Session Z28: Methods of Statistical Physics, Population Dynamics and Epidemiology

11:15 AM–1:39 PM, Friday, March 17, 2006
Baltimore Convention Center Room: 325

Sponsoring Units: DBP GSNP
Chair: Vadim Smelyanskiy, NASA Ames Research Center

Abstract ID: BAPS.2006.MAR.Z28.4

Abstract: Z28.00004 : The scaling laws of human travel - A message from George

11:51 AM–12:27 PM

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  Dirk Brockmann
    (Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization)

In the light of increasing international trade, intensified human mobility and an imminent influenza A epidemic the knowledge of dynamical and statistical properties of human travel is of fundamental importance. Despite its crucial role, a quantitative assessment of these properties on geographical scales remains elusive and the assumption that humans disperse diffusively still prevails in models. I will report on a solid and quantitative assessment of human travelling statistics by analysing the circulation of bank notes in the United States. Based on a comprehensive dataset of over a million individual displacements we find that dispersal is anomalous in two ways. First, the distribution of travelling distances decays as a power law, indicating that trajectories of bank notes are reminiscent of scale free random walks known as L\'evy flights. Secondly, the probability of remaining in a small, spatially confined region for a time $T$ is dominated by algebraic tails which attenuate the superdiffusive spread. We show that human travel can be described mathematically on many spatiotemporal scales by a two parameter continuous time random walk model to a surprising accuracy and conclude that human travel on geographical scales is an ambivalent effectively superdiffusive process.

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