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Web Game Helps Predict Spread of Epidemics

samzenpus posted more than 8 years ago | from the follow-the-money dept.

Science 201

An anonymous reader writes "Using data from the web game wheresgeorge.com, which traces the travels of dollar bills, scientists have unveiled statistical laws of human travel and developed a mathematical description that can be used to model the spread of infectious disease."

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whereisgeorge took itself offline (3, Insightful)

mendaliv (898932) | more than 8 years ago | (#14564311)

If you try to login or register at Where Is George [whereisgeorge.com] you get a message that they're taking it down temporarily because of heavy user load...

Too bad, imagine the influx of data if they got everyone who reads slashdot to participate.

Re:whereisgeorge took itself offline (1)

biocute (936687) | more than 8 years ago | (#14564320)

Or influx of bogus data.

Re:whereisgeorge took itself offline (4, Funny)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 8 years ago | (#14564607)

... because they're converting to dollar coins, to help prevent the spread of epidemics.

This way, you can legally launder your money ...

Re:whereisgeorge took itself offline (1)

xdc (8753) | more than 8 years ago | (#14564346)

I made it in ahead of the slashdotting. It seems like a pretty cool concept, if enough people participate over a long enough period of time.

The site is WHERESGEORGE, not where-IS-george (3, Informative)

OfficialWheresGeorge (949555) | more than 8 years ago | (#14564613)

But if you go to the wrong URL, it will be corrected automatically.

And it was only temporarily down.. it's back up now.

/. diseases (4, Funny)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 8 years ago | (#14564779)

Maybe if we give diseases websites and /. them we can wipe them out.

Now where's my Nobel Prize for mdicine?

Prostitute Schedule for Jan. 25 at the MBOT in SF (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14564910)

Folks, check out the updated prostitute schedule [fuckedcompany.com] for January 25 at the Mitchell Brother's O'Farrell Theater (MBOT) in San Francisco. The MBOT is the most convenient way for you to buy a blow job, a hand job, and full service (i.e. vaginal sexual intercourse).

I kid you not.

Please establish a hypertext link to this message. Spread the word!

Re:whereisgeorge took itself offline (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14564934)

Also, if you own your own domain, and try to register using whereisgeorge.com@[yourdomain] it refuses saying that you cannot use whereisgeorge.com as an address.

I know a couple of people who register on sites like this using that email format, so that they can track which sites spawn spam.

Oddly enough... (5, Funny)

Hindustu (949303) | more than 8 years ago | (#14564314)

The only dollar bill I remember possessing with the "Where's George" stamp on it came from a man working at a pizza shop with gigantic cold sores.

Re:Oddly enough... (0, Offtopic)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | more than 8 years ago | (#14564417)

The pizza shop had giant cold sores?
Ewwwwwwwwwww!!

Re:Oddly enough... (1)

aliscool (597862) | more than 8 years ago | (#14565049)

Dude just delivered to my house.

Shades of Psychohistory (5, Insightful)

Entropy248 (588290) | more than 8 years ago | (#14564318)

This article is really light on details, but the concept sounds strikingly like something that would be predictable through Seldon's psychohistory. Was Asimov right in his premise? Are human beings nothing more than complicated animals working through complex, predictable behavior? I wonder how much of what we do on a daily basis is a result of free will when I hear about science like this. Am I just a statistic? Governments would love equations that predict human behavior on a macroscopic scale.

Re:Shades of Psychohistory (2, Funny)

xdc (8753) | more than 8 years ago | (#14564329)

Good call! Maybe they should set up a Foundation to reduce the duration of the impending dark age. :)

Re:Shades of Psychohistory (1)

xdc (8753) | more than 8 years ago | (#14564392)

Oh, and FWIW, although Asimov's epic of psychohistory was a very entertaining read, I don't think it represents reality. We are not animals behaving in a mathematically predictable way. Or if there is such predictability to the universe, only a transcendent God could apprehend all of the variables and compute them just right.

Re:Shades of Psychohistory (2, Interesting)

AoT (107216) | more than 8 years ago | (#14564524)

Well, the whole idea in the books was that there were trillions and trillions of people and because of the sheer numbers you could create somewhat workable equations. I doubt it would work in real life, but given enough people and enough observation, it might.

