Robot 6

Should ‘The Walking Dead’s’ zombie apocalypse be over by now?

The Walking Dead #16

A math-minded 4chan commenter has done a bit of number-crunching to arrive at an interesting theory: that The Walking Dead‘s zombie plague should’ve ended after a year, simply by biter attrition.

While the passage of time is difficult to discern in either the comic or the TV series, it would appear to be about two years since the outbreak began in the former, and a little less in the latter — more than enough time to dispatch the flesh-eating hordes. In theory, anyway.

BuzzFeed adds visual aids to the equation, which makes some necessary, maybe even generous, assumptions but seems pretty sound on the surface (math was my worst subject, so you may not want to take my word for it, though). In short, even if we assume that 99 percent of the population of the United States (300 million people) was infected, that would leave about 3 million survivors. If they formed groups about the size of Rick’s — say, 20 or so people each — and each person in a group killed 10 walkers a month, they would’ve run through about 360 million zombies in a year.

Of course, some of those assumptions are probably a little off, as not all of the initial survivors would join groups larger than, say, their immediate families, and the children, the elderly and the infirm might never kill a zombie. But even if you shave off several million of the walking dead, the number still exceeds 300 million.

Reddit users dig even deeper, suggesting that 99.9 percent of the population might be infected, leaving just 10,000 initial survivors in the United States — thereby blowing the theory entirely.




Well, there’s other thing: the corpses do rot or do not rot? In the lapsus of two years most of the corpses would be completely rot, if we are realistic. Not only because of the inner proccess of putrefaction but because of the action of external angents like flyes, bacteria, etc. For example, eye globes would be completely roted in a matter of days (well, it’s a comic, so say, two months o three would be the limit of exaggeration, but two years? and the walkers still see? c’mon. And they still walk with rotten legs? Mmmm).

But further than freaky-nerdy-theories (well, as freaky and nerdy as Kirkman’s zombies’ amazing body properties) i think that The Walking Dead should have ended long ago, maybe in issue #100 or even before. Kirkman is just repeating himself over and over and over. I think he just want to keep the comic going because, of course, is a mine gold. But if we talk strictly about the quality of the story, and not financial issues, TWD has become a mediocre, redundant and predictable comic a long time ago.

While I never got into “The Walking Dead” (neither the comic nor the TV show–I pretty much outgrew my fascination with the “modern” zombie back in the 90s), it would be interesting if Kirkman were to make an announcement that he’s always intended to finish the series by a certain issue. Of course, that’s not going to happen since I doubt he’s going to kill the cash cow until every last bit of the milk has dried up.

The theory goes to hell if the cause of the virus is in every living human and activates upon death.

That would support a world in which the Zombie plague would not go away until every human alive at outbreak died.

Leave it to the math minded to be killjoys.

yes everyone dies by being bored from a zombie comic.

And don’t forget, even the living become zombies after they die, even if by natural causes, so tehre’s probably plenty of new zombies rising every day.

The other problem is “food supply”. The Walking Dead seem to eat only humans – alive or only recently killed. The food supply would seem to be rather limited after a while. So, do Zombies “die” when they haven’t eaten for some period of time?

That theory is a lot like saying, “Each of the main characters in HBO’s Band Of Brothers kill 5 Nazis. Doesn’t this mean that WWII should have ended a month after D-Day?”

Walking Dead represents an unusually lucky and effective group of survivors. They don’t bother following groups of survivors that only last a day, or a month, or a few months. Obviously this is the fate of most groups. Slaughtered within a few weeks.

Yes, if every good guy in a James Bond movie is as effective as 007, the movie should be over in 20 seconds. Part of the premise of action stories like Casino Royale and The Walking Dead is that there are very VERY few unstoppable good guy action heroes in the world.

The theory makes sense. The time might be off but it is right and valid and my biggest issue with The Walking Dead and any zombie movie…

The zombies don’t reproduce. They are limited in number and only new ones are created when someone dies. Aside from minor outbreaks (like when someone gets sick or dies by surprise, like that last couple episodes of The Walking Dead) the horde won’t reproduce and death-born ones can be controled.

