Interview with David and Robert Madore, the Authors of The Physics of Zombies

David and Robert Madore have published a scientific article, The Physics of Zombies: Madore’s Rules of Zombie Cohesion, Zombie Cells and Super Cells, Zombie Black Holes, Zombie Cell Stress-Fission and Zombie Quirks. It has made quite a splash in the zombie community, because the ideas presented in the paper are new and controversial. The paper has only been available for a couple of weeks, and many zombie forums are discussing the merits of the article, and there is already a short story published using the idea of zombie black holes.

I reviewed the paper last week and published the review in three parts; part 1, part 2, and part 3, and I found the paper so fascinating I asked the authors for an interview and they accepted. What follows is the transcript of the interview, which took place over email for several days. I think you’ll enjoy learning more about these amazing researchers – I know I did, and I think we’ll be hearing quite a bit about zombie black holes in the coming months and years, thanks to their efforts.

Q. How did you come up with the idea for this paper?  Were you guys sitting around one night watching Romero movies saying “Hey, those packs of zombies are behaving a lot like Mercury and Venus in relation to the sun’s attraction! We should write a paper about that,” or did this come to you in the shower one day?
 

We came up with the idea in five minutes and then spent two years playing with it back and forth, just conversationally.  It really started with a flock of birds and a phone call.

Bob and I were on the phone, I was watching a flock of birds moving about on the lawn and we were talking about hordes of zombies attacking a castle. (You know what I mean, the typical zombie enthusiast conversation!) We were trying to come up with an utterly defensible structure that would withstand hundreds of zombies at once. So, I’m watching the birds and I realize they’re darting to and fro, but with purpose. One bird in the flock would take flight and all the others would wing away with it. Also, one would spot food and they’d all land. They were following behavioral signals, just watching each other and joining in on the fun. Meanwhile, Bob is talking about modeling the entire US for zombie infection and movement patterns and, hence, where to place the castle.

Dave then had that moment where the two conversations collide. Dave thought about a US model of zombies and realized if he was going to program it with rules to see how they would sort themselves out. The model would have to include a “natural” feature that no one talks about, namely, that zombies of a feather stick together. Just like the birds.

The theory popped out, whole, with one sentence: Zombies naturally cohese, they have gravity that pulls them together. Which of course led to “Wow, zombies cohese, how come no one is mentioning that? If anyone seriously modeled them, they would end up being clustered around prey or…. What they THINK is prey…”

After that it did not take long before we realized that zombies are massively misunderstood. We kept going on our usual “what would you do” conversations about zombies but the theory kept messing things up. We realized that every plan we had ever played with about zombies was missing the most important piece: zombie black holes!

Things started to get very Newtonian at that point. We knew that just as he needed to invent Calculus to continue on, we would have to invent math and physics to understand zombies. Two years of conversations and we finally had enough stress coming to a dead end in every conversation that we decided that it’s time to write this and let others know. Share the pain as it were… we knew we had something special and new and wanted it out!

Q. Well, Dave, I think the zombie community is enjoying that pain. May I call you Dave? Your official signature says David, but I noticed you sign your emails as “Dave”. Also, your paper lists only one email address, and you sign your notes with “Dave (and Bob by proxy)”. Does Bob really exist or are you like the mad scientists Dr. Jekyll and Dr. Hyde? You don’t have to answer this one – I probably won’t believe you anyway.
 

Yes, absolutely, you can call me Dave. I am pretty much “whim driven” when it comes to that, I respond to both. It’s traditional to only have one email address as the contact on an academic paper. Bob had a huge chuckle this morning when I told him about the “Dr. Hyde” aspect! We should have thought of that in the beginning and played it up! Yes, Bob is very much a real person and he’s my older brother (one year and one day older). The “Bob by proxy” is used when he’s read the thing I’m writing and has given his stamp of approval. We’re trying to have one voice on this and we’re sharing the load behind the scenes, however, I’m more often than not in a place where I can answer publicly but he can’t. That won’t always be so, and I look forward to when it’s “Dave by proxy.”

