Mathematics of Warfare

ERPZ have always been rather social science oriented, doing analysis mostly on social/economic/political matters and lots of writing in just plain language (ie. no greek symbols or mathematical operators). Nevertheless, economics is fundamentally somewhat about logic and it attempts to connect the maths and science of our society with reality. Sean Gourley, a physicist is doing the same sort of analysis in his research on the mathematics of war, which he presented on

Gourley's Equation
Gourley's Equation

The most interesting idea presented in the talk is that even within the chaos of conflict, there are universal principles and relationships between the myriad of different variables in the field (in this case, fatality and frequency of attacks). More importantly, the use of alpha as a measure of fragmentation of insurgency is an interesting result and hopefully can be exploited as a means to achieve peace more quickly during a conflict.

This research paper that eventually resulted from his collaboration with the various experts of different fields was recently published on Nature magazine. TED Blogs features a Q&A with Gourley about the research. It’s great that scientists and mathematicians are using their tools to learn more about complex reality and uncover patterns previously hidden from us; the applications of these mathematics, however, remains to be discovered. As science is often the neutral party, it is important to note also that the same tools can be used by the opposing parties. Strategic thinking, remains an important means of conducting these affairs.

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