Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Statistical Analysis of Terrorism

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the concept-episode-for-numb3rs dept.

Math 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."

cancel ×

265 comments

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

woo (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34541246)

1st ish

Re:woo (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34541354)

Statistically speaking, this is the fist post.

First? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34541248)

interesting...first

Double edged sword (1)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | more than 3 years ago | (#34541252)

No doubt this sort of analysis will soon be used to plan terrorist attacks.

Re:Double edged sword (1)

weirdcrashingnoises (1151951) | more than 3 years ago | (#34541310)

or rather, as soon as it starts to work, and stops terrorist attacks...

well then it stops working, doesn't it?

Re:Double edged sword (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34541638)

Well, for heading off an anticipated terrorist attack, this is a good result. Good = "attack didn't happen".

It's probably pretty similar to how the FBI views serial killers and rapists, except in this case they have more leeway with how to deal with suspected perps overseas. At some level, the flow chart kind of goes like "we killed someone(s), and the big boom didn't happen. We probably got the right perps." Or, "we did something, and the expected big boom didn't happen or we (think) we interrupted it", so that's good too.

While Donald Rumsfeld was being a bit trite and sarchastic (shock!) when he gave his infamous "what we don't know" speech, he probably got it right as far as this area goes.

The professionals involved realize that it's a probability game, though. The Politicians and polity expect exactitude, though, which in the US, really sucks these days. We (in the polity) don't seem to want to accept probabilities anymore. Our political mobthink currently is that "80% sure" isn't good enough. Nor is 90% or 95% or 99-44/100ths sure good enough, because...we really like to grasp on to the "but what if it was your kid that was the .00001%" these days, and "shit happens" has left our collective meme space, as has some level of reasonableness and perspective, not only as a whole, but individually.

We in the US (and western Europe?) are pretty self-deluded in that we think we respond rationally and deliberately, but really we just seem to react right now like a big pack of baboons when a lion or hyena has been spotted.

But I'm likely preaching to the choir anyways...

Pointless comment (4, Insightful)

captainpanic (1173915) | more than 3 years ago | (#34541902)

or rather, as soon as it starts to work, and stops terrorist attacks...

well then it stops working, doesn't it?

You reply suggests that you misunderstood.
The power law doesn't suggest where and when an attack happens, so it can't stop a single one from happening. Statistics doesn't predict that just like statistical climate laws won't predict whether it rains tomorrow or not.
The power law only says how many attacks will probably happen in the next period of time in a certain large area - within a certain degree of freedom.

And with that infinite wisdom, politicians are able to take appropriate measures. That's the whole point of it.
Today, politicians scream the loudest so that all voters can hear they take the strongest measures against terrorism of all. That may not be necessary when terrorism can be regarded with the same statistics as traffic deaths, plane crashes, diseases and other causes of death.

Maybe in the future politicians will say that it is indeed a little pointless to allocate 20% of the annual governmental budget to prevent 3000 terror-deaths, while the same money could save 100,000 in hospitals if it were to be spent on medicine rather than anti-terror measures. (But maybe that's just my wishful thinking).

Besides, I don't think you can't stop terrorism. You can only motivate people not to be a terrorist in the first place.
Once people cross a line, and decide they want to hurt our society, they will. Somehow.

Re:Pointless comment (1)

icebike (68054) | more than 3 years ago | (#34542538)

Ah, but the summary did clearly say:

the risk of a large attack can be estimated by studying the frequency of small attacks

(main article slashdotted as I write this so it take the summary as accurate - fool that I am)...

This would suggest the power law uses small acts to predict big ones. I'm not seeing any reference to time period or location.

So a given pattern/frequency of small attacks (or the lack there of) may have predictive value for large ones in spite of or in addition to all the usual and customary sources used to scare, er, warn the populace.

I'm not so sure you can leap from a simple statement of a predictive tool to a national policy, nor assume that 3000 is the magic number we would have to absorb if we did.

Re:Double edged sword (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34541424)

No doubt this sort of analysis will soon be used to plan terrorist attacks.

Yes obviously. By observing, measuring and publishing social phenomena, you change them.

to sum it up (1)

chronoss2010 (1825454) | more than 3 years ago | (#34542548)

when you are mismatched n technology and they are pissing you off. Anything you do back n retaliation is terrorism. Stealing from a vendor OMG hes scared now = terrorism, the whole phrase is as bad as the term HACKER...LOOK em both up.

How about... (-1, Troll)

musth (901919) | more than 3 years ago | (#34541280)

Oh yeah, let's add another layer of technocrat masturbation to the problem. How about we just stop killing and otherwise pissing off brown-skinned people?

