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If zombies actually existed we'd be f***ed, say scientists


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You can tell how serious an academic is by how concerned they are at being confused with dodgy old goth singers.


Another piece of vital research


If zombies actually existed, an attack by them would lead to the collapse of civilisation unless dealt with quickly and aggressively.


That is the conclusion of a mathematical exercise carried out by researchers in Canada.


They say only frequent counter-attacks with increasing force would eradicate the fictional creatures.


The scientific paper is published in a book - Infectious Diseases Modelling Research Progress.


In books, films, video games and folklore, zombies are undead creatures, able to turn the living into other zombies with a bite.


But there is a serious side to the work.


In some respects, a zombie "plague" resembles a lethal rapidly-spreading infection.


In their study, the researchers from the University of Ottawa and Carleton University (also in Ottawa) posed a question: If there was to be a battle between zombies and the living, who would win?


Professor Robert Smith? (the question mark is part of his surname and not a typographical mistake) and colleagues wrote: "We model a zombie attack using biological assumptions based on popular zombie movies.


"We introduce a basic model for zombie infection and illustrate the outcome with numerical solutions."


On his university web page, the mathematics professor at Ottawa University says the question mark distinguishes him from Robert Smith, lead singer of rock band The Cure.


To give the living a fighting chance, the researchers chose "classic" slow-moving zombies as our opponents rather than the nimble, intelligent creatures portrayed in some recent films.


"While we are trying to be as broad as possible in modelling zombies - especially as there are many variables - we have decided not to consider these individuals," the researchers said.


Back for good?


Even so, their analysis revealed that a strategy of capturing or curing the zombies would only put off the inevitable.


In their scientific paper, the authors conclude that humanity's only hope is to "hit them [the undead] hard and hit them often".


They added: "It's imperative that zombies are dealt with quickly or else... we are all in a great deal of trouble."


According to the researchers, the key difference between the zombies and the spread of real infections is that "zombies can come back to life".


But they say that their work has parallels with, for example, the spread of ideas.


The study has been welcomed by one of the world's leading disease specialists, Professor Neil Ferguson, who is one of the UK government's chief advisors on controlling the spread of swine flu.


"The paper considers something that many of us have worried about - particularly in our younger days - of what would be a feasible way of tackling an outbreak of a rapidly spreading zombie infection," said Professor Ferguson, from Imperial College London.


However he thinks that some of the assumptions made in the paper might be unduly alarmist.


"My understanding of zombie biology is that if you manage to decapitate a zombie then it's dead forever. So perhaps they are being a little over-pessimistic when they conclude that zombies might take over a city in three or four days," he said.

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