Friday math movie - The mathematics of war

By Murray Bourne, 08 May 2009

The intro to today's movie has:

By pulling raw data from the news and plotting it onto a graph, Sean Gourley and his team have come up with a stunning conclusion about the nature of modern war -- and perhaps a model for resolving conflicts.

I was troubled by this video because it is not up to TED's usual high standards.

Anyway, watch it first (it's 7 minutes) and then see my critique below.

His graphs are just Zipf Distributions (which I wrote about in Zipf Distributions, log-log graphs and Site Statistics) and as he introduced the topic, I expected him to say something like "and this is a common pattern found in wealth distribution, word frequency in a book, and so on". But he doesn't.

The implication from what he says is that his team was the first to discover such a pattern. It could be that he is trying to address a non-mathematical audience and he's trying to make things simple (that's good), but it comes across as sloppy.

He doesn't make clear what he understands by "alpha". It appears to be the amount of conflict, but I'm not sure that too many politicians (especially Bush, but we don't have to worry about his ignorance any more) will be inspired to "lower α" - how would they do it, anyway?

It's interesting, but in the end, it's not a very satisfying video...

Be the first to comment below.

Leave a comment

Comment Preview

HTML: You can use simple tags like <b>, <a href="...">, etc.

To enter math, you can can either:

  1. Use simple calculator-like input in the following format (surround your math in backticks, or qq on tablet or phone):
    `a^2 = sqrt(b^2 + c^2)`
    (See more on ASCIIMath syntax); or
  2. Use simple LaTeX in the following format. Surround your math with \( and \).
    \( \int g dx = \sqrt{\frac{a}{b}} \)
    (This is standard simple LaTeX.)

NOTE: You can't mix both types of math entry in your comment.

Search IntMath, blog and Forum