Everyone is infected in TWD, so the 99% is actually off as that many people wouldn’t be killed at the outbreak, it would take awhile before that many people would be killed and turned into zombies. It’s not like a virus just immediately made everyone in TWD a zombie.

It doesn’t matter if everyone didn’t group up like the theory suggests. Eventually, if you keep re-killing them, the zombies will disappear or become a managable number and the new ones born by dying can be dealt with/handled (no more funerals, someone dies, their head gets smashed in or communities have night guards that make sure no one dies in the night and goes wandering or people just adopt a closed door policy and in the morning if the door hasn’t opened then you go into the room with a baseball bat).

The point of the theory is that the zombie plague is manageable and that the number of walkers around the prison should be decreasing, not increasing.

My biggest problem with TWD is that they leave so many walkers around. Every chance they get they should be killing walkers. Those two that Carl & Hershel left alive in the woods? Thats two less in the overall population.

It’s a war of attrition.

Zombies don’t die when no energy (food) source. They go dormant, which makes them easier pickings for people. And what about in areas of snow? The cold should slow the walkers down and the snow would definately bog them down so they couldn’t move. Easy pickings.


The zombies ate the horse that Rick Grimes rode into town. They eat more than just humans.

A more comprehensive study found that the zombies would’ve been decomposed not just by nature, but by the numerous amount of animals worldwide. Even assuming that the sheer number of larger carrion-devourers would’ve been plucked clean by some of the walking corpses, that’s still not accounting for the number of flies that would make their home within their intestines. Forget bullets – the insect population outpaces humanity by a hundred times over AT LEAST. By all rights, these zombies wouldn’t have lasted the week.

But it’s always been more about the Soap Opera drama than reality.

As a UK reader and viewer of the Walking Dead I’d add that this is a very US-centric bit of maths. I don’t believe that zombies are great respecters of international borders so you’ve got to take into account migration from north and south of up to another 150 million. I’m no expert but I reckon that Canadians have much tighter gun control laws than the US so does that mean fewer survivors and more zombies? No idea about Mexico but when it all went wrong I’d imagine quite a few would head north thinking the US would be a safer place to be.

Food supply isn’t an issue. Remember, in the tv series, they’ve eaten a horse, a squirrel was found in the stomach of another, etc. Even this season, the reason for Rick going out to check the traps early was to get to any trapped animals before the walkers did.

I didn’t read the original articles that this was based on, but even the notion that a group of 20 each killing 10 walkers a month doesn’t take into account the issues that others have brought up here: Groups that don’t survive, the unwillingness of many not to form that large of a group, members of the group (young and elderly) not killing walkers. Their statistic also doesn’t take into account the high percentage of loss of that group. They may start off with 20 healthy members, but, by the end of six months, how many are still alive? Did the group replace the numbers? If they did, does that mean that they merged with another group, which starts cutting down the number of groups out there?

The idea of decay of the body is something, to me, that is the real flaw in this. But, that, I think, is where one has to suspend logic in order to enjoy the story.

The problem with science fiction arises when you overthink it. If you’ve read “The Zombie Survival Guide” and “World War Z,” you know that Max Brooks overcame a lot of the scientific questions about zombies by simply stating “yeah, that doesn’t work.” Brooks’ zombies don’t attract carrion eaters. They don’t get crushed by ocean pressure, even though he acknowledges that they should be. I assume they’re also immune to things like complete dehydration from being in the sun for too long. I would wager that Kirkman follows similar rules–he’s uninterested in having zombies that self-destruct in a certain amount of time, so they don’t.

BTW, Kirkman hasn’t said that the zombies are caused by a virus. He HAS said that there’s no infection from a zombie bite, but that the bite is so toxic that it kills its victim (who then reanimates). Romero’s zombies implied–without clarifying–that radiation from a satellite raised the dead. Who knows–Kirkman may be following similar rules. That is, there may be some external source that’s causing them to rise. You’d think that some scientist-type would be tracking down old news reports from around the time of the outbreak to figure out some clues as to what started it (and if so, what stops it), but he hasn’t gone there.

Firstly, everyone is believed to be infected. Secondly, People did not become zombies all at the same time. It’s a rolling apocalype so the ratio of humans to zombies varies as there are fewer of each. It’s a fools errand to be realistic about the science of zombies. 28 Days Later comes closest with their zombie-like crazies. The crazies starve to death in time.

