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PRI's Environmental News Magazine

Emerging Science Note/Follow the Money

Air Date: Week of January 27, 2006

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Researchers find that following the money may be the key to preventing pandemics. Living on Earth’s Emily Taylor reports.

Transcript

TAYLOR: Who would imagine that Internet games could help us track the spread of epidemics? Scientists in Germany and at the University of California have developed a mathematical theory which can predict the path of a contagious disease by evaluating information from a simple online game.

“Wheresgeorge.com” tracks registered dollar bills for fun. In the game, when people receive bills, they are asked to log their location online. Scientists looked at the data from over 400,000 registered notes and found that humans, much like the currency they carry, travel in certain patterns.

But, currency isn’t the only thing people carry; they also carry germs. And with mobility at an all-time high, an epidemic, such as the Avian Flu, could spread at a rapid rate, killing millions before being controlled. So, researchers used the data from the “Wheresgeorge” website to create a mathematical formula that can be used to predict the paths of future epidemics.

Now, when we find where George is headed, we’ll know where the germs are headed…. and hopefully be able to stop them before it’s too late. That’s this week’s Note on Emerging Science. I’m Emily Taylor.

CURWOOD: And you’re listening to Living on Earth.

 

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