Re:How about... (2)

Amorymeltzer (1213818) | more than 3 years ago | (#34541358)

Yes, because of course all terrorists are the same color and come from the same place, and only attack people that are actively engaging them militarily. There's nothing but ignorant generalizations in your post, and personally, I'd take masturbation over nose-picking any day.

Parent wan't a gerneralization. (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34541536)

If the parent was generalizing, her would have said something like Muslims are the terrorists.

Let's say this - if we stopped meddling in Middle Eastern affairs, we'd see a huge reduction in terrorism. Because, in the last 15 years most of the terrorist attacks have been made by Muslims (mostly Arab) pissed off at the US for supporting Israel, being in the Middle East and basically throwing our weight around like we own the Goddamn planet.

Yes, we'll still have to occasional Tim McVeigh or abortion clinic bombing, yeah, yeah, yeah - heard it all before.

Re:Parent wan't a gerneralization. (3, Insightful)

adamofgreyskull (640712) | more than 3 years ago | (#34542210)

You forgot about, or intentionally omitted, Northern Ireland [wikipedia.org] , and having done so, you are able to come to the naive conclusion that it's as simple as getting out of Iraq/Afghanistan. Self-governance, peace accords, rafts of "freedom fighters" released from prison early, former leaders of a terrorist organisation allowed seats in government, and still there is conflict in Northern Ireland. The cat's out of the bag. If you stop meddling in Middle Eastern affairs, you won't see a "huge reduction" in terrorism. Not in our lifetimes, or your great-great-grandchildren's. Terrorists worldwide won't suddenly throw their arms down and embrace us in a grand gesture of peace, love and understanding, numbnuts.

Re:How about... (1)

Cryacin (657549) | more than 3 years ago | (#34541692)

I'd take masturbation over nose-picking any day.

Frankly neither are things that should be done in public.

Re:How about... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34541420)

Don't forget the white ones. Oh, and the... hey why not just stop invading and killing everyone else?

Re:How about... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34541534)

Don't forget the white ones. Oh, and the... hey why not just stop invading and killing everyone else?

Since this thread is on statistical analysis... Statistically speaking there are more brown terrorists than white. Just sayin'.

PS) plus I've never met a brown person that wasn't terrifying!

Re:How about... (3, Informative)

cold fjord (826450) | more than 3 years ago | (#34542524)

How about we just stop killing and otherwise pissing off brown-skinned people?

You don't understand what is actually happening. Read Bin Laden's Letter to America [guardian.co.uk] . You will see that the actual demand isn't to be "left alone". Bin Laden's first demand is:

(Q2) As for the second question that we want to answer: What are we calling you to, and what do we want from you?

(1) The first thing that we are calling you to is Islam.

Bin Laden demands that we convert to Islam. He follows that up with demands that we ditch the Constitution, implement Islamic Sharia law, and do away with the separation of church and state. Among other things we would have to start killing homosexuals and adulterers, end the charging of interest on bank loans, put an end to drug use, pornography, and alcohol use, amputating the hands of thieves, and many other things. Dressing "immodestly" could get you whipped, which probably means burkas for women. Men would have to grow their beards out, or face a whipping. Crucifixion may be a required punishment for some crimes [timesonline.co.uk] . Afghanistan under the Taliban was almost ideal to them. If we do not agree to this we can expect that his minions will continue to try to kill us.

It is not especially significant that Bin Laden issued that demand to the United States, in time every country will have to deal with it. Subduing the United States is just one step along their path, and they understand that it could take 500 years. Many countries have been attacked. Stockholm had a suicide bomber this weekend [economist.com] . (Thankfully it appears that one of the Stockholm terrorist's bombs blew prematurely and he couldn't get about five more planted - otherwise it might have been another Madrid, London 7/7, Bali, or similar bombing.)

What Do the Terrorists Want? [A Caliphate] [danielpipes.org]

In nearly all cases, the jihadi terrorists have a patently self-evident ambition: to establish a world dominated by Muslims, Islam, and Islamic law, the Shari'a. Or, again to cite the Daily Telegraph, their "real project is the extension of the Islamic territory across the globe, and the establishment of a worldwide 'caliphate' founded on Shari'a law."

Terrorists openly declare this goal. The Islamists who assassinated Anwar el-Sadat in 1981 decorated their holding cages with banners proclaiming the "caliphate or death." A biography of one of the most influential Islamist thinkers of recent times and an influence on Osama bin Laden, Abdullah Azzam declares that his life "revolved around a single goal, namely the establishment of Allah's Rule on earth" and restoring the caliphate.

