Because it’s Thursday: Epidemiology of the Undead

April 1, 2010
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(This article was first published on Revolutions, and kindly contributed to R-bloggers)

Noted statistician Andrew Gelman has teamed up with occultist George Romero to address the most serious public-health threat of out time: Zombies. They've published a paper in the journal Biomastika, "How many zombies do you know?" to propose the use of indirect survey methods to measure outbreaks of the undead:

Abstract: The zombie menace has so far been studied only qualitatively or through the use of mathematical models without empirical content. We propose to use a new tool in survey research to allow zombies to be studied indirectly without risk to the interviewers.

Building on the research of Lakeland, Gelman & Romero identify a simple solution for tracking the scale of the Zombie menace: surveying non-Zombies (for Zombies are reluctant telephone-users, and face-to-face interviews are completely out of the question) and asking respondents, "How may Zombies do you know?". Statistical inference can then be used to estimate the number of zombies lurking in the population. Gelman & Romero note that the methodology can be extended to other hidden menaces like aliens and Frequentists. (Okay, Gelman might not have mentioned that last one. Phew.)

This graph isn't actually related to the paper, but is included here because it looks cool.

You can find a link to the published version of the paper below. (An interesting note, although the paper was written in Word, it was published in PDF via LaTeX, "to make it look more like science". I applaud the choice.) 

Biomastika: Gelman & Romero, 12 Mar 2010

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