Tag Archives: vampires

Happy Halloween from Punk Rock OR

Happy Halloween! Here are five Halloween themed posts from Punk Rock OR:

university offers zombie apocalypse course to teach students survival skills

find the size of a zombie population during a zombie attack

interview with an undergraduate researcher (we discuss horror movies in the podcast)

pumpkin patches and queuing theory

how to (optimally) prepare for a zombie outbreak

on vampires and operations research

werewolves and star wars: two exam questions

vampire-inspired network flows

Do you have an OR Halloween costume?

university offers zombie apocalypse course to teach students survival skills

Michigan State University plans to offer a zombie apocalypse course to teach students survival skills. The course will be offered by the School of Social Work. (Hat tip to Paul Rubin). The course won’t really teach students how to survive a zombie attack, rather, it uses a zombie apocalypse as a vehicle for teaching students about how to model catastrophic events and infectious diseases like pandemic flu.

The instructor talks about the course in the Youtube video below.

This has me convinced that I should develop a course on OR models for a zombie apocalypse.

I am planning to develop a similar course that teaches introductory OR modeling to undergraduates by way of applications in emergency preparedness and emergency response. I had envisioned covering more traditional disasters, such as hurricanes and earthquakes. Maybe I should think outside the box.

What topics would you offer in an OR course on the zombie apocalypse? I would start with population models using birth-death models and/or differential equations (see one of my previous posts on this topic) and then look at how to staff deputies or federal marshals to combat the zombie hoards.

I plan to talk about zombies, werewolves, and vampires in the stochastic processes course I am teaching this semester. Here is a previous exam question.

happy Halloween from Punk Rock Operations Research

Happy Halloween! Here are five Halloween themed posts from Punk Rock OR:

how to (optimally) prepare for a zombie outbreak

on vampires and operations research

werewolves and star wars: two exam questions

vampire-inspired network flows

pumpkin patches and queuing theory

Do you have an OR Halloween costume?

werewolves and star wars: two exam questions

I’m recovering from the end of the semester.  I’m looking forward to a return to regular blogging.  I’ll start writing about the end of the semester.  I decided to have some fun with my stochastic processes final this semester and to write questions about werewolves and Star Wars (I was inspired by Tallys Yunes’s vampire network flow). I’ll be honest, I think that I had more fun with this than did my students.

The werewolf question: The werewolf population in the Richmond area can be modeled as a linear growth birth and death process.  Each werewolf independently reproduces at a rate of lambda = 0.15 werewolves/year and is killed by vampires at a rate of mu = 0.1/year.  If the population started with a pack of three werewolves in the year 1860, find the average size of the werewolf population today (150 years later).

The Star Wars question (pre-Episode IV): Suppose that every month, Darth Vader organizes a gathering on the Death Star to build morale and promote bonding among the Storm Troopers.  The Storm Troopers’ attendance at the gatherings is represented by a Markov chain.  Given that a Storm Trooper has attended the last gathering (state 0), they go to the next gathering with probability p0.  In general, given that they last attended the kth prior gathering, they go to the next gathering with probability pk, with 0 < pk < 1 , k = 0,1,2,3,4.   Storm Troopers are required to attend a gathering every six months, and hence, given that they last attended the 5th prior gathering, they go to the next gathering with probability 1 (p5 = 1).

a. Define the Markov chain for this problem, specify the classes, and determine whether they are recurrent or transient.

b. What is the cumulative density function representing the number of months until a Storm Trooper first returns to the gathering (i.e., the first return to state 0)?  Assume that they have just attended a gathering (i.e., they start in state 0).

b.  In the long run, what is the proportion of Storm Troopers that have attended one of the last three gatherings?

Related post:

Kudos to you if you find the correct solutions!

welcome vampire enthusiasts!

If you’re a first time Punk Rock Operations Research visitor, thank you for visiting my blog. I am just a humble university professor. If you’re reading this, you are just as curious about vampires as I am. Many of you know quite a bit more about vampire population dynamics than I do. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and for recommending books and movies. I have a lot to learn!

If you haven’t heard of the field of operations research yet, it can be defined as the science of applying math and other analytical methods to make better decisions. Operations research applies interdisciplinary methods (including math, engineering, economics, computer science, statistics, business, etc.) to improve our world and to make better decisions–and to prove it mathematically! We usually apply math to more realistic problems than modeling vampire populations. 🙂

If you are curious, I urge you to read more about operations research online. A good place to start is another operations research blog–start with any on my Blogroll on the right side of this page. We’re geeks, but we have fun, too.

Other blog responses:


on vampires and stochastic processes

The movie Twilight came out on DVD came out earlier in the week. This movie about teenage vampires made a lot of money at the box office, and I have to admit that I’m a little curious to see what all the fuss is about. But I can’t get into the whole vampire thing. I have a great deal of skepticism about vampires.

Here’s my problem with vampires. I have a hard time believing that there would be just a few vampires out there and that the existence of vampires would be such a well-kept secret. After all, they reproduce rather easily (a single vampire could create thousands of offspring, whereas there are limits to human reproduction) and vampires don’t die easily. If there were vampires, they would almost certainly outnumber humans (but then vampires would run out of food).

This argument becomes even more overwhelming if you model a vampire population as a branching process or birth-death process and assume that each vampire in the population has probability Pj of producing j offspring (with j=0,1,2,… ). The vampire population would either explode or die out, depending on the expected number of offspring per vampire. But if you take into account the fact that vampires live many, many generations (they’re virtually immortal) and may create thousands of offspring, the population explodes (if you assume that each vampire creates at least one vampire, on average, before it dies). With those numbers, vampires would not be living under the radar–they would be everywhere!

I have yet to see a vampire movie that implicitly assumes that there is a reasonable model for vampire population dynamics (using a stochastic process framework or something else). And frankly, I’m pretty disappointed. Until I am offered a reasonable explanation for why there aren’t more vampires, I won’t be able to jump on the vampire bandwagon. If I had free time, maybe I would write a mathematically consistent vampire novel.

See the response posted on March 31.