Bin Laden himself spoke of ensuring that "the pious caliphate will start from Afghanistan." His chief deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, also dreamed of re-establishing the caliphate, for then, he wrote, "history would make a new turn, God willing, in the opposite direction against the empire of the United States and the world's Jewish government." Another Al-Qaeda leader, Fazlur Rehman Khalil, publishes a magazine that has declared "Due to the blessings of jihad, America's countdown has begun. It will declare defeat soon," to be followed by the creation of a caliphate.

Good background here [telegraph.co.uk] .

Ignoring them won't make them go away. They have their own goals - nothing we do other than covert to Islam or fight them will dissuade them. Trying to buy them off or deal with them only delays the inevitable. We are in for a long struggle that will be far bloodier for us if we aren't clear about it. Al Qaeda has a fatwa that justifies killing 4,000,000 Americans with WMD [foreignpolicy.com] .

All former Muslim lands are to be recaptured, and ultimately the world, by whatever means are necessary.

It is not only Palestine that children in the West Bank and Gaza are asked to liberate; now they are asked to liberate Seville. The HAMAS children's magazine, Al-Fateh, in a recent issue, (No. 66), tells the children about the city called Asbilia (Seville) and calls on them to free it, together with the whole country, from the infidels and to reinstate Muslim rule. HAMAS Targets Spain [frontpagemag.com]

works right up until... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34541290)

That might work right up until the planners of the attacks read his paper and change their plans accordingly.

What about root cause analysis and prevention... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34541296)

...rather than reaction or "prediction".

Why bring rationality into it? (1)

nebaz (453974) | more than 3 years ago | (#34541302)

The government is very happy letting irrationality dictate discourse. Fear keeps rational discourse out of the conversation. It is much better to have the people think that it is a good idea to duct tape themselves into their homes and suffocate. Fewer trouble makers that way.

nonsense (3, Insightful)

t2t10 (1909766) | more than 3 years ago | (#34541324)

The observation of scale invariance in this kind of data tells you nothing about the short term relationship between low level and high level attacks. Physicists really shouldn't be doing statistics...

Re:nonsense (2)

drolli (522659) | more than 3 years ago | (#34541676)

Physicists should do statistics. What they should not do is do statistics which they dont know about.

Re:nonsense (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34541748)

Ahh, but that's really all they (experimentalists...) do, or have their grad students do.

Re:nonsense (1)

vxice (1690200) | more than 3 years ago | (#34541940)

"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." So basically large attacks that kill a bunch of people at once but rarely happen affect the same proportion of the population that smaller attacks do since while they happen more often the number of people they affect is still insignificant compared to the world population?

Re:nonsense (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34542068)

Also, it mentions IEDs - are they counting all the ones that the military has gone thru? 'cause I dont think that is an act or terrorism... after all, we're calling it a war, so it must be an act of war/battle.

Re:nonsense (2)

Garble Snarky (715674) | more than 3 years ago | (#34542088)

A "power law" just states that the relationship follows frequency = K*magnitude^P, for some values of K and P which are obviously dependent on time. The answer to your question is yes, during any period in which P is approximately -1. Then frequency*magnitude = K. "Magnitude" here is proportional to "number of people affected".

Re:nonsense (2)

captainpanic (1173915) | more than 3 years ago | (#34542000)

The observation of scale invariance in this kind of data tells you nothing about the short term relationship between low level and high level attacks. Physicists really shouldn't be doing statistics...

You're right... it's the bloody politicians who should be doing the statistics. After all, they govern a millions of people. They face problems which should be approached by statistics, and nothing else. But since they don't, someone else has got to do it, right?

Politicians are too busy with incident-management.

I applaud the attempt.

Re:nonsense (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34542018)

AC that knows the guy.

This physicist has a doctorate in CS and is probably more qualified to do statistics based on his prowess in the field than most statisticians I've met. That stated--the work is (largely) BS. And he knows that. The summary is crap, but his observations are...technically... correct. He also knows it's a fucking gold mine for grants because the people at DHS don't understand the difference between correlation and "post hoc ergo propter hoc."... much less an apple and a watermelon.

Re:nonsense (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34542164)

Is there any way to move grants off the national security paper money for paper bullshit scheme?

Don't wanna see people living off the mil-ind complex, it's bad for the country.

Re:nonsense (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34542036)

You must have missed the memo that said they accidentally swapped the works "physics" and "terror" in the article's title. :-)

Re:nonsense (1)

masterwit (1800118) | more than 3 years ago | (#34542282)

Physicists really shouldn't be doing statistics...

Just calculus.

by what mathematicians call a power law. ... Using this "power law" relationship

I actually just stopped and laughed.
Also:

'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.'

Now it's like a zero-tolerance law for a terrorist act. (And we all know how effective those are...)

...