Q. Tell us a little about your background(s). How long have you been concerned about zombies? What areas of study do you hail from? Do your colleagues know about your paper?
 

Zombies got a hold of Bob and I sometime back in the 1980′s. I’d have to say that it all began with a late, late night viewing of Dawn of the Dead. We were teenage boys then (still are, in a lot of ways) and it just hit us like a ton of bricks. Of course, at the time, the Cold War was in full effect and the thought of a world ending apocalypse was on everyone’s mind, so, of course zombies played into that. Heck, we thought Reagan might be a zombie!

So, add in some Mad Max, the Road Warrior and a million other Post-Apocalypse stories that made things seem like a playground after the world ends and you’ve got two teenage boys’ attention glued! We had ten thousand plans of how we would go through the shopping mall in Dawn and how we would fortify it. All totally unworkable now and just about the last thing we would like to do with our time, but, back then, it was all consuming! Well, to be honest, it’s still something we think about… in case you had not guessed! We figure, if you are prepared for a zombie plague you’re prepared for just about anything. We’re prepared.

As to our areas of study, Bob and I are all over the map. We both love to learn and we have both traveled around the world (together and separately) in our attempts to “figure out how all this works” (and, for the food and drink). We are really close in age, so, we have a lot of shared time together doing things that others may not have. We both learned to fly a plane together (at ages 12 and 13 respectively). We learned to shoot together, hunt together and fight together. We even went to the same vocational school together, which lasted until Dave dropped out of high school at fifteen. We went our separate ways, academically, after that. Dave began college at 16 and Bob continued on, becoming a certified machinist before dropping that for the college world himself.

As to formal learning? Bob is a criminologist and has worked with agencies all around the world, including a brief stint with New Scotland Yard and what the Brits like to call “The Home Office.” His main area of concentration is gangs, crowd behavior and fortifying structures. You can see how all that would be handy and why he’d be a busy boy in these trying times. Bob by proxy indeed!

Dave meanwhile has a ridiculous sounding pedigree. Dave started his academic mission with one goal: to be able to predict the future. To that end he studied archaeology and history to understand the past, anthropology, psychology and neuroscience to understand the present, and finally, statistics and physics to predict the future. After graduate school, he gelled this into a fairly lucrative trade of “tell Dave what you’re worried about and he’ll let you know how likely it is to happen…” for insurance companies and others. He has been publishing physics papers and giving lectures on and off for the past fifteen years. Oh, and, his predictions are right often enough for his and others’ satisfaction.

As to our colleagues? Nope, none of them know. Heck, even our own families had no idea what we were up to until a day before we posted the paper. We have been keeping it totally secret until now.  We’re not sure how our colleagues will take it, so, we’re not going out of our way to tell them. We are sort of counting on the internet being big enough for the paper to pass them by as they roam the halls.

We received a big “no thanks” from a fairly prestigious physics consortium that Dave had published with before and decided to go “open source” right after. Which, in reality, is a hell of a lot more fun!

Q. Well it won’t be long until your colleagues find the paper. As for the rejection from the consortium, that’s often the case with new ideas. Galileo was initially placed under house arrest when he voiced his ideas about the Earth revolving around the sun.

I was hoping you could take a look at your equation for the zombie big bite event,  Z = 1 / 1- (Zb / Zatr )^P. I recognize the equation as being similar to the electron avalanche equation but without the absolute value around (Zb / Zatr), however I’m wondering if it really is suitable for determining the number of zombies resulting from a big bite event. Your statement in section 2.1 says “we can see that as the zombie bite rate nears the zombie attrition rate; the only limiting factor is the number of humans, P, that are available for consumption and turning.” I agree that in your equation if Zb and Zatr were equal, Z would approach infinity (can’t divide by 0), but isn’t it true that if the zombie bite rate equaled the attrition rate, there wouldn’t be ANY new zombies created?  I’ve been plugging in numbers to try and understand how the equation would work but I can’t make it make sense.  Help!
 

