Friday, January 27, 2006

George Washington's long tail

Remember Where's George? Fill in the number of your dollar bill, where you got it and where you are now.

With enough participation bills will surface every now and then, and you'll be able to track your bill's circulation in space and time. Cute.

That was five-odd years ago, and Where's George lived happily ever after. But now George's saga is getting a new twist. Scientists at the Max Planck Institute in Goettingen, Germany, are now proposing to use George's database to predict the spread of infectious diseases like bird flu. The researchers have developed a mathematical model that uses human travel to plot the future course of pandemics, but lack a sufficiently robust database of human movements. According to recent analysis George's database of 50 million dollar banknotes seems to be the next best thing.

Interesting development at a time when business models are increasingly judged on the length of their tails.

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