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the zombies are infected by a virus, they are clinically dead, yet still able to move around, are compelled to seek out non-infected living people, and are gradually rotting away.

Notes: If the head is completely separated from the body then they are no longer active, this would allow other zombies to eat them, but zombies won't kill each other. They require, at least, some remnant of muscle tissue to move around. Once all the flesh has rotted off they are simply inanimate skeletons.

Zombies can be considered to retain a degree of intelligence (perhaps half their original IQ), but are driven by a lust for fresh human flesh even though there is no longer any available.

How long would the zombies last until they run out of humans to eat?

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closed as too broad by JBH, A Lambent Eye, Nahshon paz, Gryphon, Ender Look Jul 4 at 13:12

Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. Avoid asking multiple distinct questions at once. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • $\begingroup$ are we starting with modern day earth? How effective is infection? Also you want to look around I am pretty sure there is already a question about how long it takes a zombie to breakdown. $\endgroup$ – John Jul 4 at 2:15
  • $\begingroup$ Many millions upon millions of zombies will be trapped in their own homes or hospital floors, unable to detect and pursue any yummy braaaaaains nearby. Most of those will putrefy in about four weeks. You need only worry about the small number of folks who died outside, so I suppose "when will they run out of humans to eat?" depends on how clever the prey is, and how many machetes and flamethrowers the prey happen to be armed with. $\endgroup$ – user535733 Jul 4 at 3:03
  • $\begingroup$ "perhaps half their original IQ" The scale is not linear, ie. half of 100 is not 50 regarding IQ, it's more like 85. Therefore there would be a remarkable number of chatty zombies, and some zombie geniuses to-boot. That is unless you wish to re-define the question. $\endgroup$ – 011358 smell Jul 4 at 4:18
  • $\begingroup$ At the moment I'm voting to close, but I clicked the wrong reason. This is primarily opinion-based. You've provided so little reference information that you can use any number you want (20 minutes to 200 years) as an answer. We need details. (a) Virus' do not last forever. What is your virus consuming in the host? (b) What percentage of the population is zombie? (c) How does the virus spread? (d) Dead bodies decompose, does your virus interfere with that? $\endgroup$ – JBH Jul 4 at 6:42
  • $\begingroup$ Does eating human flesh do anything to stop them decaying? I believe they would decay to the point of not being able to use muscle tissue long before they ran out of flesh $\endgroup$ – Bee Jul 4 at 12:10
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You can make up whatever works for your story.

I love zombie horror but zombies are biologically impossible. A dead thing cannot generate the ion gradient in a nerve that would allow a nerve to send signals to the muscles. In the book World War Z I could no longer suspend my disbelief when they used nerve gas on refugees and then the infected got back up as zombies. How are their nerves susceptible to gas when alive but not when dead, hmm, hmmm? It was funny that I got as far as I did before that happened. A good read, that book.

In any case: your zombies last as as long as you like. WWZ features zombies at the bottom of the ocean who are not rotten but their clothes have all rotted. Naked unrottable submarine zombies they were. Or you can have them rot as fast as any other dead thing. In warm weather that is fast. Or have anything in between. There is a lot of room for authorial discretion with zombies.

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  • $\begingroup$ In your reply to "zombies are biologically impossible", it really depends on your definition of a zombie. There is a fab book called "How to Make a Zombie: The Real Life (and Death) Science of Reanimation and Mind Control" (I have no affiliation to the author or book) which is well worth a read. $\endgroup$ – Bee Jul 4 at 12:14
  • $\begingroup$ WWZ is damned good book because the author goes into such depth describing the human drama playing out as the world falls apart. The courage, honor, and bravery of many. The depth of depravity and barbarity that some sink to. The tough decisions that had to be made, etc. In the scene you describe, the real take-away is the desperation being described: the panic as the bombing run begins. The tank crew's fear that their ill maintained machines would hold the deadly agent at bay. The tragedy of seeing so many innocents die before their eyes. That's what I found compelling. $\endgroup$ – AndreiROM Jul 4 at 14:15
  • $\begingroup$ @AndreiROM: high science fiction offers commentary on the human condition from the vantage point of unreality. That vantage point allows a clarity that would otherwise be contaminated be real world preconceptions and prejudices.. WWZ the book can be appreciated as a zombie romp, or as trenchant sociopolitical commentary. I think Brooks was hoping for readers who could do both. $\endgroup$ – Willk Jul 4 at 14:39
  • $\begingroup$ @wilk - Probably. I try not to overthink anything zombie related, so I simply accepted the premise. I agree that there were definitely some moments where the reader's suspension of disbelief was put to the test. $\endgroup$ – AndreiROM Jul 4 at 14:46

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