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NRE 509 Lab #5 –STELLA Modeling of a Zombie Invasion Background The Zombie Invasion scenario has been a common trope in American popular culture for decades. In one version, the outbreak begins with a mutant virus introduced to a small population of humans. The virus kills those whom it infects, and after a period of time, causes them to rise from the dead with an insatiable hunger for human flesh. Decaying mockeries of human life, these walking undead are insensible to cold, heat, fatigue, or fear. Mindless, they possess only the most basic instinct to feed upon the living. The infection spreads by fluid contact, typically a bite. An infected human who manages to escape being consumed entirely will shortly, die, only to rise again as a fully contagious member of the walking dead. The most often‐cited way to kill a zombie for good is to destroy its brain. The Zombie Invasion scenario is often used as a vehicle for critique of modern man’s utter unpreparedness for survival in the event of the collapse of social order. In books and films, the highest occupants of the modern socioeconomic ladder, whose position is wholly dependent on modern economic and technological infrastructure, are typically the least equipped for survival in a post‐apocalyptic world. Mnual laborers, farmers, survivalists, and others whose accumulated life skills are less dependent on functioning modern infrastructure—as might be the case with, say, a hedge fund manager—are the most likely to survive and promote the survival of others. The collapse of social order, followed by the outright reversal of its smoldering remains, is part and parcel of the horror of the zombie apocalypse. Past Work In their seminal work on mathematical modeling of a zombie scenario, Professor R.J. Smith? (the ? is part of his legal name) and his team applied a modified epidemiological model to the problem. i However, I observe a small deficiency in the model. In the most basic form, there are three stocks. S – susceptible humans Z – zombies R – removed
Figure 1. Modified epidemiological model for zombie invasion The term S represents the death of humans by natural causes. However, the model clearly shows that all humans that die from natural causes are directed to a common pool of corpses (R) from which zombies may resurrect. Humans which die of natural causes are not expected to rise from the dead. This oversight appears to persist in more sophisticated models presented in the paper.
A careful observer might also note that there is no allowance for zombie destruction in this model. However, in a later section of the paper, Smith?, et al implement an “impulsive eradication” mechanism, in which the humans would attempt to control the zombie population by “strategically destroying them at such times that... resources permit.” Overview of STELLA Model In my STELLA model, I attempted to expand on the past work by Munz, Hudea, Imad, and Smith by incorporating the following elements: A hybrid Lotka‐Volterra/epidemiological model to simulate a multistage disease spread by predation, with a 1:1 efficiency of conversion of prey to ‘infected prey’ A persistent, rather than impulsive, zombie eradication mechanism which more closely resembles prey defense systems in the natural world A ‘panic factor’ coupled to the ratio of infection vs. zombie elimination rate, plus the zombie feed rate which gives a rough approximate value for the general feel of which side is winning. The panic factor causes indirect human casualties (i.e. not directly caused by zombie infection or consumption). A ‘learning curve’ which simulates adaptive human behavioral changes over time A ‘zombie feed rate’ term which simulates destruction, but not infection and conversion, of living humans. The STELLA model omits human birth rate, and death by natural causes. For small populations (under 10,000) and short modeling times, these factors were felt to be of negligible consequence. Detailed Description of STELLA Model In my STELLA model, there are four stocks: S – susceptible humans I – infected humans Z – zombies X – removed and two conveyors: IFREE– “free infected” infected humans not quarantined Q – quarantined humans A conveyor is similar to a stock, but the primary output is controlled by a transit‐time factor. A susceptible human (S) may be infected at a given rate proportional to the number of humans and the number of active zombies (Z). Alternatively, a susceptible human may die (via s elim rate) from 1) the mass panic caused by the zombie invasion or 2) be wholly consumed by a zombie. The zombie feed rate is proportional to the number of zombies. The panic factor was described previously. A susceptible human unlucky enough to be infected moves to the infected stock (I). At this stage, the infected human may be detected. If the infected human is detected, he may be sent