Re:Shades of Psychohistory (4, Interesting)

NichG (62224) | more than 8 years ago | (#14565109)

Hey, it works for atoms when we can't even solve the three body problem analytically. And yet somehow when there's 10^23 of the things, we can get the scaling laws, phase diagrams, equations of state, etc with pen and paper. I don't find it hard to believe at all that while one person's behavior may be very hard to predict well, the average behavior and even scale of the fluctuations in behavior of a few billion people would be very easy to predict.

Population density seems to be a good place to start... so many things seem to be tightly coupled to population density. If you look at political affiliations in the US for example, there's a correlation between liberal/conservative and population density. Crime, etc of course scales with population density.

In a sense its a measure of 'how much am I affected by other people'. In a low density area, encounters with other people that have a significant unintentional and undesired effect are low. In a high density area, you can't help but press up against dozens of people a day who might mug you, smoke near you, transmit a disease to you, or whatever.

So thats one variable; there's likely to be two or three that are really important, and the rest are sort of small perturbations. Second might be economic level perhaps? Or technological? Get some output data like crime rate, distribution of causes of death, education levels, job occupancies, population density, tech level, economic level, and so on and do a principle component analysis on that. Maybe it'll reveal the significant contributors, or maybe not, but it's probably worth a shot for some grad student doing social science.

Then you can do fun things like construct a phase diagram from your data and find out little factoids like 'if the population density rises above X, dictatorships become fundamentally unstable!' that let the more power hungry analysts set up a perpetual dynasty with rules controlling population growth or something like that.

Isn't statistical mechanics fun?

Re:Shades of Psychohistory (3, Funny)

Meagermanx (768421) | more than 8 years ago | (#14564528)

...thus proving that Intelligent Design is real.
I'm glad we got that over with. Who wants to call the school board?

Re:Shades of Psychohistory (4, Interesting)

DavidTC (10147) | more than 8 years ago | (#14564673)

That is exactly why Asimov said psychohistory had to fail, and he made it do so.

Although the fact it failed due to a genetic mutation was a bit silly.

And note psychohistory couldn't predict everything, even outside genetic mutation. The First Foundation was to 'change history' by keeping a storehouse of knowledge, without any psychohistory at all, but the Second wasn't only to fix any minor problems that crop up, but to narrow the possiblities to one that were predictable.

If you want an analogy...everyone else thought they were playing roulette, but the psychohistorians figured out a way to make everyone play blackjack, and only they knew it. The fact they were counting cards and knew optimal betting patterns was trivial to the fact they were defining the game.

You can read it and get the impression Seldon predicts the exact events of the un-altered fall for thousands of years, and he likewise predicts the exact events after he changes them, but he really just predicts the long fall itself, we have no indication he can figure out stuff to any extent within it. And he rigs the new future history so he can control it.

Re:Shades of Psychohistory (1)

ScentCone (795499) | more than 8 years ago | (#14564360)

Governments would love equations that predict human behavior on a macroscopic scale.

Ironically, the less that governments get involved in individual lives, the more predictable the big picture is (since the marketplace is extremely efficient at exposing and serving human needs/desires).

Re:Shades of Psychohistory (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14564632)

(since the marketplace is extremely efficient at exposing and serving human needs/desires) *cough*Except for the poorest 20% of the population*cough*

Re:Shades of Psychohistory (2, Informative)

Kuciwalker (891651) | more than 8 years ago | (#14564361)

This article is really light on details, but the concept sounds strikingly like something that would be predictable through Seldon's psychohistory.

Yes, apart from the fact that Seldon's psychohistory is completely fictional.

Re:Shades of Psychohistory (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14564715)

Yes, apart from the fact that Seldon's psychohistory is completely fictional.

I wonder why there's no way for people to mod a post "-1 No Shit, Sherlock"

Yes, apart from the fact that Seldon's psychohistory is completely fictional.

Re:Shades of Psychohistory (5, Interesting)

mattjb0010 (724744) | more than 8 years ago | (#14564418)

I wonder how much of what we do on a daily basis is a result of free will when I hear about science like this.

Overall statistical laws don't say much about free will or not. There are always going to be regular patterns in behaviour (caused by things like the fact that most people don't want to walk 10 miles to work every day).

Governments would love equations that predict human behavior on a macroscopic scale.

The Australian Reserve Bank uses equations to predict macroeconomic conditions and adjusts interest rates accordingly.