Good question! We can definitely see where the confusion comes from; however, you used the phrase “there wouldn’t be ANY new zombies created.” The proper notion is that there wouldn’t be any ADDITIONAL zombies created, the total number of zombies (“Z” in the equation) would not grow. So, there would be NEW zombies but no ADDITIONAL zombies adding to the total still around…..

Let’s do it out and see: Z = 1 / 1- (Zb / Zatr )^P.

Starting zombies = 1 = Z, Zombie bite rate = 2 bites per hour = Zb
Zombie Attrition rate = 2 zombies per hour = Zatr
Number of prey available = Infinite = P

Now, let’s run that calculation for ten hours:

Hour 1: 1 starting zombie and 2 created, 2 destroyed   (Zb/Zatr) = (2/2) = 1 = Z
Hour 2: 1 starting zombie and 2 created, 2 destroyed   (Zb/Zatr) = (2/2) = 1 = Z
Hours 3, 4, 5…10 = the same results.

After 10 hours you still only have ONE active zombie. That is, you have created 20 NEW zombies, but destroyed 20 “NEW” zombies, so, at the end, you have 20 corpses, 1 zombie and Z = 1, thus you have no additional zombies.

Also, if Zb is less than Zatr you will have ZERO zombies at the end. Z = 0
If Zb is greater than Zatr, Z will increase and, as stated, be only limited by the number of prey humans available. If Zb vastly outpaces Zatr and you have sufficient human prey, you get a “zombie avalanche.”

In any event, the formula is actually only concerned with how many zombies are roaming around actively, not how many have been created yet destroyed. It’s all about the “Z total.” Hope all that makes sense!

Oh, and, there is also a bit of cheeky humor in it behind the scenes. We won’t get too far into it but it has to do with the concept of “Omega” from Astrophysics/Cosmology.   Omega has to do with the density of the universe and if it’s above a certain level, the universe contracts after the Big Bang (due to gravity) and if it’s below a certain level, the universe keeps on expanding. So, if the Zatr rate is above a certain level, the zombie world contracts and if Zatr is below Zb, the zombie universe expands. Z above 1 is expansion, Z below 1 is contraction. Just some Big Bang humor that we kept to ourselves but still in keeping with the theme! Heheheh.

Q. Thanks for clearing that up.  I get it now – Z is the number of additional zombies created, not the number of zombies.  Whew!

Have either of you read Zombie, Ohio, by Scott Kenemore? That novel has several moments that seem to back up your theories.  The main character is a “smart” zombie who at one point wanders aimlessly through the countryside – he’s not sure why.  He encounters several zombie groups and the ZCF does seem to exist between the groups.  There are a couple of cases of a zombie cell being tricked by false signals, and in one case the smart zombie actually creates a false signal to trick the zombie cell away from a man he wants to let live. Also, there are many cases of zombies following other zombie’s visual signals, even mimicking them. Anyway, have you two ever thought about how a “smart” or slightly smarter zombie might arise and what the odds might be?  A probability equation, maybe?
 

No, neither of us has read it – but it sounds super interesting! Oh, and, it backs up what we’re saying? Then it sounds super-duper fantastic and we encourage everyone to rush out and buy it! Heheheh. Anything that supports the new school of necropological thinking, we’re in favor of!

Hmmm…   smart zombies? The odds? A probability equation? Well, now you’re asking us to put on our science hats, so, that means you’re going to get science questions back!

As Bill Clinton might say, “It all depends on what smart means…” We are going to need to set out some agreed upon parameters before we could begin to calculate odds. First, we would need to define “smart.”

We would describe the basic iteration of a “smart” as “a zombie that can understand, differentiate and choose to ignore signals from other zombies and/or prey.” That’s pretty simple, right? If a zombie can’t do that, they’re like all other zombies and they will be pulled along by ZCF like any other zombie. ZCF is what causes a zombie to lose its individuality and become an automaton in its fullest sense. In one sense, it’s what makes them “stupid.”

