Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Using Geography to Find Osama bin Laden

From "Finding Osama bin Laden: An Application of Biogeographic Theories and Satellite Imagery" by Thomas W. Gillespie and John A. Agnew, professors of geography at UCLA.

ABSTRACT: One of the most important political questions of our time is: Where is Osama bin Laden? We use biogeographic theories associated with the distribution of life and extinction (distance-decay theory, island biogeography theory, and life history characteristics) and remote sensing data (Landsat ETM+, Shuttle Radar Topography Mission, Defense Meteorological Satellite, QuickBird) over three spatial scales (global, regional, local) to identify where bin Laden is most probably currently located. We believe that our work involves the first scientific approach to establishing his current location. The methods are repeatable and can be updated with new information obtained from the US intelligence community.
Here's a Google Earth placemark of the identified possible locations for Osama bin Laden listed in the paper. This link will launch Google Earth and fly you to Pakistan.

Data for this study were quickly supplied at Geocommons and called "Structure Locations of Possible Hiding Spots of Osama Bin Laden, Parachinar, Pakistan, 2009" Thank you SeanGorman on Twitter.

Gillespie was interviewed on the Rachel Maddow Show last night.

Thanks, Andy Anderson, for the links to the paper and the video and reminding everyone that Gillespie was responsible for the study of night light from Iraq as a way to estimate the effect of the so-called "Surge".

I wonder what's next...a hit Hollywood movie about how cool it is to be a geographer? First, mathematicians and now geographers!

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