Re:Shades of Psychohistory (3, Informative)

Mr. Underbridge (666784) | more than 8 years ago | (#14564697)

Overall statistical laws don't say much about free will or not. There are always going to be regular patterns in behaviour (caused by things like the fact that most people don't want to walk 10 miles to work every day).

Kind of like how Heisenberg's principle and statistical mechanics aren't mutually exclusive, for the physics crowd out there.

Re:Shades of Psychohistory (5, Interesting)

houstonbofh (602064) | more than 8 years ago | (#14564435)

"The physicists were intrigued: Like viruses, money is transported by people from place to place. " The problem is that you give a bill to only one person. Most disease is not like that.

Re:Shades of Psychohistory (2, Insightful)

magefile (776388) | more than 8 years ago | (#14564609)

Right, but they can use this information to create ... well, a vector field, I suppose, of how people travel. That's all they really need.

Re:Shades of Psychohistory (2, Insightful)

itismike (582070) | more than 8 years ago | (#14564481)

Where's George is an interesting and fun idea, but the data collected from this voluntary endeavor can not possibly hold a candle to other sources of data on human tracking, such as the GPS in your cell phone.

If the government wants to learn patterns of human transport and interaction in the name of preventing the spread of communicable disease, it could try to subpoena records from credit card companies and have an enormous resource at it's disposal.

Re:Shades of Psychohistory (1)

ardle (523599) | more than 8 years ago | (#14564763)

I suppose the interesting thing about tracing cash is that human interaction is necessary in order to pass it on.

Using GPS to track, for example, a security guard might skew the figures a bit...

Re:Shades of Psychohistory (1)

Famanoran (568910) | more than 8 years ago | (#14565177)

Using GPS to track, for example, a security guard might skew the figures a bit

Depends. In a real world environment, that security guard may well be spreading the disease further, as he interacts with people (say, low-life criminals) and passes it onto them, who in turn take it to jail, etc etc...

Re:Shades of Psychohistory (1)

Bishop (4500) | more than 8 years ago | (#14564792)

What gps in my cell phone?

This GPS in your cellphone (1)

itismike (582070) | more than 8 years ago | (#14565139)

I thought it was common knowledge that many/most/(all?) cell phones have enabled GPS tracking technologies. It's part of the e911 efforts and was encouraged by the FCC http://www.fcc.gov/911/enhanced/ [fcc.gov] to better pinpoint emergency callers' locations. Here's an article that I haven't read that seems to take a closer look at the situation: http://www.legalaffairs.org/issues/July-August-200 3/feature_koerner_julaug03.msp/ [legalaffairs.org]

Re:Shades of Psychohistory (1)

AJWM (19027) | more than 8 years ago | (#14565206)

What gps in my cell phone?

The one that sends your location to the dispatcher when you dial 911 from it.

Any cell phone sold within the last couple of years, at least in the US, likely has it -- although the GPS info is generally not available to the user unless you've got some custom software.

Re:Shades of Psychohistory (1)

rolfwind (528248) | more than 8 years ago | (#14564674)

Are human beings nothing more than complicated animals working through complex, predictable behavior?


Yes.

Unless you believe a God really singled humans out as the chosen ones free from the rules all other animals live by. Like all other mammals, we need to eat, sleep, and breath.....

What seperates us is our brainsize/intelligence which can override some base-behavior/instincts (in our favor) but not all of it.

Consider how much of you behavior is truly routine. For example, for the majority of Americans, 12 years of our life is spent at school, which was initially modeled (in schedule) after an industry revolution factory. Then we go to work or college, many of us in a fairly similiar schedule. Perhaps simply phase shifted if you are a nightowl.

Very little is done against routine. Most (not all) 'free-will' decisions are judgement calls on relative minutae, not constant major life-changing choices (not that our circumstances/society/financial situation would allow for too many of those).

Re:Shades of Psychohistory (1)

Atzanteol (99067) | more than 8 years ago | (#14564906)

Free will decisions don't have to be 'life changing' to be free will. Simply choosing between vanilla and chocolate is enough to make a 'free' choice (if indeed it is 'free').

Re:Shades of Psychohistory (1)

rolfwind (528248) | more than 8 years ago | (#14564963)

Free will decisions don't have to be 'life changing' to be free will. Simply choosing between vanilla and chocolate is enough to make a 'free' choice (if indeed it is 'free').


