Big data have been used for a variety of unusual things, but its latest use might be its most strange yet: The hunt for Sasquatch.
Josh Stevens, a PhD candidate at Penn State University, has compiled 92 years worth of data on Bigfoot, showing where the mythical creature has reportedly been wandering—and how it compares to population growth in North America.
(Read more: Sam Adams and the data defining craft beer)
Perhaps not surprisingly, the data—which include 3,313 sightings—shows the majority of Bigfoot sightings have been in the western part of the U.S., particularly in the Pacific Northwest. But sightings in Florida and along the Appalachian trail are not uncommon either.
Bigfoot has been a part of North American lore for more than 400 years, according to the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization (BFRO), the source of Stevens' data. The first footprint was taken in 1951, but it hit the pop culture spotlight in 1967 when a film purported to catch a Bigfoot walking.
While many dismiss it all as a hoax, the organization said the data suggest the presence of a primate that exists in areas with low population densities—one that is "astonishingly adept at avoiding human contact through a process of natural selection."
That syncs up with what Stevens found— as well.
"You would expect sightings to be the most frequent in areas where there are a lot of people," he said in his presentation of the findings. "But a bivariate view of the data show a very different story. There are distinct regions where sightings are incredibly common, despite a very sparse population. On the other hand, in some of the most densely populated areas, sasquatch sightings are exceedingly rare."