"Zombies" in Mexico City. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Admit it, you’ve imagined the scenario: a zombie outbreak occurs, and you’re left with only your survival skills to make it out alive.

As it turns out, even Ivy League scientists wonder what a zombie outbreak would look like and how to survive. Alex Alemi, a statistician and Cornell Ph.D. candidate in physics, and other researchers at Cornell built a statistical model of how a “realistic” zombie outbreak would occur, basing the model on the reasoning that the outbreak would happen similar to other viral diseases. The Washington Post reports that the group will present their findings at the March meeting of the American Physical Society.

Their work combines the scientific method with fantasy. Which, as Alemi tells the Washington Post, is actually pretty similar to how researchers understand and hypothesize about outbreaks of real diseases.

Of course, there are still some key differences. Most importantly perhaps, is the fact that, “zombies are unique and very different than other diseases in that victims of other diseases either get better or succumb to the disease,” Alemi told the Washington Post. “But zombies are the undead. They don’t get better. And the only way to stop them is for a human to kill the zombie. With other diseases, no matter how many infections you model, the disease is not going to infect every single person. But in the zombie model, you really can turn every single person into a zombie.”

Alemi’s “realistic” zombie outbreak both contradicts and conforms to population interpretations of a zombie epidemic. As most zombie movies show, cities and other densely populated regions are the worst place to be when an outbreak starts. One key difference to movies, though, is that the outbreak would only be contained to that specific area—meaning that there wouldn’t be numerous cities affected all at once. A true zombie outbreak would take years to affect the entirety of the United States, according to Alemi.

“New York City would fall in a matter of days, but Ithaca, where I am—it would take weeks for the zombies to make their way up here,” Alemi told the Washington Post. “It would be a situation where you’re watching chaos on television, but where you are everything would remain unchanged.”

Therefore, the key to surviving the zombie apocalypse is to live as far away from a city as possible. As a result, Alemi theorizes survivors would likely be hiding out in areas like the Colorado Rockies or central Nevada, although the Estately Blog makes a pretty good case for Alaska, as well.

“It’s bad to be near any big city,” Alemi told the Washington Post. “Just look at the population map. First, you’d benefit from the fact that it would be highly unlikely for the zombie outbreak to begin where you are, and then it would take a very long time for any zombies to get out there.”