Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Colin Adams's "Zombies & Calculus"

Colin Adams is the Thomas T. Read Professor of Mathematics at Williams College. He is the author of the collection of humorous math stories Riot at the Calc Exam and other Mathematically Bent Stories, the comic book Why Knot? and a variety of textbooks and articles on knot theory, topology and calculus.

Adams applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Zombies and Calculus, and reported the following:
Zombies & Calculus is the story, as told by math professor Craig Williams, of how he used calculus to help him and his band survive the zombie hordes when they descend on Roberts College in western Massachusetts. The book opens when a late student arrives to class, hungering for something other than knowledge. From there on, things deteriorate quickly. As civilization crumbles, Craig applies calculus in various ways, including the fact that zombies always head straight for you (their tangent vector is pointed at you) and how you can use that to your advantage, the epidemiology of the zombie virus, the mechanics of the virus spread in the body and the physics of combat.

On page 99, we find Craig and a biology professor named Jessie trapped in a port-a-potty surrounded by zombies banging on the outside. Jessie is in the midst of explaining how the zombie virus might invade the brain, much as rabies, West Nile and HIV do. She explains the mechanics of the damage to the brain, which, in the case of the zombie virus, involves the liquification of those areas supporting higher functions of the brain, returning the unfortunate individual to what is really an earlier state of evolution, when all that mattered was food.
Learn more about the book and author at Colin Adams's website and the Princeton University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue