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Scale Invariance in Global Terrorism

  1. Feb 4, 2005 #1


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    Clauset and Young, in their new paper http://www.arxiv.org/PS_cache/physics/pdf/0502/0502014.pdf [Broken], apply standard modern statistics to a database of terrorist strikes ordered by the number of people killed or injured. They find that extreme cases, such as 9/11, are not outliers, but find their place within a scale free power distribution with exponent near 2 (may actually be nearer 1.8). From this they conclude another strike with as many casualties or more than 9/11 can be expected within the next 7 years.

    They remark that the ability to kill people has been steadily increasing, which may underly this scale free behavior. I note that scale free or "critical" behavior in many systems is associated with the approach to a change of state.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 1, 2017
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 6, 2005 #2
    Yes, advancing technology makes WMDs easies to manufacture. More people mean more potential terrorists and conflicts. Global news and democracy means that the potential reward has increased.

    I see some possible solutions:
    1. Greater prosperity and more democracy. Democracies never or almost never attack each other. Poverty is one the factors that make people into fanatics. Look for example at the great depression that may have been critical in causing fascist dictatorships in Germany and Japan.

    2. Fight technology with technology. Biotechnology might allow very rapid detection of biological weapons and production of antidotes.

    3. A worldwide intrusive state. If the above fail and there are great catastrophes due to terrorism or wars, then many might see strict control of science worldwide as inevitable. Research, laboratories, education and knowledge in biotechnology and nuclear physics might become a strictly regulated worldwide state monopoly.
  4. Feb 6, 2005 #3
    That might not help much. One of the greatest terrorist threats facing advanced nations today comes in the form of natural gas. A single liquified natural gas tanker would make a pretty big explosion.
  5. Feb 6, 2005 #4
    Well, then science has to find a better way to transport the natural gas. Or avoid using it.

    But I agree that new technology will constantly make it easier to produce WMDs. So if 3 is chosen, this means that an ever increasing part of science and technology will be censored and monopolized by the state.
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