Unless the reward center in your brain causes you to choose vanilla since you might be hardwired (or conditioned) to like it more;)

Re:Shades of Psychohistory (4, Insightful)

Stan Vassilev (939229) | more than 8 years ago | (#14564724)

"Was Asimov right in his premise? Are human beings nothing more than complicated animals working through complex, predictable behavior? I wonder how much of what we do on a daily basis is a result of free will when I hear about science like this. Am I just a statistic?"

You're not a statistic, but statistics work because people in the same groups as you think in a similar fashion and do similar stuff. This is why statistics can work with a representative sample versus every single unit from the group they study, and still guess pretty close.

There's nothing scary or new about this, it's been known for ages to the people doing said statistics.
As a matter of fact, you gotta be happy about it, because our similar and mutually redundant behaviour ensured our success.

If everyone was truly unique and on his own mind, we'd still not have a common language, let alone civilisation and technology.

Also, of course we're animals, what did you think we're plants or something? We're mammals, but we have larger capacity to learn new shit and more advanced communication. That's it.

Maybe you gotta realize that animals aren't "just animals". They dream, have nightmares, are curious, eager to learn and explore, can get depressed, happy, anxious and so on.

So a human is nothing but an animal, but I don't see where's the problem with that.

Re:Shades of Psychohistory (1)

Manchot (847225) | more than 8 years ago | (#14564986)

Not really. Many statistical quantities have little to do with the underlying behavior of the specific objects. For example, the Central Limit Theorem says that the average of a large number of trials of an experiment's distribution will approach a bell curve, regardless of the original experiment's distribution. (One example is rolling a dice, and recording the average. With one trial, the distribution is uniform, i.e., you have an equal probability of rolling anything between 1 and 6. With two rolls, you have a low probability of averaging a 1, a relatively high probability of averaging a 3.5, and a low probability of averaging a 6. The higher the number of rolls, the more and more bell-shaped your distribution is. The Java applet on this page [sc.edu] demonstrates it.) So, just because a distribution is observed to occur that models the spread of disease/dollars, it doesn't mean that the underlying behavior is predictable.

i cant see the site yet but.... (2, Funny)

MoFoYa (644563) | more than 8 years ago | (#14564319)

now i'm gonna sanitize all my money, and i'm kinda concerned about things i buy from overseas. The bird flu is pretty nasty!

Re:i cant see the site yet but.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14564447)

the average dollar bill has more bacteria and viruses on it than the average toilet handle. that is disturbing, i work as a cashier at a restaurant, ill take as many as 100 orders an hour on a busy lunch. then on slow days ill be working on food orders between taking orders. something to think about next time you eat at a fast food restaurant.

Re:i cant see the site yet but.... (1)

Meagermanx (768421) | more than 8 years ago | (#14564550)

Whew! Now I won't feel so bad about not washing my hands when I use the bathroom!

Slashdotted? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14564327)

Just a few comments and their server is down already.

I wanted to find out where my $5 bill was too!

Its a game (1)

gerbalblaste (882682) | more than 8 years ago | (#14564363)

I was under the impression that Wheregeorge was a study of currency circulation not a webgame.

Next Week's Headline (1)

fncll (159437) | more than 8 years ago | (#14564364)

and today's blog title somewhere, I'm sure: Where's George Spreads Epidemic.

/.ed (1)

entrex (580367) | more than 8 years ago | (#14564372)

Where's George? is currently experiencing very heavy user load.

This is most likely due to the upcoming article in "Nature" Magazine on how the
Max Planck Institute used our data to help predict epidemic spread of human diseases. ... more like the slashdot effect.

No idea about spread of $, but PHP doesn't scale (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14564744)

Dunno, can't register. Maybe they need to scale up from PHP.

Business model (1, Insightful)

levik (52444) | more than 8 years ago | (#14564393)

These guys (wheresgeorge) have a pretty ingenious business model... They sell stamps which allow you to mark bills thus greatly increasing the chances that somebody else will enter it into the system.

Re:Business model (2, Interesting)

xdc (8753) | more than 8 years ago | (#14564446)

I object to this practice. Money should not be marked up or defaced with advertising, IMHO. I think it has a devaluing effect, and is disrespectful, at least to future recipients of the bank note.

Re:Business model (1)

jefu (53450) | more than 8 years ago | (#14564782)

Hmm?

