How would Chicago fare in a zombie apocalypse?

Posted Nov 8, 2016 by Tim Sandle
In one of the models loved by computer scientists and horror geeks, researchers have calculated how long it would take a major U.S. city – Chicago – to fall should a zombie apocalypse ever occur.
A shot from the play  z hoard of zombies scare the audience.
A shot from the play, z hoard of zombies scare the audience.
The research has been conducted by Argonne National Laboratory based on a specially developed computer model. The headline outcome is that should a zombie outbreak occur (and that’s a big theoretical ‘if’), then a big city like Chicago would fall in less than two months. In 60 days, the model finds, two million Chicagoans would become zombified.
A zombie (a derivation of the Haitian word zombi) is a fictional undead being created through the reanimation of a human corpse. In the early days of horror films and fiction, zombies were linked with voodoo and had more of a form of a possessed corpse. This changed with Romero movies, where the zombie became a metaphor for human society.
This worst-case scenario for zombie epidemiology, as Chicago Tribune reports, showed that there isn’t a lot people can do, ultimately, to defend themselves since the zombie population would increase at a rate faster than people could defend themselves.
City of Chicago
City of Chicago
In the model strategies for defense and models of how city officials could communicate to the populations were added to the mix. These ‘interventions’ slow things down but, at the end, they would probably be unable to stem the tide of zombie invaders.
A short video has been put together by the researchers to show the speed of a zombie outbreak within the city:
The academic behind the model, Dr. Chick Macal explains more in a research note. The model used was called ChiSIM and its normally used for examining more conventional health emergencies, such as looking at MRSA rates within a given community. The model was complex, looking at the activities of 3 million people in some 2 million spots within the city.
Some hub areas were called out as being particularly serious such as the Cook County Jail, where infection could spread easiest.
Although no ‘zombies’ as portrayed in shows like The Walking Dead or the works of George A. Romero have ever occurred (that is reanimated corpses), highly infective viruses can theoretically spread quickly, especially in close communities. This means models of disease spread have a serious side to them.
An actor portraying a zombie  shuffling towards the audience at Generation of Z  in London.
An actor portraying a zombie, shuffling towards the audience at Generation of Z, in London.
According to Dr. Macal: “this work allowed us to understand and do a better job for finding interventions that result in better outcomes, or even optimal outcomes -- better solutions."