January 27, 2006
Traveling Cash
Posted by Allison Christians

One_hundred_dollar_bill  This has nothing to do with Disney or Pixar, but is perhaps an interesting diversion.  According to this AP story, scientists are using this website that tracks US currency in an effort to track the spread of infectious diseases--mostly with an eye toward preventing the anticipated global bird flu epidemic.  The problem I suppose is that the site and therefore the quality of the data depends on individual users to go in and enter the serial numbers of the currency in their wallets.  Being curious, I did so, but struck out--none of my currency had been previously entered in the website.  I can check back later and see if my money shows up somewhere else, but what are the odds of that happening?  Given the sheer volume of currency out there, I am surprised they can really get much out of this, but they have apparently concluded that "most of the money (57 percent) traveled between 30 miles and 500 miles over about nine months in the United States. About a quarter of the bills moved more than 500 miles."  The patterns they discern are used to predict the spread of germs.   Somehow, I feel the need to go wash my hands.

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