to the quarantine conveyor (Q), in futile hopes that a cure may be found. Since no cure is possible, all infected humans are removed (X) after the latency period of the disease expires. However, there is also a leakage rate (quar escape rate) of infected humans who escape quarantine, and join the free infected conveyor. The model assumes that successful escapes are made immediately upon arrival in quarantine (i.e. at the onset of the disease latency period, which begins again in the IFREE conveyor). In time, the humans realize the futility of the quarantine strategy. This is simulated by the learning curve factor, which causes the proportion of infected humans sent to the free infected conveyor to increase over time. This leaves two categories of infected humans. 1) non‐quarantined infected humans 2) undetected infected humans Both groups proceed directly from the infected stock (I) to the free infected (IFREE) conveyor. Thus, the IFREE conveyor consists of these two populations, plus the population of escaped infected quarantined humans. Unless they are destroyed first, the disease latency period expires and members of the IFREE conveyor resurrect as zombies. The leakage rate from IFREE represents the active detection and elimination of the IFREE population. Resurrected zombies are capable of creating more zombies by infecting humans, or destroying humans outright by feeding on them. The zombie feed rate is also an important term in the panic factor equation, which results in indirect human casualties. The zombie population is controlled by active retaliation by humans (z elim rate), which is proportional to the product of the number of humans, the number of zombies, and a variable zombie kill factor. The zombie kill factor increases over time with the learning curve, as humans learn better methods for controlling the undead.
Figure 2: Complete STELLA model for zombie invasion Analysis of Results The model itself is inherently highly unstable. A small change in the infection rate, or a small change in the intrinsic zombie kill factor can result in rapid population crash of either humans or zombies. Parameters were finely tuned to demonstrate a long, drawn‐out contest between the living and undead. The three‐day disease latency is clearly apparent in Figures 3 and 4, as the graph of flows and stocks indicate a sharp jump in activity/population after the 3rd day of the invasion. As might be expected, widespread panic can result in catastrophic loss of life. Panic has elements of both positive‐ and negative‐feedback. As panic casualties increase, there are fewer humans to fight the zombies, which increases the rate of undetected zombie resurrection. This increases the panic factor. At the same time, there is also a smaller human population for the zombies to infect and feed upon. This decreases the panic factor. The relative weight of the rate
of zombie feeding, as compared to the ratio of infection/zombie elimination may be adjusted to reflect a real‐life scenario when empirical data becomes available. Figure 5 illustrates that the learning curve is the key to human persistence. The steadily increasing zombie population reaches its peak at after approximately 10.5 days, at which point the battle swings to favor the humans.
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Figure 3: Stocks (S, I, Z, X) and conveyor (Q). Conveyor IFREE is not shown.
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Figure 4: Important flows and converters related to panic casualties.
1: Learning Curve 1: 2: 3: 4: 5: 3 6 1 6 10 3 4 2 2: z elim rate 3: ifree elim rate 4
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Figure 5: The effect of the Learning Curve on infected human elimination, zombie elimination, use of quarantine, and overall zombie population Conclusion The keys to human survival in the face of a zombie invasion rest in the ability of citizens to mount an immediate, ruthless, and above all, adaptive campaign of resistance. A strategy of quarantine of known infected humans is impractical. A large‐scale security breakdown (not included in this simulation) could result in thousands of quarantined, infected humans escaping into the general population. It is worth noting that the zombie population never exceeded seven. After 30 days, the human population of 10,000 lost nearly 10% of its total membership. Of this loss of life, almost 8% is attributed to indirect casualties caused by panic. Therefore, all possible measures must be undertaken to counteract panic, be they educational or coercive. As this model clearly demonstrates, the destructive potential of the walking undead cannot be underestimated.
P. Munz, I. Hudea, J. Imad and R.J. Smith? When zombies attack!: Mathematical modelling of an outbreak of zombie infection (Infectious Disease Modelling Research Progress 2009, in: J.M. Tchuenche and C. Chiyaka, eds, pp133‐150).
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