On another note anyone have a copy of the article or is able to grab a snippet? - because I really like to actually read these things and it seems we have crashed the site atm. (Math articles = I read)

Naught to do with physicists, really (1)

shadowbearer (554144) | more than 3 years ago | (#34542478)

  Statistic should not be used to try and predict phenomena which depend on variables or data that are neither quantifiable nor reliable.

SB

Seems obvious to me (2)

jnmontario (865369) | more than 3 years ago | (#34541338)

Interesting article. I however have a beef with the thought that "“This gives you hope that terrorism is understandable from a scientific perspective.” " Furthermore, I have a problem with his thought that patterns of probability can be seen to develop over time, while not explicitly stating _when_ an attack will happen. To me, that's akin to stating that the San Andreas fault-system will trigger with a mounting probability over the years. Of course it will - as tension builds at some point it's inevitable that the fault will release. When world governments have bad foreign policy (which most seem to have at least some time, if not most of the time), of course you're going to create disenfranchised members of the world community - and when you arm and train them like Al Quaeda & Taliban were when the west wanted them to fight the Soviets they will turn on you. It's not a matter of if, but when. Stating that over time the likelihood of an attack increases seems to not scientific, but rather obvious as somebody (or some group) is almost guaranteed to slip through the security net in place to detect/predict such actions. My $0.02

Analyse this ! (5, Insightful)

Wowsers (1151731) | more than 3 years ago | (#34541348)

Statistical analysis shows that the amount of terrorist incidents is actually quite small, but the governments around the world like to exaggerate how many there actually are, to deprive decent hard working people of their freedom and democracy, and pee a lot of money up a wall in the process.

Re:Analyse this ! (4, Insightful)

gknoy (899301) | more than 3 years ago | (#34541712)

And by "up a wall", you mean "into other peoples' pockets", right?

Re:Analyse this ! (1)

leromarinvit (1462031) | more than 3 years ago | (#34542544)

They're just paying out dividends to their investors!

Re:Analyse this ! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34541828)

More than 4 a day is not "quite small". Maybe there *is* a threat an no one is reporting it.

Here's Novembers Jihad stats:
Monthly Jihad Report
  November, 2010
  Jihad Attacks: 144
  Countries: 15
  Religions: 5
  Dead Bodies: 609
  Critically Injured: 1252

Re:Analyse this ! (4, Informative)

jaxtherat (1165473) | more than 3 years ago | (#34542082)

Source?

Also, even if your stats are true, globally 609 dead per month from terrorism in comparison to the global total of 4,680,652 (from http://www.census.gov/cgi-bin/ipc/pcwe [census.gov] ) is negligeble. Considering the number of average monthly deaths from smoking alone is over 410000 (http://www.quitsmokingsupport.com/global.htm), I'm not sure how you can justify your statement of "not "quite small"...

Re:Analyse this ! (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34542514)

The source would seem to be http://www.thereligionofpeace.com/ [thereligionofpeace.com] which seems rather unreliable, for instance, it counts incidents in Iraq and Afghanistan which are war zones without a functioning criminal justice system and also counts incidents like "policemen got shot" where you generally have no idea if that's just normal criminal activity.

Re:Analyse this ! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34542542)

That's 410,000 per year, not 410,000 total. There is a big difference there, and interestingly it went up from the 400,000 it was at in 2005.

Re:Analyse this ! (1)

The AtomicPunk (450829) | more than 3 years ago | (#34542378)

No offense, but I didn't need statistical analysis to figure that out. :)

Yeah but... (1)

mugetsu37 (1485997) | more than 3 years ago | (#34541362)

We found that we can't really reduce it to the realm of P, so we can tell you how big the attack might be, it just might take a few decades and hundreds of computers working together. We can get a grant for that right?

earthquakes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34541384)

so what? earthquakes are also a power law distribution.
doesn't really help in prediction.

Bullshit (3, Insightful)

aeoo (568706) | more than 3 years ago | (#34541390)

These are the same type of guys that gave us statistically accurate risk modeling for the complex derivative securities and we know how well that turned out. One must be careful with mathematical models, especially when you're modeling sentiment.

Re:Bullshit (5, Insightful)

rcamans (252182) | more than 3 years ago | (#34541720)

BS on you. The mathematicians gave a statistical analysis for a specific purpose. The brokerage managers miss-used it, and were told by their own people that they were applying it to something they should not. They went ahead and crashed the whole thing anyways. No fault to the mathematicians. Just the fault of a bunch of managers and bean counters, probably at best with a MA in business.
Losers.
Oh, wait, many of them got big bonuses and promotions. Some of them work for Obama. I guess they aren't losers, after all.