So, the basic unit of “smart zombie” is one that can make decisions about what to do when it comes to ZCF – either follow it or ignore it. (Or, follow it for a while and ignore it when it comes apparent that following it is fruitless/dangerous to its survival and/or goals.)

Is that what you mean by “smart?” A zombie that can choose its own course of action despite what the other zombies are doing?

Meanwhile, “smart” to others might mean “it can manipulate tools” (one of many classic definitions of what it means to be human, and not an animal). Tool use means smart? As in, a zombie is a complete slave to ZCF but it uses tools while following ZCF?

For example, a zombie is attracted to a shopping mall surrounded by zombies and joins the crowd pressing in… he’s completely engulfed in ZCF and is pulled to the location and must stay. As he moves around with the zombie mass he comes near a doorway with a closed door. The door has a knob and he reaches out, turns it and the door opens. He has just used a “tool” (the doorknob) to open a door even though he used that tool while in thrall to the ZCF that’s keeping him glued to the scene. So, he’s “dumb” in one sense (still following ZCF) but he’s “smart” in another (he can use tools to accomplish his goals created by ZCF).

Take that example and make it “he sees a rock and picks it up and smashes the window…”  that’s “smart” to some people. He just used a very basic tool to accomplish his goal of breaking in and getting the humans!

Now take that example and add in the idea that the mall is actually empty and the ZCF that pulled all those zombies there was from “false signal automata” from the paper.  How smart is that zombie? An empty mall? But used tools to get in?

So, before we could begin to develop a probability equation we would have to determine that parameters of the outcome. That is to say, we’d have to know when we’ve achieved it before we could figure out how likely it is to be achieved.

Sounds like another paper to us!

Q. Wow – your answer was a small paper in itself!  I should have known better than to pose an open-ended question to scientists. :-) Of course, you are completely correct in that a definition of a “smart” zombie would be needed – and that may come down to levels of smartness.

I liked your glass box example which described how once the prey is gone, if a sufficiently large group of zombies are involved and they can’t see that the prey is gone, a resonance or echo signal is created just from the zombies reacting to the non prey-seeing zombie’s signals, and how the prey-seeing zombies then react because they think the rest of the group has seen something. It seems like they would build to a frenzy, much like the way a laser is created by bouncing light back and forth. How did you come up with this idea?
 

First off, thanks! It has been so pleasing to us to see others comprehending and enjoying what we have written! You have a knack for distilling down our drivel into basic ideas and you’ve nailed it with that description. Once the signal becomes resonant, it’s irrelevant as to whether or not there’s real prey around.

The Glass Box is our favorite part of the paper. As to where we came up with it? Well, I, Dave, came up with it. It came from the same place as Einstein’s “trains” that he used to explain Special Relativity, and if I may make a relativity joke (which are rather rare and arcane) all of the ideas “come from the Ether.” The truth is that it just sprang forth, whole, when we finally sat down to write the paper. The same place ideas for paintings or art come from, just seemed like the right thing to write, paint, draw, choreograph, etc.

We wrote the paper in about three or four days and what you see on the web is actually the first draft! We spoke about it for two years, but, the mechanics of writing it up went very, very quickly. Just banged out a draft, passed it back and forth a couple of times… fixed most of the spelling and grammar and put that draft up. So, now, it’s getting murky as to the origins of certain things. The Glass Box, while our favorite, definitely falls into the “murky’ world of writing.

Q. How does it feel to be the proud parents of the zombie black hole theory? It’s only been a couple of weeks since you released your paper, and it’s rapidly claiming its piece of the Internet pie. There are discussions on zombie forums, there has already been a short story created with the idea, and my guess is we’ll see more. Heck, it will probably show up in a movie this year. Are you surprised?
 

