Undergraduates predicted where Osama would be found

Geographers Had Calculated 81% Chance That Osama Was in Abbottabad – ScienceInsider
[Via Science]

Could Osama bin Laden have been found faster if the CIA had followed the advice of ecosystem geographers from the University of California, Los Angeles? Probably not, but the predictions of UCLA geographer Thomas Gillespie, who, along with colleague John Agnew and a class of undergraduates, authored a 2009 paper predicting the terrorist’s whereabouts, were none too shabby. According to a probabilistic model they created, there was an 80.9% chance that bin Laden was hiding out in Abbottabad, Pakistan, where he was killed last night. And they correctly predicted that he would be in a large town, not a cave.


Not bad for an undergraduate project. And the researcher had the most trenchant quote:

Caves are cold, and you can’t see people walking up to them.

Interesting that Osama followed similar principles as an animal under environmental stress – find a place with a low mortality rate. Island species are under a lot of environmental stress simply because they can not easily move elsewhere. The smaller, more isolated the island, the greater the stress.

One thought on “Undergraduates predicted where Osama would be found

  1. The comments on this article are very interesting! You do realize that the CIA and others have access to much more accurate data and also to people who can do this sort of thing much better? The computer people in the FBI, CIA, etc. are very good at tracking. But before you risk folks, you want to be sure WHAT your objective is and HOW you are going in.

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