THE Rockefeller Centre sprawls across 89,000 square metres of midtown Manhattan. Curiously, Alcatraz, in San Francisco Bay, the island home of America’s most famous former prison (see picture), has exactly the same area. That coincidence aside, few might imagine the manicured roof gardens and art deco office buildings of the one have much in common with the brutal crags and blockhouses of the other. But they do. For research by Claudio Silva of New York University and his colleagues suggests that the two have a striking resemblance when it comes to the daily ebb and flow of tourists, as judged from the level of activity on Flickr, a photo-hosting site. Dr Silva thinks the peaks and troughs of Flickr activity that his research has discovered in this and other cases are a measure of an area’s “urban pulse”. If so, the Rockefeller Centre and Alcatraz share a pulse.
On October 25th, at a meeting of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers in Baltimore, Dr Silva plans to present the idea that, like real pulses, urban pulses have useful diagnostic and prognostic…Continue reading
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