‘Zombie Apocalypse’ Scenario for Upcoming Science Unwrapped

By Mary-Ann Muffoletto


LOGAN – From movies to pop music (“If I were a zombie, I’d never eat your brain…”), it seems the undead are already taking over the world. The usually staid Centers for Disease Control launched its tongue-in-cheek Zombie Apocalypse emergency preparedness campaign last year and even Utah State University’s Housing Services, with its wildly popular, campus-wide “Zombies versus Humans” game, has jumped on the band wagon.

“A zombie apocalypse provides the perfect metaphor to illustrate concepts of mathematical epidemiology,” says USU mathematics professor Jim Powell. “And it’s a lot of ghoulish fun.”

Powell is featured speaker for USU’s Science Unwrapped program Friday, Feb. 24, on campus. He presents “Mathematics and the Life-Impaired: How the Theory of Disease Predicts the Zombie Apocalypse” at  7 p.m. in the Emert Auditorium, Room 130, of the Eccles Science Learning Center.

Hosted by USU’s College of Science, the free event is open to inquiring minds, living and undead, of all ages. Costumes are encouraged.

Using storylines from such movies as “Night of the Living Dead,” “28 Days Later,” “The Walking Dead,” and “I Am Legend,” as well as data from USU’s zombie games, Powell shows how mathematicians model an epidemic.

“We’ll talk about how scientists develop models to predict the course and impact of epidemics, the use of vaccines to eradicate disease and how ‘herd immunity’ works,” he says.

Hands-on learning activities and refreshments follow Powell’s talk, which is a continuation of Science Unwrapped’s spring 2012 series, “End of the World as We Know It: The Science Behind Apocalypses.”

“Throughout history and today, humans have been fascinated by impending disasters and the threat of apocalyptic scenarios,” says Shane Larson, Science Unwrapped committee chair and assistant professor in USU’s Physics Department. “For our spring series, we’ve assembled an exciting slate of speakers to help us explore this topic from diverse disciplines and points of view.”

For more information, call 435-797-3517, visit www.usu.edu/science/unwrapped or view the ‘Science Unwrapped at USU’ page on Facebook.

Contact: Shane Larson, 435-797-8838s.larson@usu.edu


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