Predicting Bin Laden’s Whereabouts
Listen to our interview with Thomas Gillespie here.
Gillespie is a geographer at UCLA. Two years ago, he and his students attempted to predict where Osama Bin Laden may be hiding.
Gillespie is no terrorism expert. He spends his time studying how species survive in different environments. But he and his colleagues thought some of the theories used to predict the survival of endangered species may apply to predicting Bin Laden’s whereabouts.
Using those theories and satellite images, Gillespie’s team estimated that there was an 88.9% chance that Bin Laden was hiding less than 300 kilometers from his last known location in Tora Bora. The region included Abbottabad, Pakistan, where Bin Laden was shot dead this past Sunday. (However, Gillespie’s findings didn’t highlight Abbottabad, and he readily admits that he hadn’t even heard of the city until Osama Bin Laden’s death.)
Gillespie also predicted that Bin Laden would not be hiding in a cave but would likely be found in a compound with high walls, electricity, and at least one tree.
We interviewed Gillespie about his work two years ago. Listen to that interview here.
What does tracking terrorists have in common with the study of species diversity? And how do researchers like Gillespie normally use these methods?
Learn more about Gillespie’s work. Join our online conversation. He’s taking your questions until May 11.Hide