Demystifying the Commuter Rat Race

Mobilephones11 Kerri Smith in news@nature:

Researchers have come up with a new use for the ubiquitous mobile phone: tracking human movements. By monitoring the signals from 100,000 mobile-phone users sending and receiving calls and text messages, a team from Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts, has worked out some apparently universal laws of human motion.

The results could help epidemiologists to predict how viruses will spread through populations, and help urban planners and traffic forecasters to allocate resources.

Albert-László Barabási and his colleagues show that most people, perhaps unsurprisingly, are creatures of habit. They make regular trips to the same few destinations such as work and home, and pepper these with occasional longer forays such as vacations.

The distances people covered varied widely between individuals, but follow a similar pattern — most people move on average a short distance on a daily basis, whereas a few hardy souls move long distances in a short time.

[H/t: Aditya Dev Sood & Misha Lepetich]