Where's Bin Laden? New theory, Google Earth offer clues

Where's Bin Laden? New theory, Google Earth offer clues

Summary: A couple of geography professors at UCLA have done some legwork that just might help the U.S.

TOPICS: Google

A couple of geography professors at UCLA have done some legwork that just might help the U.S. get closer to capturing Osama Bin Laden.

The professors, John A. Agnew and Thomas W. Gillespie, today published a theory on the MIT International Review site (PDF) that identifies three buildings that could possibly be housing the FBI's most wanted terrorist. The team used satellite imagery (similar to that used by Google) and "biogeographic theories associated with the distribution of life and extinction" to determine where Bin Laden is most likely to be hiding. From their article:

In informal conversations in the Geography Department at UCLA, we began to ask ourselves if the biogeographic theories we use every day – theories that predict how plants and animals distribute themselves over space and over time – employed in conjunction with publicly available satellite imagery, could shed some light on this question (of Bin Laden's whereabouts). The outcomes of this musing... are our thoughts and experiment. By bringing these methodologies to bear, it is our hope that a long overdue debate might bring bin Laden back to the fore of the public consciousness – and possibly to justice.

It brought it to the attention of ZDNet's own Andy Smith - a senior producer who sometimes doubles as a wannabe spy - who tracked those coordinates on Google Earth to better illustrate what and where the professors were talking about.

Gallery: Finding bin Laden on Google Earth

It really is a fascinating experiment when you consider what they've done. The captions in the image gallery give a good insight into the process. Of course, now that the information is out there, the professors are hoping that the feds will take it from here.

Two UCLA professors and Google Earth can't do the whole job - though they've already offered the public a better update on the whereabouts of Bin Laden than the Bush Administration ever did.

Topic: Google

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  • While the methodology is interesting...

    ...what an absurd, grandstanding, self-aggrandizing public disclosure. Since bin Laden has by now read the article he knows his cover has been blown and has split to somewhere else. This information should have been kept under wraps until the feds/military had either acted or passed on it.
    Feral Urchin
    • Don't sweat it

      bin Laden has been dead for years. It is 99%+ probable he was killed in

      • Copying other's work

        Here's Apple again, not innovating but copying other's work yet again. I
        wish Bin Laden would take them out...

        Ooops, sorry, was channelling NonZealot there for a moment...
        Fred Fredrickson
        • Good one!!

          Funny. Thanks for the laugh!!
        • Took me a second to get it.....

          ....but NICE ONE!!!!!!!!!!
    • Google maps really the bees knees?

      I thought that - just like GPS - the U.S. military was a step ahead of Joe public in terms of such technology as satellite imagery. Surely this is the kind of thing it was developed for in the first place though, i.e. the reconnaisance cameras in space that are capable of reading a newspaper on earth?
      • Google maps...

        ...has had to reduce their resolution because people complained. Something about sunbathers in the nude...
        • google maps also ...

          reduced the resolution on the street view (zooming in no longer really zooms, it just enlarges) and blurred out faces (at least in the last place i looked).
    • Amatuers

      It is amazing to me how often boneheads manage
      to screw up Intelligence operations by thinking
      it's a good policy to openly discuss something
      the Government keeps a secret for Very good
      reasons. Just maybe, by relaxing and going
      quiet BL might feel safe enough to do something
      that will put a final dot on a map. This kind
      of silly action provides NOTHING that would be
      actionable by a SOF team to do anything about.
      But it DOES give BL information about hiding
      If teaching is what you do, please go do it
      and leave important stuff to professionals who
      have to actually accomplish things.

  • use psychics, experts, statisticians

    who are selected/vetted so that folks don't deliberately try to skew results (though a dither or error signal may help contrast) in conjunction with stats wonks to push pins onto a google layer

    make sure that this can evolve over time, as OBL can be moved around

    check for 'idiosycrasies' to correlate with the psychic layer, using data fusion

    send in the marines
  • I've already notified the CIA of his whereabouts

    I've always had remarkable luck so I knew all I'd need to do to find him is print up a map of Pakistan and throw a dart. It turns out he's living on a ship (or is living in an underwater habitant) in the gulf of Oman. No wonder we could never find him.

    • 007

      As you would know if you'd watched enough James Bond films, the bad guys often have underwater hindeaways or submarines. ;-)
    • Your methodology is wrong...

      You state that you threw a dart on a map to find OBL whereabouts... You should have thrown the dart a couple of times and find the average for the position. It is after all, a statistical methodology to find him...
      Roque Mocan
      • No, this is a Markov chain

        Osama is constantly on the move. His position is a stochastic chain with the Markov property. You need to toss the dart successive times to determine the probabilistic distribution driving the transition from one state to the next in order to extrapolate the coming positions of the target. That would then be loaded into the fire control system to instruct it on where to bomb next, in anticipation of the future Osama position. Foolproof!
        • a la the Space Invader aliens in Futurama

          "Fools, you dont shoot where i am, you shoot where im going to be."
  • Hanging out with Jimmy Hoffa :D (nt)

  • Huh?

    What did your friends think that you were not liberal enough that you needed to spice up your blog with some Bush bashing.

    I might point out that they have proven nothing yet, you say that they have already come closer to finding OBL than Bush. But, as of yet they've found nothing.

    In addition, we don't really know how close the US government have or have not come to finding OBL. If you are impugning someone it is the US Military, CIA and NSA, is that what you are intending? I don't think Bush was on the ground looking for him, or analyzing satellite imagery.

    So keep your nonsensical political baggage to yourself, this is a tech site.
    • +1. Very well stated *nt*

      • -1. Another one lacking any sense of humor <eom>

    • bushy didn't care to find OBL

      he is on video saying exactly that several years ago...the old CIA payrollee was just a stooge.
      Rock Johny