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Math

Statistical Analysis of Terrorism 265

Harperdog sends in a Miller-McCune story about Aaron Clauset, a researcher whose studies on the statistics and patterns that arise from large numbers of terrorist attacks could help governments better prepare for such conflicts and reduce uncertainty about their frequency and magnitude. Quoting: "After mapping tens of thousands of global terrorism incidents, he and his collaborators have discovered that terrorism can be described by what mathematicians call a power law. ... Using this power law relationship — called 'scale invariance' — the risk of a large attack can be estimated by studying the frequency of small attacks. It’s a calculation that turns the usual thinking about terrorism on its head. 'The conventional viewpoint has been there is "little terrorism" and "big terrorism," and little terrorism doesn't tell you anything about big terrorism,' Clauset explains. 'The power law says that's not true.' Massive acts of violence, like 9/11 or the devastating 1995 bombing of the US embassy in Nairobi, obey the same statistical rules as a small-scale IED attack that kills no one, Clauset's work suggests. 'The power law form gives you a very simple extrapolation rule for statistically connecting the two,' he says."

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