Money is little more than a counter. If I have two ten dollar bills and three one dollar bills it adds up to $23. And because everyone in the US knows what these pieces of paper are and what they mean and because we all agree on that fact, I can trade those bits of paper for other bits of paper that add up to the same thing, or for little round bits of metal, or for goods and services that both of us value at $23.

The only reason for all the fancy artwork is to make it hard to duplicate the bills - if everyone could print their own money, they would and eventually it wouldn't be worth anything.

So there's no disrespect in putting a stamp on a bill, nor is there any devaluing.

Re:Business model (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14565247)

Yeah, plus my crack dealer won't take 'em!

Re:Business model (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14564498)

http://www.wheresgeorge.com/faq.php [wheresgeorge.com]

No they don't. Thanks for playing.

Re:Business model (5, Informative)

OfficialWheresGeorge (949555) | more than 8 years ago | (#14564566)


The is no "business model". The site DOES NOT SELL RUBBER STAMPS. It stopped selling rubber stamps in 2000 at the request of the U.S. Secret Service.

It's also not "these guys"... it's "this guy".

Please stop spreading this disinformation.

Re:Business model (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14564765)

Yeah, that's me. Unfortunately for you, I stuffed all of my 'WheresGeorge' dollars--deep--into the g-string of a 45 year-old, questionable tooth-count, over-weight stripper.....Sorry.

Bird Flu? I'm thinking chicken-head....hehhehe....

My initial thoughts... (0, Redundant)

themysteryman73 (771100) | more than 8 years ago | (#14564401)

When I first read the headline, I assumed this was saying something about money being germ-ridden from being handled by so many different people over such a long period of time. I was going to mention that I've always been wary of eating or any such after I've touched money if I haven't washed my hands in between. Similarly, I was going to mention that, if/when credit completely replaces money it will probably be safer to use, hygienically. That's pretty much irrelevant now, but I'm still saying it because I feel that it's important.

At the same time, this is still a great example of the effects of globalisation, and it kind of shows how the smarter we get (and the more our population grows), the worse off we may be...

Self-service gas pumps illegal (1)

typical (886006) | more than 8 years ago | (#14564508)

Similarly, I was going to mention that, if/when credit completely replaces money it will probably be safer to use, hygienically. That's pretty much irrelevant now, but I'm still saying it because I feel that it's important.

In Oregon and New Jersey, self service gas pumps are illegal. I've always wondered whether that helps reduce disease vectors -- I mean, people fueling up are possibly travelling on the roadway from a long ways away. I'd imagine that gas pump handles are pretty darn unsanitary.

Probably not what the lawmakers were thinking. (1)

Mateorabi (108522) | more than 8 years ago | (#14565015)

That's probably not the intent of the law. It's a make-work program. Instead of people pumping their own gas, the stations have to hire a few employees to do the work for them. It's basicaly govornment mucking about with the economy, since the drivers are now essentialy being forced to pay an unidentified tax in the form of slightly higher prices. I'm sure whatever politician thought this up probably threw in some verbage about 'safety' of using 'profesionals' to pump the gas to try and justify the law.

Woohoo! (4, Informative)

NathanBFH (558218) | more than 8 years ago | (#14564405)

I remember coming across this site several years ago (2001? 2002?) and just for fun entered a couple bills to see how it worked. Since then, I totally forgot about it until this Slashdot reminded me! I'm very curious to find out how 'my' bills are doing these days. I do remember, however, reading somewhere that the average lifespan of a one dollar bill is less than a year or two, so the chances my bills made it past the few months I handled them may be slim.

Re:Woohoo! (1)

core plexus (599119) | more than 8 years ago | (#14565016)

I first discovered the site a couple of years, also, when I noticed a bill stamped with "Track this bill at Wheresgeorge.com". I have entered quite a few, (some I found and some I stamped) and while some travelled quickly across the country, some took almost a year to go to the next town.

There are a lot of people, in fact I'd hazard to say the majority, who simply don't notice their money. Also, believe it or not, some people don't have internet access. So I wonder how many people handled the bills, and what their travels were, between entries.

There are also many people who handle money (store clerks, esp. liquor store clerks), then touch their faces, smoke a cigarette, eat, etc. without washing after handling the bills. They wonder why they get sick so regularly.