According to a blurb from one of the early issues zombies now outnumber humans 5000 to 1.

So averaging a world population of 7 billion, the number of surviving humans worldwide would be around 1,400,000.

The apocalypse is far from over.

This is why Kirkman is currently sitting on fat stacks of cash, and most 4chan and Reddit users are not.

Whoever said Canada would be a threat is right. Nobody up here has a gun except the occasional redneck with a hunting rifle. Short of organized criminals, you’d never have a fully armed group of survivors. Most groups wouldn’t have guns at all. The vast majority of our population lives near the U.S. border, so almost all of Canada would need to be added to the zombie count.
Which just gave me the idea for me to survive. Go North!

I should add though how stupid I find it, in the show especially, that they just let zombies pile up outside the gate. There should be zero zombies on the other side of that fence at all times. It’s completely unbelievable even in the context of a zombie apocalypse.

As one of the above posters pointed out, you’d have to add Canada’s population, and you’d also need to add Mexico’s and parts of Central America’s populations to the mix. Zombies don’t care about borders.

Stop watching and/or reading the Walking Dead if these are the type of assinine theories and conjectures you can make. TWD is a show that is: Fiction! Hello?!! Btw, I’m loving both versions of TWD.

despite cananda’s lack of guns, their population to size ratio is redic, there will be so few canadian zombies, cause there are so few canadians that live close to each other.

I looked up a few things re. Canadian gun ownership (as a Canadian gun owner myself):

1. @Brett Spears: about 5% of Canadians own guns:

2. @Jake: around 1/3 of the entire Canadian population lives in southern Ontario. Toronto, the largest city in Canada, is the 4th largest city in North America. The southern tip of Ontario is at roughly the same latitude as northern California. People are pretty packed in around there.

Same with the Greater Vancouver area and Montreal. With these three areas alone, you have around 50% of the Canadian population.

But yeah, you hit the Prairies and the zombies would be having a much tougher time.

I’m fairly certain that Kirkman has talked about this in the letters page over the years. I think it was something with the tone of “It’s fiction, deal with it.”.

In the comics, at least, the zombie apocalypse has pretty much been over for awhile now. Sure, there are walkers around still, but there aren’t nearly as many of them and the characters have gotten so used to dealing with zombies that they’re more of a nuisance than anything. The comics have been more focused on rebuilding the world post-apocalypse than dealing with an apocalypse that’s still ongoing.

As for the TV series, I’d agree that the zombie apocalypse should have started to wind down by now since the show’s timeline has spanned a couple of years (IIRC, there was a winter between S2 and S3 and another winter between S3 and S4).

I’ve never understood how folks have no problem “something” is causing the dead to rise and seek human victims but can’t entertain the thought that whatever that something is also preserves the corpses, slowing the decay.

Yep, I’m easily amused, and been reading the Walking Dead comics since issue #3, picked up the first two at the same time. I like em, and enjoy the hell outta the TV Show. So yeah, Kirkman can milk the cow for as long as he wants, cause fans like myself, enjoy them. Hell, I’ve been reading Spidey comics for 40 odd years, and I still enjoy them.


So, none of you have read Mira Grant’s Feed trilogy? She’s got zombies caused by viruses, total population infection, and the development of immunity and viral mutation is a key plot point.

I was always fascinated by what the implications would be for geriatrics, if everyone went zombie when they died.

In a world where cars that have been sitting for a year still work (gas builds up bacteria that makes it stop working if it sits for too long, not to mention issues with the batteries), the rest is all quite plausible.

The zombies are just gonna freeze solid in Canada.

Professor Brand-X

November 15, 2013 at 9:47 pm

@Glenn Simpson: how many cars have you seen in the show and in the comic? Cars that haven’t been regularly maintained by survivors, I mean. Shane & Dale used to do vehicle maintenance. We’ve seen Daryl doing maintenance in recent episodes. Changing oil, changing batteries, transferring gasoline. Even The Governor’s para-military goons had their chores. I think you’ll have to try a little harder.

As for other “theories”, a key thing some seem to forget is that it is science fiction. Fiction is based only so much on fact. Sleepy Hollow has demons running around. How realistic is that?

