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Tracking bank notes to model Avian Flu risks

Using a popular internet game that traces the travels of dollar bills, scientists have unveiled statistical laws of human travel in the United States, and developed a mathematical description that can be used to model the spread of infectious disease in this country. This model is considered a breakthrough in the field.

Via Science Blog. More on New Scientist and Nature. (tnx to Christopher for the pointer)


I took a look at the Nature article (subscription only) and realized --in the first paragraph-- that I was in way over my head with regards to the mathematical reasoning. Still, the gist of the study is -to quote: "On the basis of our analysis, we conclude that the dispersal of bank notes and human travel behaviour can be described by a continuous-time random-walk process that incorporates scale-fee jumps as well as long waiting times between displacements. To our knowledge, this is the first empirical evidence for such an ambivalent process in nature." -- If I understand this correctly, the temporal and spacial characteristics of human travel are new (and possibly uniqe)to the world. I'm not sure whether or not I should find this surprising or not. On the one hand, the ease of travel around the globe has been magnified by our technological capabilites. At the same time, we've only been around for a handful of cosmic wouldn't such patterns have manifested themselves previously?

Submitted by Pablo H. on
I would tend to agree with Silviu,, not sure how incredibly 'new' any insights might be. But I know little about the current literature.

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