Friday, October 31, 2014

A Brief History of Academics Writing Seriously About Zombies

The Chronicle of Higher Education
October 31st, 2014

Academics have debunked fears of a zombie outbreak. But that certainly hasn’t stopped them from planning for one.
In 2009 a Canadian research team published a mathematical model for how a zombie virus might spread and what governments would have to do in order to stop it. A few years later, a pair of U.S. researchers expanded on that work and demonstrated how similar modeling techniques could be used to predict the spread of influenza.
This is the context of most zombie-related research: trying to better understand how actual diseases spread. And in a world where people are suggestible to zombie hoaxes any time a scary illness like Ebola is in the news, it makes sense to try to harness that pop-culture fetish in the service of educating people.
But feeding people’s appetite for zombie scenarios can be a tricky science. When serious researchers talk about zombies with anything resembling a straight face, misunderstandings can spread through the public imagination faster than scientists can contain them.

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