It’s a comic book. It’s a T.V. show. The moment you start injecting logic into it or taking this stuff too seriously or literally… you are in trouble my friends.

It’s been theorized that the infectious agent is colony-like in its organization and propagation. Even though all living humans are infected, the agent only triggers zombie behavior if it can establish a foothold in the victim’s brain. This is normally prevented by regular, steady blood flow that keeps the organism from clumping together, so to speak. But following extreme trauma (a zombie bite or death), a combination of a few key biochemical reactions that are triggered within the body (more than 1,000 occur naturally such as adrenaline) cause the agent to colonize and enact voracious zombiism.

I can get behind this theory but for one exception: No one has been able to figure out why amputations don’t also trigger transformations.


In the matter of society surviving and bouncing back, I’m a little surprised that the survivors haven’t started setting new laws (and culture) to match the environment, the most obvious being a “buddy” rule — NO ONE ever ever ever goes anywhere unless he’s got a buddy to watch his back. Even in areas believed to be clear. This should be a standard of life for the next 100 years.

Interesting…this thread made me think – has the Walking Dead comic ever explored whether the zombie infestation has also occurred anywhere *outside* the US? For all we know, places like Europe and Japan might be completely safe and it’s just the US that’s been overrun and “quarantined”.

There is only one word to counteract this whole argument: fiction.

Fiction becomes all the more powerful when grounded in reality.

Professor Brand-X

November 16, 2013 at 1:21 pm

@1234 – Not all fiction. Especially speculative fiction (science fiction, horror and fantasy).

Marvel Comics Groupy

November 17, 2013 at 6:20 pm

The fact that TWD is at it’s highest peak for both readership and viewership will tell you that the fans who enjoy the tv show and comics want more. Not everyone was there at the beginning of the when it started in 2003 and his audience is still growing every month. Issue #115 was the highest ordered comic last month, admittedly with the aid of variant covers

While Kirkman does have a habit of milking it out, probably to fill a six-issue TPB, it is still evident that he has his A Game on now, Just take a look at the past 15 issues as evidence.

As far as the apocalypse being over, it never will be. The story isn’t about the walkers. Kirkman always said that the survivors were TWD, not the walkers. Call it story rehashing, but there are a lot of crazy people out there who will fight to their death for their survival. Let’s see how the group deals with them all.

You have to be pretty bored to calculate stuff like that…

But, okay. Let me tell you as a Belgian reader that the whole world has to be infected because otherwise the non-effected country’s would have sent their militairies to clear the States of the walkers. The rest of the world do have army’s you know…

Bored? Not necessarily.

Just highly interested in the series premise, informed about the wider world, and damn good with numbers is all that it takes to get theories like this being put out there for discussion.

Why do you think Paul Krugman’s an economist whose work in print people like to read, for example? He got into it with the help of motivation by Asimov’s “Foundation” stories…and I bet Kirkman, Adlard and company have accidentally gotten someone else to follow in Krugman’s footsteps.

I have another theory: TWD’s universe is part of a multiverse collision, which perturbed the laws of physics in their local pocket. Viruses are present, but the active agents are really cross-over organisms. That’s why everyone is “infected” regardless of contact with zombies – it is an emergent quality of human physiology arising from the twisted fabric of the environment.

Ice crystals should have wiped out all the zombies after one hard freeze – the brain cells aught to be punctured by crystals like freezer burned meat; or why aren’t they desiccated or putrified within a few weeks since necrotic cells should be unable to retain moisture? The lack of fluid balance and pressure should cause the muscles to be completely flaccid, and incapable of supporting weight.

This fictional apocalypse can be explained by an enterovirus like polio that is easily spread by children (usually lethal for them) from their fecal matter and dirty diapers. The characteristic weight loss, eating disorders, foot drop seen in all walkers, and muscle wasting are certain signs of e polio like virus. Also difficulty swallowing and facial weakness would cause that extrusion of blood when victims are bitten before they themselves are infected. These type viruses are rapid growers and spread very quickly. Further hand typical cleaning agents like purell won’t knock them out. These are not lipid enveloped viruses.

