Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Can Insurgent Attacks Be Modelled By A Simple Equation?

University of Miami physicist Neil Johnson and his co-authors seem to think so. They have published an analysis of insurgent attacks in Iraq and Afghanistan, and discovered a pattern to such activities.

Johnson and his research team gathered publicly available data on military fatalities in Afghanistan and Iraq. On a graph, the numbers created a distinct, upward curve.

He says it wasn't just a coincidence; those numbers follow a specific mathematical pattern. In this case, the pattern translates into an equation you can punch into a handheld calculator, says Johnson.
I'm typically skeptical of this type of modeling of human behavior. In this instant, the unpredictability of even the action of one person is enough to screw up the predictions, and that in turn could have a chain of consequences.

Besides, once something like this is published, who is to say that these insurgents would not become aware of their pattern, and try to plan their attacks to NOT follow such pattern?


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