Scientists at Queen Mary University of London are pretty sure they have figured out the identity of the notoriously-elusive graffiti artist Banksy — all thanks to a little math.
In a paper recently published in the Journal of Spacial Science, the researchers detailed how they were able to geolocate Banksy "by identifying a pattern between the locations where his graffiti artworks most frequently appear and addresses with a close association to [the suspect]," reported the Independent, essentially "tagging" him — almost the reverse of what one would do in terms of geolocating themselves via a social media app (but a bit more complicated than that).
According to the original scientific article, the results they garnered aren't necessarily some sort of cat-and-mouse endgame regarding the artist; rather, the team used Banksy as a sort of stand-in for a terrorist-like figure in an effort to "help locate terrorist bases before more serious incidents [of terrorism] occur":
"Our analysis highlights areas associated with one prominent candidate (e.g., his home), supporting his identification as Banksy. More broadly, these results support previous suggestions that analysis of minor terrorism-related acts (e.g., graffiti) could be used to help locate terrorist bases before more serious incidents occur, and provides a fascinating example of the application of the model to a complex, real-world problem."
So, who is Banksy? Unfortunately, the answer is a little bit anticlimactic. The scientists fingered previous suspect Robin Gunningham as the culprit; Gunningham had been accused of being the true identity of the street artist back in 2008 after the British rag the Daily Mail claimed that it had figured it out after an exhaustive year-long search. Its key evidence? Paint cans used by Banksy and a photograph of Gunningham, who is pictured holding the same brand.
"I'd be surprised if it's not (Gunningham), even without our analysis, but it's interesting that the analysis offers additional support for it," said Steve Le Comber, a biologist co-author of the article, in an interview with the BBC.
"What I thought I would do is pull out the 10 most likely suspects, evaluate all of them and not name any," he continued, breaking down the process in pinpointing Banksy's geographic profile. "But it rapidly became apparent that there is only one serious suspect, and everyone knows who it is. If you Google Banksy and Gunningham you get something like 43,500 hits."
Gunningham was one of 140 suspects used for the study, titled "Tagging Banksy."
Source: Journal of Spatial Science
Photo: Francisco Huguenin Uhifelder | Flickr