds you is simply a potential infection!

I do not recommend this cause of action, as reducing the human population also reduces the number of people able to fight the zombies and humans sacrificing other humans would only speed the extinction of their own species. The human population will have enough trouble trying to survive the hordes of undead, without worrying about an attack from their own kind!

This, pretty much, brings us to the end of the mathematical zombie story. It's been a long journey, thus, to ensure that you haven't missed any of the critical strategies along the way the next post simply focuses on summarising and concluding what we're been discussing since Halloween. See you then.

1 comment:

  1. Dispatched to Africa to combat an unknown disease, Lieutenant Skyler Luiken instead becomes an eyewitness, and sole survivor, of the outbreak of a deadly global plague. As the world falls apart, Skyler races to find his family, in the hopes that something of the life he knew can survive this devastating infection