Dollar bills move disease?

dollarbillIn the Jan. 26, 2006 online issue of Discovery News, the article Dollars Reveal How Flu Could Spread outlined a pretty interesting fact about the spread of this year’s dreaded Avian Flu.

Flu pandemics generally spread slowly in the past. But now people travel farther and more often. So it made sense this year to fear that the Avian Flu might spread around the globe seemingly in an instant.

But that just doesn’t seem to be the case.

Here’s what some German physicists are suggesting based on what they learned from the Where’s George website’s tracking of the movement of U.S. dollars.

They found that the banknotes mainly dispersed in a series of random steps over small distances, with occasional long hops, and there were long waiting times between displacements.

What emerges to replace the one-size-fits-all model is the belief that human movement, despite all its apparent randomness, can be mathematically predictable if important local parameters are factored in.

I love it when math is the answer… or at least part of it. And it is nice to be reminded that everything bad in the world won’t blow up tomorrow!

The study appears in Nature, the British weekly science journal.