Saturday, 5 March 2016

Diffusion of the dead - Epilogue. Part 1, Horror Battle Royale.

Having written and published the article on zombie invasion I thought the story would end there. Of course the media picked it up and I had my 15 minutes of fame on the radio and TV. However, it appears I was very wrong. A PR company, PrettyGreen, contacted me about getting involved with their Halloween publicity campaign for GiffGaff, a mobile network operator. 

Their question was: suppose seven stereotypical characters from horror movies are released in an arena leading to a battle royale, who would survive? The characters are:
  • Tall Guy – A very tall (6,9 ft) escaped convict;
  • Evil Clown – An evil, twisted clown;
  • Pumpkin Head – A man with a pumpkin as a head;
  • Baby Man – A somewhat mental man who has spent is life trapped in a basement;
  • Hero Girl – A normal young girl;
  • Dead Girl – A dead bride;
  • Skin Face – A man with excess skin stapled over his face.
My first thought was how was I going to do this? As mentioned when we first started this set of posts there are many different ways mathematics could answer this question. I decided to use differential equations to model the health of each character. As the characters interact their health would reduce depending on certain factors. Thus, I asked PrettyGreen to provide me with a strength, agility and initial health for each combatant and I used these to simulate who will be the last person standing. They were even kind enough to send me a picture to use with this post.
Figure 1. Hero Girl, Evil Clown, Dead Girl, Tall Guy and Pumpkin Head all having a nice jog in London. Image courtesy of PrettyGreen.
This post is a little more mathematical then normal as I present all the gory equation details. However, do not let this scare you. Hopefully, I provide all the intuitive details you should need in the text. If you just want the brief that appeared in the news, then please look here.
The battle simulation is based on the reduction of each combatant’s initial health at a rate proportional to their meeting with an opponent. Once a combatant’s health has dropped to zero, they are immediately removed from the conflict, whilst the survivors fight on.

The interaction outcome is based on a scaled form of the empirical rule known as the “Law of Mass Action”. Explicitly, the rate of reduction in health is proportional to the attacker’s health, scaled by an inverse square of the defender’s health. Intuitively, this simply means that a reduction in health can only occur when the attacker and defender meet. Moreover as the attacker gets weaker, their attacks do less damage. Equally, as the defender becomes weaker their defence is less effective. The precise form of the interaction term is,
where $H_a$ is the health of the attacker and $H_d$ is the health of the defender. It should be understood that this interaction term is known as a "constitutive equation". This means that it is not based on any fundamental law, but it is postulated because it produces the right kind of dynamics that we would expect. There are many other functions I could have used in its place, however, in using this equation, I am hoping that it is simple enough to capture the general outcomes of the system and, thus, the results will be robust to any small changes that might occur.

From these assumptions we can construct a coupled set of ordinary differential equations that will evolve the battle and predict who will win. The exact form of the equation for combatant $i=1,2,…,7$ is
\tau\frac{dH_i}{dt}=\frac{-1}{1+H_i^2}\frac{1}{S_iA_i}\sum_{j\neq i}S_jA_jH_j.
Note that the equation is only active while $H_i>0$. Also notice that we have scaled the terms with the strength parameter, $S_i$, and agility parameter, $A_i$. Thus, speed is, potentially, just as important as strength. Parameters can be found in the Table 1, below. Finally, we define the initial condition as:

Name and variable Strength, $S_i$ Agility, $A_i$ Initial health, $H_{i0}$
Tall Guy, $H_1$ 9 7 45
Evil Clown, $H_2$ 7 8 65
Pumpkin Head, $H_3$ 6 4 60
Baby Man, $H_4$ 8 3 40
Hero Girl, $H_5$ 3 8 90
Dead Girl, $H_6$ 8 6 10
Skin Face, $H_7$ 9 3 20
The parameters were chosen such that strength and agility were on a scale from 1 to 10, such that higher numbers represent higher strengths and speeds, respectively. The health parameter is on a scale of 0 to 100, with the relative size determining how healthy each character is. It should be noted that in the original data Dead Girl’s health was 0. Understandably, this would make her “dead”, however, it would also suggest that she was unkillable, resulting in her inevitable win. To ensure such a case does not occur I changed her initial health to 10.

Next time I will present the results of the above simulations and demonstrate that although this is only a simple model it produces an outcome that you would expect to see in any good (or bad) horror film. In the mean time, have a go at simulating the system yourself and perhaps vary the interaction rule to see how the results are influenced by this equation.

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