UCLA Students Came Close in 2009 Osama Prediction

Professor, class had the wrong city but the right idea
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted May 3, 2011 7:07 PM CDT
A 1998 photo of Osama bin Laden.   (AP Photo/Mazhar Ali Khan, File)

(Newser) – A UCLA geography professor and his class who tried to predict Osama bin Laden's whereabouts in 2009 don't get an A-plus, but easily a solid B. Professor Thomas Gillespie and crew determined that bin Laden would be within about 180 miles of Tora Bora and living in a city. (Newser had a summary when the prediction came out.) They settled on the Pakistani border town of Parachinar, but the correct city, Abbottabad, falls within their zone as well, reports Science.

The prediction defied the conventional wisdom of the time that bin Laden was hiding in a cave somewhere. “Caves are cold, and you can’t see people walking up to them,” says Gillespie, who applied geographical theories on how animal species adapt and survive. Bin Laden's big mistake? “An inconspicuous house would have suited him better.” Click for previous bin Laden stories.

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