Log in

No account? Create an account
Previous Entry Share Next Entry
A false headline gone viral...
Here's the headline: "This Class of Geography Students Found Bin Laden's Hideout Long Before the CIA"

The story is about a class of biogeography students who, in 2009, looked at locating bin Laden from the point of view of locating extant members of a hard-to-find species. They were studying ecosystems, not terrorism, after all.

They used the tools they were taught (probability of locating something falls of exponentially with distance from last known location, more likely to be found in "big islands" rather than "small islands", and looking at the known preferences/needs of the species) and applied it to Osama bin Laden. They concluded he'd be in Pakistan near the Afghan border, in a large city, and in a compound with tall buildings, walled, at least 3 rooms, electrical service, space between the structures, and tree cover. They went as far as to identify a likely city and three compounds in that city which meet the requirements.

Osama was found in a Pakistani city, in a walled compound with several structures, 3 stories, and electrical service. Sounds like a hit, right? Well.. The class which "found" his hideout specified the city of Parachinar instead of Abbottabad, and the two cities are (according to Google Maps) about an 8-hour drive apart.

To be fair, the article does mention they said Parachinar, but it goes on to say it's a "nearby city". It isn't nearby. It's about 280km from Parachinar to Abbottabad, compared to 40km from Tora Bora (the location the class used as his last known location in November 2001).