Scientists track money to help predict disease
January 26th, 2006 by JTJ

Yet another fine example of creative thinking wherein a good idea in one discipline is morphed into an unintended application in another.  (Something all-too-rare in the practice of journalism.)  The journal Nature reports:

Another day another dollar

website invites its users to enter the serial numbers
of their US dollar bills and track them across America and beyond. Why?
“For fun and because it had not been done yet”, they say. But the
dataset accumulated since December 1998 has provided the ideal raw
material to test the mathematical laws underlying human travel, and
that has important implications for the epidemiology of infectious
diseases. Analysis of the trajectories of over half a million dollar
bills shows that human dispersal is described by a 'two-parameter
continuous-time random walk' model: our travel habits conform to a type
of random proliferation known as 'superdiffusion'. And with that much
established, it should soon be possible to develop a new class of
models to account for the spread of human disease.

LetterThe scaling laws of human travel

D. Brockmann, L. Hufnagel
and T. Geisel

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