Exotic ecosystem may still be thriving in the icy waters 35 million years after being sealed off from the surface [suvalleynews.com]

Obligatory... (5, Funny)

mshiltonj (220311) | more than 8 years ago | (#14564424)

Zombie Infection Simulation Machine! [sothisisacomic.com]

Brians! Must eat brains!

braaaiinss (1)

Auraiken (862386) | more than 8 years ago | (#14564997)

I demand that the parent be modded informative! This could help people if there was ever a zombie epidemic!

Re:Obligatory... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14565314)

Q: What's the first thing Jesus said to his diciples after rising from the grave?

A: BRAAAINS! BRAAAAAIIINS!

I tried this once.. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14564449)

I wrote the url to Where's George on a dollar bill and use it in a convient store. I live in West Texas, the dollar bill was in Georgia in a week.

Notes as a form of delivery device? (3, Interesting)

caluml (551744) | more than 8 years ago | (#14564463)

How long until people start trying to think up ways of using bank-notes to deliver deadly chemical or biological agents to the mass population? They've already discovered "radioactive banknotes in Kazakhstan [yahoo.com] ".

Re:Notes as a form of delivery device? (1)

thefirelane (586885) | more than 8 years ago | (#14564517)

deliver deadly chemical or biological agents to the mass population?

This could get modded as funny, but its only half-meant to be so: Do you not already know what's on money? I don't think it would be possible to make it more dirty or infectious

Re:Notes as a form of delivery device? (3, Informative)

Thing 1 (178996) | more than 8 years ago | (#14564576)

Frank Herbert wrote a book, "The White Plague", that was about exactly that. A researcher was vacationing with his family in Ireland, and watched (from the hotel window) his wife and kids get killed as they walked next to a car which blew up.

So he created a virus that killed only women, and released it to the world via paper money.

The only downside is the book had about 3x as many words as a gripping novel would have, or I was a bored teenager; I haven't read it in a dog's age.

Re:Notes as a form of delivery device? (1)

caluml (551744) | more than 8 years ago | (#14564785)

Why, out of interest did he want to kill only women? Was it a woman that planted the bomb that killed his family?

Re:Notes as a form of delivery device? (2, Informative)

zenray (9262) | more than 8 years ago | (#14564909)

It's been some time since I've read the book but as I recall it was to get revenge on the men who took his wife from him - so 'I'll take your wife from you'. Since he did not know exactly who did this to him he decided to 'get everybody'. Radical isolation to keep the infection from spreading was tried. How the book ended I can't remember.

Re:Notes as a form of delivery device? (1)

Bob Costas (234537) | more than 8 years ago | (#14564968)

I imagine he was trying to wipe out the human race.. which is still a bit of a non-sequitir, but anyways. If it didn't kill the men they could unwittingly spread it to more women. And without women the men couldn't reproduce.

Re:Notes as a form of delivery device? (1)

Vellmont (569020) | more than 8 years ago | (#14564922)


How long until people start trying to think up ways of using bank-notes to deliver deadly chemical or biological agents to the mass population?

Probbably a harder thing to do than you think. Any chemical agent would have to not break down under heat, light, etc and work as some kind of contact poison since people don't tend to eat currency. Biological agents don't tend to like the dry conditions typcially present on currency, so the virus/bacteria/etc tends to die before it can spread very far. Most infectious diseases don't do very well outside the body.

Urban Dead (4, Interesting)

Saeger (456549) | more than 8 years ago | (#14564496)

Urban Dead [urbandead.com] gets no love? That webgame is truly infectious -- what with its "243,575 dead and rising" :)

erm? is the data even legit? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14564522)

And who's to say that even 10% of the data on that site is legit? No drunken people entering fake data? No webmasters adding long travel stories, to make the site more interesting?

Bah!

A model based upon unreliable / unproven data...

Re:erm? is the data even legit? Yes, it is. (5, Informative)

OfficialWheresGeorge (949555) | more than 8 years ago | (#14564662)


I spend a significant amount of time EVERY DAY to ferret out fake data. I have several automated processes that search for and remove any data that does not fit certain criteria. I take this site, and the data integrity very seriously, so I take personal offense to your offhand, unfounded, and ignorant comments.

-Hank

Re:erm? is the data even legit? Yes, it is. (1)

Govno (779519) | more than 8 years ago | (#14564748)

You forgot to call him an insensitive clod!

