The end of the world is really, really fun to think about. Nuclear warfare, global warming, giant Cloverfield-esque thing—the possibilities are endless. But these days, the collective American psyche is captivated by one particular species-ending event more than any other: the zombie apocalypse. And now, a new project dubbed "Zombietown USA" is using science, data and geography to simulate exactly how it would come about in America. (Sorry Hollywood, your work here is done.)
The site maps out the United States population by 2010 census data, and uses Gillespie dynamics (we're not exactly sure what that means, but okay) to project how people interact in different areas. It takes a few variables into account (which can be altered by the user), including kill-to-bite ratio and zombie walking speed. The default setting for the former is 0.8 kills per bite, and an average pace of 11 minutes per zombie mile for the latter. You can fiddle around with those settings depending on what kind of zombie you're looking to simulate. A slow Walking Dead zombie would probably be a bit slower, while one of those speedy I Am Legend zombies would swarm across the country at a much faster rate.
You can click on different locations to kick off the outbreak, and the simulation will show how quickly an apocalyptic infection would spread. If the outbreak started in New York with the default settings provided by Zombietown, the entire city would be engulfed with brain-hungry humans in about 30 hours. Chicago would be shit out of luck in less than a day, and Los Angeles would become an undead paradise within 48 hours of an outbreak.
The simulation shows that the spread of zombies would happen the quickest in dense, major cities, and would slow down in more rural areas. For example, an outbreak in Washington, D.C. would spread across the entire Eastern Seaboard in a little more than two weeks, but would take close to two months to spread across the Midwest (so you'd have plenty of time to get the hell out of dodge). An outbreak in Los Angeles would be pretty much contained to Southern California, but if it also hit the Bay Area the whole state would be screwed pretty quickly.
One interesting takeaway from the simulation is that zombies would apparently have a lot of trouble crossing the Rocky Mountains. An outbreak that starts in the eastern half of the country wouldn't be able to spread west of the Midwest because the population thins out in the western mountain states.
So if you live in a metropolis and zombies start tearing peoples faces off, cut town for a place like Wyoming (which would probably be the only time you'd ever find yourself saying "Wyoming is definitely the place to be").