[The following is an exact transcript of this podcast.]
Generic Naturalist: Biologists traditionally track migrations by tagging animals with devices that allow their movements to be monitored. But Homo sapiens can’t be fitted with radio collars. At least not without making them feel self-conscious and absurd.
Hopkin: It’s not exactly Big Brother, but if you have a cell phone, scientists in Boston may be watching you. Or at least using your cell phone records to see where you go. Because people carry and use their phones every day, they provide a great way for researchers to get a handle on human migration. The Boston scientists looked at records from 100,000 cell phone users over a six-month period, determining individuals’ positions based on which transmission towers handled their calls. They found that people are truly creatures of habit: they tend to make regular trips to the same few locations, like work, home or the local pizza place. The results appear in the June 5th issue of the journal Nature. Getting a good fix on people’s comings and goings could help predict traffic patterns or even prevent epidemics.
Naturalist: Those same phone records show that Ray’s Famous Original Pizza is clearly the human’s first choice.