A couple named Jim and Maria Belk made themselves famous among my peers with their presentation of “Making Your House Safe from Zombie Attacks”, at the Joint Mathematics Meetings, San Diego, January 2008. Which now sits politely on Maria’s CV located at her austere website at Bard. Ah ha! I have just located their powerpoint presentation for the talk.
She presented to a packed room of interested students. It was an introductory talk about graph theory. This is because your house’s Zombie Number is only really related to the number of loops and vertices in the graph of your house. Now, I’m not a graph theory person, but I still remembered this talk clearly. Everyone did. I was talking to a fellow grad student when we realized that we were both at the Joint Mathematics Conference that year. Her first follow-up question was whether or not I had attended the talk on Zombie Numbers.
The idea was so persuasive that a year and half later when I moved into my most recent apartment I was delighted to realize that I had moved up in the world. Now I had an apartment with zombie number = 2 because I had a walk through closet!
A teacher was once defined to be someone who makes the truth sticky. Sometimes it takes some non-standard content to get a mathematical concept to stick to the minds of a student. Hats off to the Belk’s, they did an amazing job of this.