Re:erm? is the data even legit? Yes, it is. (1)

twoes00 (839980) | more than 8 years ago | (#14564805)

Can we sue you if our money is no longer accepted as a result of your site and it's tracking measures (the bills have to be marked)?

Re:erm? is the data even legit? Yes, it is. (2, Informative)

OfficialWheresGeorge (949555) | more than 8 years ago | (#14565086)

First, only the FRB can judge if a bill is unfit to be re-issued. You can't, a bank can't, a merchant can't. Second, the website simply tracks bills by serial number, and works if bills are marked or not. The site does not encourage or endorse the defacement of currency. I am forbidden by law to sell rubber stamps that do so. What the users do and purchase on their own accord is between them and their lawyer.

Re:erm? is the data even legit? Yes, it is. (1)

nucal (561664) | more than 8 years ago | (#14564827)

I spend a significant amount of time EVERY DAY to ferret out fake data. I have several automated processes that search for and remove any data that does not fit certain criteria.

So did the researchers who used your data set take this into account? For that matter, did you have a significant role in the study beyond providing the data set?

Re:erm? is the data even legit? Yes, it is. (2, Informative)

OfficialWheresGeorge (949555) | more than 8 years ago | (#14565054)

So did the researchers who used your data set take this into account? For that matter, did you have a significant role in the study beyond providing the data set?


I did not take part in the study, I only provided the data. The data removed from the data set are entries that are obviously fake - for instance two entries thousands of miles apart, entered from the same machine. Or people who intentionally snail-mail bills to each other.

To answer that question (0, Offtopic)

ChallengerFive (949551) | more than 8 years ago | (#14564560)

Where is George ? Where Oil is.

Get AIDs Today! (3, Interesting)

ral8158 (947954) | more than 8 years ago | (#14564578)

It's not nearly as infective as GetAIDs [getaids.be] ... A web game you can actually get AIDs from! What will they think of next?

Inversely Related? (3, Insightful)

hooded1 (89250) | more than 8 years ago | (#14564583)

Uhm.... don't diseases tend to go in the opposite direction that money does? Like aren't the poorest places in the world also the places with the most diseases.

You're missing the point (2, Insightful)

246o1 (914193) | more than 8 years ago | (#14564640)

Transfers of money are indicative of the movement of people (though obviously not a 1-1 correlation). Finding patterns of money's travel will also show patterns of possible disease spread, as those moving the money are possible vectors of contagion.

Diseases SUCCEED in poor places because the lack of nutrition/clean water/medicine/education/rape-prevention etc. A new (or significantly different variation of a current) disease, however, that is transfered by, say, touch or close proximity (airborn transmission with a short life outside the host's body, for instance) would not be nearly as ghetto-ized as our current treatable-but-not-treated-in-poor-places diseases.

This won't be perfect, obviously, but statistics and Where's George are a match made in heaven.

Re:You're missing the point (1)

belg4mit (152620) | more than 8 years ago | (#14565038)

Many "modern" diseases also originate in the tropics, which
through a variety of socio-economic and political reasons
tend to be poor. Historically in Europe they also sprung up
when man and animal where continuously in close proximity.
The might want to at least consider rifling through Guns,
Germs and Steel. Certainly interesting/insightful, even if
not authoritative/complete theory.

Load of nonsense (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14564585)

Wow, what a bunch of crap science. They're trying to track movement of people by where dollar bills show up?! WTF? When you buy something at a store that bill might go back into circulation immediately but its just as likely to be deposited in a bank. From what I understand, banks send cash to regional counting facilities. From there it is redistributed. It's impossible to track this movement. A bill deposited in San Francisco could easily turn up in LA, Portland, or Seattle without it being transported there by an individual traveler. What if a person in Seattle then gets that bill from the bank, hops a plane to New York, but doesn't enter it's information into that website and then spends the money in New York where it isn't recorded and then through a similar process the bill ends up in Kansas City? IF someone in Kansas City knows about the site and gives a rats ass about it and actually enters the bills serial number it now looks like someone in San Franciso travelled to Kansas City. How does this help understand the movement habits of humans? Like I said, this is crap science and does absolutely nothing to further our understanding of how diseases spread.

Re:Load of nonsense (2, Insightful)

jefu (53450) | more than 8 years ago | (#14564817)

Take a few math courses, including one or two (more is better) in statistics before you spout completely nonsense. And if you're going to spout nonsense, at least justify it rather than randomly ranting - thus revealing yourself as not only an Anonymous Cowward, but also as an Ignorant and Idiotic Anonymous Coward.