Re:Bullshit (1)

TerranFury (726743) | more than 3 years ago | (#34542616)

I'm not so sure about that. For instance, the '98 Long-Term Capital Management Crisis [wikipedia.org] was a pretty big deal, and that hedge fund was run by Myron Scholes and Robert Merton, who won a Nobel prize in economics. Granted, that's not the current crisis, but the point is I'm not convinced the "real economists" were blameless.

Re:Bullshit (2)

Quiet_Desperation (858215) | more than 3 years ago | (#34541960)

Actually, they were going to use statistical tools from, I think, the futures market to assess various risk vectors for terrorism. I read an overview of it and, well, it seemed as good as anything else when trying to predict what a society of billions of individuals will generate. I thought it was enough outside the box to be interesting. But then the media so misreported it that people truly thought a market was being set up to *wager* on terrorist events. I remember it because it was one of the final things that made me give up on the news media as a pack of irredeemable shitheads. So they closed it up before it even had a chance to prove itself one way or the other.

Maybe it would have been useless, but where's the harm in trying? Science learns from its failures.

Or maybe they'd have actual numbers that say "Huh, we probably don't need to grope children and put the elderly in X-ray chambers before a flight."

Re:Bullshit (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 3 years ago | (#34542268)

These are the same type of guys that gave us statistically accurate risk modeling for the complex derivative securities and we know how well that turned out. One must be careful with mathematical models, especially when you're modeling sentiment.

I challenge you to name a nontrivial model that stays "careful" when you gamble on it with 50 to 1 leverage.

Stock Market Shenanigans (2)

Tanman (90298) | more than 3 years ago | (#34541398)

This is just like all those crap magazines you can buy to show you how to make millions in the stock market. There is always someone willing to look at a graph of past occurrences, draw a line through it, and show you the formula for what happened.

The trick being, of course, that they are all 100% worthless for predicting future trends. The only thing you know in the stock market is this: If a stock is going up, it can continue to go up. Or it might stay the same or go down. The only thing this guy will learn from his analysis is that there might be another terrorist attack. Or there might not. And it might be more, equal, or less severe than previous attacks.

Re:Stock Market Shenanigans (3, Insightful)

Fex303 (557896) | more than 3 years ago | (#34541588)

The trick being, of course, that they are all 100% worthless for predicting future trends.

Actually, they're pretty good at predicting broad trends. It's just that they're not good at predicting specific outcomes. In the same way that understanding the odds of roulette doesn't let you predict what number will come up on a specific spin. The only way to really use the odds is to bet across the entire table to take advantage of the trend - that's what the house does.

Re:Stock Market Shenanigans (1)

Junta (36770) | more than 3 years ago | (#34541936)

Actually, they're pretty good at predicting broad trends.

The problem with this and the market compared to random or natural phenomenon is that an accepted, accurate model changes things to make the model invalid. In this example, if the model is shown to be accurate predictor, is well published, then the organizers unconsciously making the current pattern will change their behavior if they are about to do something a model is going to predict. Similarly in the economic market, accurate models drive behavior changes that heavily distort the market. Simple fact is this is an attempt to mathematically model human behavior, which will fall flat as the human's committing the behavior will be highly motivated to alter the behavior as soon as someone critical in the situation believes in the model.

And the 'house' doesn't really 'bet' on the table so much as accurately understand the odds and make sure the payoff never is higher than the odds should suggest. This is not sophisticated modeling predicting where to put any money, just basic understanding of the odds.

Re:Stock Market Shenanigans (1)

Steeltoe (98226) | more than 3 years ago | (#34541592)

Sounds like you've been had there my friend. However, do you think we now know everything there is to know? For it sure sounds like that.

Re:Stock Market Shenanigans (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34542614)

This is just like all those crap magazines you can buy to show you how to make millions in the stock market. There is always someone willing to look at a graph of past occurrences, draw a line through it, and show you the formula for what happened.

The trick being, of course, that they are all 100% worthless for predicting future trends. The only thing you know in the stock market is this: If a stock is going up, it can continue to go up. Or it might stay the same or go down. The only thing this guy will learn from his analysis is that there might be another terrorist attack. Or there might not. And it might be more, equal, or less severe than previous attacks.

You realise the more able can actually study those "graphs of past occurrences" of the stock market and make a substantial living (or profit for their employer) in the process? Its called technical analysis (as opposed to fundamental analysis). Your ability to personally leverage the tools technical analysis provides you with should be no indication of their worth, but rather an indication of your ability to wield them correctly. To suggest that they are useless demonstrates zero experience in the field of trading. Its precisely this kind of uniformed nay-saying (I can't achieve it therefore no one else can) mentality that holds us back in all disciplines.