It feels great! Yes, in some ways we’re surprised and in some ways we’re not. The ways we’re surprised are in how few “Dude, this sucks!” responses we’re getting, which is to say, none! We expected many, many more internet trolls. The positive feedback has been complete and total. That’s just crazy and doesn’t happen! We truly expected to have a fight on our hands. So much of what we do in our “other lives” faces opposition and entrenched interests that it has just become routine for us to be met with skepticism and have to defend our positions with all the arms that we can bring to bear. So, the real surprise for us has been how receptive and open people have been to our notions!

The feedback has been super well-informed to boot! Your own site, wezombie.com [http://wezombie.com], is an excellent example of that… we thought we would be writing our own summaries, explanations and reviews. Turns out, zombie people are incredibly well informed and diverse. We thought maybe they were that way, like us, however, we just had no idea that zombie people are real people just like us… smart, funny and really interested in the subject.

The fact that people are already, in just two weeks, incorporating our theories into anything (reviews, fiction, discussions) is just mind blowing, truly. We did think that would happen, but, we felt it would be years of drum banging before even ONE of those things have come to pass…

So, in essence, the surprise is the speed. The speed and easy adoption of the theory gives us that warm fuzzy feeling of “Wow, this stuff IS as obvious as we thought, even if no one has done this before…”  it’s rare to have something like that unfold in front of you. I guess we know what’s it’s like for an artist to hear his or her song on the radio for the first time. (Or, we guess, for the youngsters, have it chart on ITunes!) We’re humbled.

Q. What should we be expecting next from the Zynamic duo? How are you going to top this one?
 

We have so much more we want to say about zombies and the undead that it’s daunting. We are barely scratching the surface here and we look forward to diving back into the research and writing when this first wave is over. We have solid material on zombie vision, defenses, locomotion, endurance, vitality, strength and a whole host of formulae that, to us, are as equally “obvious” as the Zombie Black Hole was.

We are looking forward to more public projects in the zombie world. We are ready to assist anyone who is looking to join and utilize the new school of zombie physics and science: Necropology. As mentioned, the feedback and adoption of our thinking has been amazing, it has also been explosive. We have received so many communications from people who are taking the theory and running with it, and that’s great! We believe that it won’t be long until we are surpassed in the details and implications of what we have started. So, for a while, we are going to be very busy just keeping up with the people that are interested and involved in making this work within and improving their own zombie projects.

Since we intend to stay fairly “open source” with all this, we know the flood will continue. We are hoping at some point to launch a full scale journal dedicated to zombies – the “JOAN: The Journal of American Necropology” is a real thing we’re going to do. Based on how many scholarly responses we’ve received and how many people are running with it, it should be a snap to pull that together (or so we hope!).

We really do believe that a “new school” is underway, even if the establishment doesn’t know it yet. We, and like- minded pups, are going to turn this sucker upside down!

Heck, we think our piece on zombie vision alone is going to set tongues and keyboards wagging! Stay tuned!

Q. I want to say thank you again for allowing us to pick at your brains; it’s been quite tasty. Is there anything you wished I would have asked you about? Any secrets or hidden meanings in your paper you’ve been dying to have exposed? Anything you want to tell your fans? I read your paper backwards but didn’t find anything unusual…
 

We are the ones who should thank you. Just seeing your analysis has meant a lot to us – thank you!

You read it backwards? Really? And you didn’t catch on page seven were we clearly spelled out “Bob is Hyde” using the eighth letter of every third noun? Astounding (and joking, of course)! We can’t think of anything you should have asked, it’s been a rather thorough interview. Any interview where you’re asked to do math is pretty damn comprehensive! At least you didn’t ask us what we listened to while writing the paper… I would have told you “Meat Puppets: Backwater” on repeat, two to three hundred times.

Okay, it’s weird to even think of us having “fans”,  however, if we think about our fellow zombie enthusiasts as our mother would call them, “friends we haven’t met yet”, we DO have something to say: Contact us! Tell your friends! Tweet us! We are very, very open and love discussing all of this. Also, if you see something out there in zombie world that doesn’t make sense to you, speak up! Analyze it! Talk to people! Oh, and, if you happen to see zombies NOT following the theory, let them know too – be proud of the science, we are!

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