20 Oct

Map of the Week: The United States: Zombieland Edition

By Katie Anderson

With Halloween quickly approaching, the spooky season is officially underway. Witches, goblins, and ghouls takeover until All Hallows’ Eve. But what if the holiday brings more than just trick-or-treaters to your door? A figure with the most effective zombie makeup you’ve ever seen or a real-life zombie? The apocalypse is here! You’ve gotta get out of there! But where? Before you grab your trusty baseball bat, you need an escape plan.

Built by Cornell graduate students Alexander Alemi and Matthew Bierbaum, the pair digitally constructed Zombie-Town USA. The interactive map, utilizing census data down to the individual city block, allows users to click anywhere on the map and place a single zombie – kickstarting the spread of dark red across the country. Viewers watch how zombies multiply, starting from Patient Zero to plaguing the entire continental United States, as well as seeing how long the process would take – perfect for plotting your zombie apocalypse escape with Twinkies already in hand. 

The process of creating the map is detailed in this paper published in collaboration with Cornell professors Dr. Christopher R. Myers and Dr. James P. Sethna. Utilizing modern epidemiology modeling, the researchers calculated the hypothetical spread of zombie infections. Adding to the interactive component of the map, users are granted the ability to adjust the formula themselves by changing the parameters set, such as the kill-to-zombie bite ratio and the amount of time it would take for a zombie to walk one mile. 

How long would you survive? Happy Halloween!