If Terrorist Attacks Could be Modelled ... (1)

lobiusmoop (305328) | more than 3 years ago | (#34541412)

Then they wouldn't be terrorist attacks. The element of surprise is the chief weapon.

Re:If Terrorist Attacks Could be Modelled ... (4, Insightful)

exentropy (1822632) | more than 3 years ago | (#34541524)

Then they wouldn't be terrorist attacks. The element of surprise is the chief weapon.

It's the same concept behind password cracking; passwords are supposed to be difficult to predict, however certain passwords (e.g. 123456) are used very frequently and so if I want to crack your account I'll try that first. Just because people try to be unpredictable doesn't mean they act in a way that cannot be predicted.

Re:If Terrorist Attacks Could be Modelled ... (1)

M. Baranczak (726671) | more than 3 years ago | (#34541724)

Fear and surprise.

Re:If Terrorist Attacks Could be Modelled ... (2)

Scryer (60692) | more than 3 years ago | (#34541776)

> Fear and surprise.

And ruthless efficiency.

Re:If Terrorist Attacks Could be Modelled ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34541778)

and a ruthless efficiency....

Wait, I'll come in again.

Re:If Terrorist Attacks Could be Modelled ... (1)

treeves (963993) | more than 3 years ago | (#34542304)

you forgot "a fanatical devotion to the Pope", but that doesn't fit with the theme. Monty Python sketch does not apply to real-life situation. Film at 11.

The term "Terrorism" is... (1, Flamebait)

blahplusplus (757119) | more than 3 years ago | (#34541528)

... misleading, after all many so-called terrorists are merely frustrated people who have not had their voices heard or who have been abandoned by lawless and reckless rulers or who've had their countries unlawfully invaded.

I wonder if these studies check the conditions that these "terrorists" arise out of.

Re:The term "Terrorism" is... (2, Insightful)

Steeltoe (98226) | more than 3 years ago | (#34541618)

Actually, it's very simple: Blowing up innocent people, just because you can, is terrorism.

Wether you do it from a Comanche helicopter or with pipe bombs doesn't make much difference.

Why make it more complicated than that?

Re:The term "Terrorism" is... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34541770)

So our governments are terrorist organizations, because we seem to be blowing up innocent people in other countries too.

Re:The term "Terrorism" is... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34542306)

You didn't do so well in reading comprehension, did you? Son, I am disappoint.

Re:The term "Terrorism" is... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34542094)

Because what you gave is completely irrelevant to the world.

Nobody kills innocent people just because they can except for sociopaths.

There are reasons and complications that greatly distinguish terrorism from war, at least to the world who defines what terrorism means (that is, not you).

Re:The term "Terrorism" is... (1)

Steeltoe (98226) | more than 3 years ago | (#34542162)

Says who?

Re:The term "Terrorism" is... (1)

Fnkmaster (89084) | more than 3 years ago | (#34542392)

Not sure if that's true or not, but sociopaths account for something on the order of 1-3% of the population, according to estimates I've read (I'm recalling specifically Sam Harris' book, The Moral Landscape, but you can find some estimates online easily enough). That's obviously plenty of people to inflict lots of death and destruction on the rest of us.

Re:The term "Terrorism" is... (1)

h00manist (800926) | more than 3 years ago | (#34542508)

"complications" are what the interested businesspeople tell someone to tell the politicians to tell the media to tell you the reason is for war. But apart from the justifications fogging people's minds, their blind belief in fundamentalist -isms, be it confucianism, catholicism, protestantism, islamism, or fundamentalist capitalism, after all is said and done, that is all talk, and then, someone kills and someone dies, someone destroys and someone is destroyed. But don't listen to me - you can be a Believer of the Great Ideal - whichever ideal you want. Then you can help kill people, be a hero too, and be paid and respected for it. You kill all the same.

It's more than that (2)

copponex (13876) | more than 3 years ago | (#34542368)

Terrorism is also threatening to blow people up just because you can. It's also threatening economic sanctions or embargoes if certain ultimatums are not satisfied. By this measure, the United States government is the largest and best funded terrorist organization in the world.

There are a variety ways we express it: an private diplomatic threat, a publicly implied threat, an threat of economic sanctions through the UN (while we ignore UN resolutions against us), military "exercises", CIA coups, and of course, the outright invasions and public threats of invasion.

America is like the local mafia that you have to do business with, or else you could end up like that guy [iraqbodycount.org] down the street.

Re:The term "Terrorism" is... (1)

h00manist (800926) | more than 3 years ago | (#34542536)

I second that.
The people with weapons are the terrorists.

Re:The term "Terrorism" is... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34541744)

... misleading, after all many so-called terrorists are merely frustrated people who have not had their voices heard or who have been abandoned by lawless and reckless rulers or who've had their countries unlawfully invaded.

