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People move like predators

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7:57pm, March 18, 2008

From New Orleans, at a meeting of the American Physical Society

Every morning is the same: You get up, shower, and eat breakfast, and you're ready to go. On a hunt.

If hunting is not in your daily routine, it might as well be, or so it could seem to someone tracking your movements. A new study based on data from cell phone use shows that people's daily roaming mirrors familiar patterns—universal statistical laws that researchers have observed before in the movements of certain carnivores looking for prey.

Albert-László Barabási and Marta González of Northeastern University in Boston and their collaborators sifted through 6 months' worth of text messages and call records for 100,000 users, provided by cell phone companies. By tracking which cell phone towers users were connecting to at any given time, the data allowed researchers to map individuals' movements throughout the day, as long as they went far enough to enter another tower's service area.

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