No I disagree because there are pockets of survivors everywhere (which we see in the show a lot, actually) but they aren’t all necessarily killing a few zombies a week. You only kill when you need to, you know, because every encounter is a risk.

Well, these are all theories that will never actually be tested. For one reason because this type of out break can’t happen nor is there a disease that causes zombies, but then again there are people that experiment and come up with new viruses all the time. All a zombie virus would need to be is a mutated form of Rabies or something similar. But being unrealistic for now, lets just say for a minute that it is possible. The outbreak would only last a few weeks at most, due to zombies decaying, other meat eating animals praying on them. I’m thinking wildlife would consider zombies an easy catch. Cold weather regions would freeze the zombies making them if nothing else immobile until they warmed up. Muscles can’t operate without blood flow and most of the zombies you see have injuries that would have bled them dry, so how would they be able to move around. These are all factual reasons why zombies wouldn’t exist very long. I just enjoy the show and not think about things that make a zombie outbreak unrealistic.

But in regards to the show and any other such apocalypse you would think that with everyone gone and no one really paying attention to anything but survival. Things like nuclear power plants are being neglected and their coolant and water supply I don’t think would run forever without maintenance. What happens when the power plants around the county start to go critical and melt down.

Just another fictional thought for the show.

I think he is gonna wake up out his coma and realise its all a dream

you are assuming something like this is composed of dead zombies. in real life, it would be closer to the 28 days later zombies that are still living, breathing, hungry zombies. those kinds would eat whatever they can catch, humans or otherwise. and to those assuming animals would find these infected as easy prey… what makes you so sure animal cannot be infected? there are mutations in viruses that spread between species, so why would a zombie outbreak be only restricted to humans. i highly doubt a virus is totally indiscriminate if it is able to infect hosts.

Your calculations leave out a lot of variables.
1. Diseases and sickness were big killers before medicine became scarce.
2. A good number of these groups of 20 are desperate and violent, people are still killing people in a big way.
3. Nature/weather/ geography could be an equalizer it kills people and zombie alike. You thought swamps were creepy before.

I would say the science of zombies would probably see them rot to useless sooner than later. And modern arms and people’s awareness of the zombie / killer rabies / contagion themed movies would leave little room for the Romero styled population to scared and slow to deal with shambling horrors slowly chasing them. World War Z movie zombies are quick (maybe too quick for traditional slow burn horror) but pose a serious threat in the short term.

Now, this science truly goes to hell IF: it’s supernatural or alien. What creates them can sustain them in that line of fiction. They only rot so much, they can sense with or without eyes/good eyes, they have strength on par or stronger than living humans even with limb/muscle damage because the spirits from hell or the alien power make it so. Engage.

Everyone hint EVERYONE was infected. So all the military had to do was quarantine off infected individuals in the beginning. Instead they shot all the infected and didn’t even shoot em in the right place. So you see even islands could have been infected. And if you guys think, how can bombardment be useless. I agree its fiction but you have to use science too. Zombie guts all over the place. CDC or WHO could work on a cure..

A plague maintained by nanobots. A hive cell collective drastically different from the original biology and augmented by militarized medical technology.

Feasible within 50 years.

Where are we getting this “300,000,000 people in America” business? Since there are actually closer to 700,000,000 people in the U.S. as of the last census, I have to assume the poster means ADULT people. If so, that estimate probably isn’t THAT far off the mark. But why not say that?

In any case, the flaw in this thinking lies in the concept that the survivors are killing 20 walkers a day. Even Rick’s group didn’t get near THAT average (Michonne on a good day, maybe, but even she has lulls. Long ones). And as we’ve seen, some groups prefer the “hide out and stay low” approach, and aren’t contributing much to the walker body count. Assuming all other elements of this theory are valid, I think two or three (maybe as many as five) years is more likely.

Myself, I am more mystified by their strange anti-decay ability. Most of them should have rotted away to the point of falling apart from sheer weight and momentum long ago (not to mention been consumed by the many insects and larva that feed on rotting flesh). By this point, the whole apocalypse should be over by simple virtue of decay.

With that said, it’s a comic (or TV show). Don’t expect realism or accuracy. Just go with the flow and enjoy the awesome story!

Leave a Comment


Browse the Robot 6 Archives