I wonder if these studies check the conditions that these "terrorists" arise out of.

WTF?!?!

Quit romanticizing a group that contains a bunch of well-educated, well-to-do fucknuts. Like Khalid Sheik Mohammed and Mohammed Atta.

Notice any other pattern there?

Re:The term "Terrorism" is... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34541830)

The first one is a disenfranchised Egyptian? The latter is a disenfranchised Pakistani?

Re:The term "Terrorism" is... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34541868)

The ones you mention* are sometimes (mis)labeled as terrorists by the media. The U.S. military refers to them as insurgents, or militants. Al-Qaeda is a terrorist group. Taliban is an insurgency, engaged in many (smaller) terrorist acts. Thin but significant difference.

* You mean the "terrorists" who don't go around blowing themselves up, and civilian crowds with them, don't you?

Re:The term "Terrorism" is... (1)

captainpanic (1173915) | more than 3 years ago | (#34542016)

Terrorist = "someone opposing any government who should be dead"

Calling someone a terrorist is just a lame excuse to place them outside the law.

1995 Eh? (2)

hamiltondaniel (1406971) | more than 3 years ago | (#34541552)

Does the quoted author mean the 1998 Nairobi embassy bombing [wikipedia.org] ?

Or is he just so meta he doesn't even need to get the date right?

Re:1995 Eh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34542278)

The quoted author and the research is full of shit anyways. Citation and reference on the tens of thousands of terrorist acts, please.

This is pure FUD in attempt to actualize the terrorist phantom.

Use log-log paper. (4, Funny)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 3 years ago | (#34541558)

An old prof told me that everything is a straight line in the log-log paper. You can literally draw any conclusion you want once you choose the axes to be logarithmic.

Re:Use log-log paper. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34542172)

f(x) = tan(x)

I'd love to see a straight line drawn through that, at any scale.

Re:Use log-log paper. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34542620)

f(x) = tan(x)

I'd love to see a straight line drawn through that, at any scale.

*tries an inverse tangent scale*

Here is the stat that really matters (3, Insightful)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 3 years ago | (#34541634)

Americans seem to ignore the most important stat about terrorism that there is, you are almost infinitely more likely to be killed by an SUV than you are by a terrorist. And yet Americans are uber paranoid about terrorism and yet go apeshit for their shitty ass, ugly, poorly performing, insanely dangerous SUVs. Wake the fuck up people.

Re:Here is the stat that really matters (1)

djh2400 (1362925) | more than 3 years ago | (#34541774)

You're right...except for the fact that it's mostly the TSA making the big fuss and not regular Americans.

Re:Here is the stat that really matters (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34541910)

I've never heard that SUVs were particularly unsafe before. Just out of curiosity which type of vehicle is safer?

Re:Here is the stat that really matters (1)

ocdscouter (1922930) | more than 3 years ago | (#34542194)

I'm pretty sure it has to do with increased rollover risk. I'd have to go do some research, as I haven't paid much attention, owing to not driving an SUV.

Re:Here is the stat that really matters (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34542202)

Bah. At least you focus on idiots in SUVs instead of flatly comparing all car wrecks to terrorism.

The thing about that is: people who care can *do something* about the car wrecks by driving safely and driving safer vehicles. It's a known quantity, you can have an arbitrarily high level of control over your vehicle safety and over how severe crash would be. But you can't have any direct control over whether your plane will get bombed or hijacked, or whether your office building will get rammed by a plane, and that completely freaks people out. Hence the security theater.

Re:Here is the stat that really matters (4, Insightful)

swillden (191260) | more than 3 years ago | (#34542452)

you can have an arbitrarily high level of control over your vehicle safety and over how severe crash would be

Bullshit.

I had an accident a few years ago. I was stopped at a red light and the one-ton pickup truck coming down the road behind me at 60 mph somehow didn't see either me or the light and slammed into me. It was miraculous that I survived and didn't have any crippling injuries. What, exactly, could I have done to "have an arbitrarily high level of control" over my safety in that situation, other than stay off the road?

Another example: My aunt and uncle were in a quad-cab pickup truck with their friends, who drove through a country intersection in which the cross traffic had a stop sign. The driver of the semi truck coming down the road failed to notice the stop sign (or the large "STOP" painted on the road a couple hundred yards before the stop sign) and t-boned them at probably 65 mph. All four people in the pickup were killed. What, exactly, could they have done to "have an arbitrarily high level of control" over their safety in that situation, other than stay off the road?

The truth is that no matter how careful and skilled a driver you are, when you're on the road your life is in the hands of whatever other drivers happen to be nearby. Generally, they're at least careful enough and skilled enough not to hit you. But sometimes they're not, and there's nothing you can do about that.