Prediction for patient zero of next flu pandemic (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14564588)

Kevin Bacon.

Or Waldo.

How About A Nice Game of Chess? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14564635)

>> No, let's play Infectious Disease Modeling.

> Fine.

[]

Did somebody say... (1)

Dragon of the Pants (913545) | more than 8 years ago | (#14564644)

...Captain Trips?

One big difference (1)

nastro (32421) | more than 8 years ago | (#14564787)

You register a bill on the wheresgeorge site, that's the only way anyone knows if, when, and where the bill is spent. You certainly don't register, or perhaps even know, if you have a communicable disease.

Re:One big difference (1)

AutopsyReport (856852) | more than 8 years ago | (#14564852)

I don't think you understood the summary correctly, because if you had, you would realize that disease and dollars bills have nothing to do with each other. What is common (potentially) between the two is the ability to spread rapidly over great distances. Since money is one of the most commonly exchanged items, it is a pretty good measure of how quickly a disease could possibly spread.

It is akin to rat/mice testing. Humans and mice are not necessarily the same, but the results of a medical infliction (or whatever is being tested) on a mouse can be a good indication of how the infliction will affect a human.

Re:One big difference (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14565186)

Actually by law a doctor has to report to the CDC if you have a communicable disease, other than common ones such as the common cold.

What "statistical laws"? (1)

NicerGuy (411492) | more than 8 years ago | (#14564843)

The blurb and article both seem to refer to at least one paragraph of text missing from the article containing the explaination of what they found. Something was posted from this site earlier today which was equally disappointing.

Because we all know that ... (1)

athomascr (851385) | more than 8 years ago | (#14564919)


"...scientists have unveiled statistical laws of human travel and developed a mathematical description that can be used to model the spread of infectious disease."

Because we all know that human travel is like the spread of an infectious disease.


As we spread beyond Earth, I certainly hope Uranus is protected.

No Digg! (1)

tfcdesign (667499) | more than 8 years ago | (#14564940)

The article doesnt even list any of the results. No pictures. No graphs.

Flu prediction market (3, Interesting)

FleaPlus (6935) | more than 8 years ago | (#14564962)

Another novel and interesting way I came across to predict the spread of infectious disease is the University of Iowa's Flu Prediction Market [uiowa.edu] . A description from their page:

Information about influenza activity is diverse and widely distributed. Different health care professionals have different information regarding influenza activity. This information could be quite helpful in predicting future influenza activity if it could be aggregated and analyzed efficiently. However, because this information is disparate, standard research and statistical methods have not proven to be effective. Thus, the medical community does not have access to accurate influenza forecasts. The Influenza Prediction Market is an attempt to satisfy the need for accurate information regarding future influenza activity.

The first experimental prediction market was the Iowa Electronic Market (IEM). It has developed methods to predict future events ranging from election results to movie box office receipts and has a forecasting record substantially superior to alternative mechanisms. We propose that markets for infectious diseases may be useful for predicting infectious disease activity quickly, accurately, and inexpensively by aggregating the expert opinion of health care professionals.


They're currently working on expanding the system, but with their current market they give various health care workers $100 they can bid with, and depending on how accurate their bidding is they can get additional money.

KITP Press Release - Cool image (1)

shmotlock (827592) | more than 8 years ago | (#14565110)

Press Release [ucsb.edu] Check it!

Web Game Helps Predict Spread of Epidemics? (1)

SYSS Mouse (694626) | more than 8 years ago | (#14565199)

I thought you are talking about this [slashdot.org] .

bill reproduction !! (1)

giampy (592646) | more than 8 years ago | (#14565213)


Great.
Now that the infrastructure is in place, we just need a system to let the dollar bill reproduce themselves so the analogy will be perfect !!!

Actually, i am sure that some people have been constantly working on it from quite some time ...

g
 

WoW (1)

flogic42 (948616) | more than 8 years ago | (#14565261)

Scientists did similar epidemiology research on the game World of Warcraft when the plague swept through it owning all the lowbies shortly after the release of Zul Gurub.

Canada too! (1)

anethema (99553) | more than 8 years ago | (#14565276)

For all you hosers out there ;) there is a canadian version here:

http://www.whereswilly.com/ [whereswilly.com]
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