And you're vastly, vastly more likely to be killed by one of those people than you are by a terrorist.

Re:Here is the stat that really matters (1)

O('_')O_Bush (1162487) | more than 3 years ago | (#34542272)

I don't know what American's you're using to make that over-generalization, but it's certainly false.

Maybe you spend too much time watching sensationalist media, but most of us aren't concerned about terrorism at all. Rather, we're much more concerned with the bullshit the gov't does using counter-terrorism as an excuse.

Re:Here is the stat that really matters (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34542292)

Hmmm, something I can control versus something that is random. Yeah, they're the same thing! I can see clearly now!

dumbass

Re:Here is the stat that really matters (3, Interesting)

schwnj (990042) | more than 3 years ago | (#34542394)

I assume you're taking into account being hit by an SUV while driving a different car. There are plenty of incidents involving SUV drivers hitting and killing others when those injuries would have been far reduced if the person was driving a smaller car. Put another way, if everyone drove mid-size cars instead of SUVs, how many lives would be saved each year? (It's certainly a non-zero number; whether it's more than terror victims I don't know.) I tried to explain this recently to my elderly mother who needed a new car. I begged her to get a nice safe sedan, but she insisted on a giant Buick SUV thing. I didn't have the heart to tell her that I wasn't worried about her safety, I was worried about everyone else's.

Re:Here is the stat that really matters (1)

Black Gold Alchemist (1747136) | more than 3 years ago | (#34542598)

More people are killed every year in the USA by colds and flus than by cars and SUVs. But enjoy your two minutes hate against SUV drivers.

Did they also include all the times USA meddled (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34541646)

into other country's affairs making people mad enough to become so called "terrorists"? Did they they also include all the people such as Osama that the CIA trained then decided to exterminate when they had serve their usefulness? Oh Im pretty sure this will be taken seriously because it has a lot of graphs and math in it. What bunch of American bullshit.

useless apriori knowledge for shortterm prediction (1)

mbuimbui (1130065) | more than 3 years ago | (#34541852)

This information is useless in terms of predicting a large attack in the short term.

If you flip a coin 100 times each time it has been heads, it doesn't mean the next time its going to be tails.

In the same way, just because lots of small attacks have happened without a large attack doesn't mean a large attack is about to happen.

Did this predict US terror act of Iraq invasion? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34541874)

Guess this methodology is just bullshit then.

Re:Did this predict US terror act of Iraq invasion (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34542336)

Yes, actually, it did; the largest acts of terrorism are perpetrated much less frequently than the smaller ones; for every major bombing, there have been many smaller ones, for every major war, there have been several smaller ones. For every smaller wart, there have been many large acts of non-war violence, etc. down to for every shooting, there have been many aggressive confrontations.

If the power law were not true, most conflicts would escalate; we see they don't, and small events are more likely than large ones.

IED attacks as terrorism? (1)

seyyah (986027) | more than 3 years ago | (#34541890)

I question whether road-side bomb attacks against soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan should be considered terrorism (I am, perhaps wrongly, assuming that most such attacks are against soldiers rather than civilians). If soldiers are being 'terrorised' by the threat of facing bombs, they probably aren't very good soldiers.

Re:IED attacks as terrorism? (1)

Peristaltic (650487) | more than 3 years ago | (#34542006)

If soldiers are being 'terrorised' by the threat of facing bombs, they probably aren't very good soldiers.

Sagely written from the safety of your home.

Just to finish the quote for him: (5, Funny)

spasm (79260) | more than 3 years ago | (#34542264)

"'The power law form gives you a very simple extrapolation rule for statistically connecting the two,' he says" ..as long as all terrorists are perfectly spherical and act in a complete vacuum.

The observation is not completely new... (1)

omega_cubed (219519) | more than 3 years ago | (#34542390)

According to this 2005 Nature News [nature.com] article about Clauset and his research, the observation that social interactions (deadly feuds) follow a power law distribution dates back at least half a century. Along a similar vein, Neil Johnson (of University of Miami) and research collaborators recently produced a decent model for this kind of distribution (see their paper in Nature from last year [nature.com] ).

Common sense statistic. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34542396)

It's like showing a relation between murder and crime. During some period of time there is more likely to be a murder if there is more "other" crimes. A better statistic would be to show the relationship between the size of a country's military and the number of wars it instigates.

This math should be kept away from terrorists. (1)

hajus (990255) | more than 3 years ago | (#34542574)

This math should have been kept top secret so the terrorists couldn't use it to plan future attacks where we, using this math, would not expect them to. :-/ Now it's already obsolete.

Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>