Who would have thought that math club members in high school would have turned out to be the next counter-terrorism superheros? Anything that keeps our blossoming police state from bearing more fruit deserves widespread attention and support.
New models to dismantle terrorist networks, set to make current (and, some would say, not working) ones obsolete, have been put forth by ultra-high-level mathematicians at the New England Complex Systems Institute. Luckily for us mere mortals, no numbers are required to understand how their mathematical improvements can keep us safer, cheaper and less pervasively.
They published their breakthroughs in the most recent issue of the International Journal of Networking and Virtual Organisations, what all the cool kids are reading these days. In laymen's terms, their new counter-terrorism strategy goes something like this.
Terrorist networks today are taken on as whole through a series of short-term battles. Think of trying to go after Osama bin Laden here, then there, then there, and still never finding him while killing lots of innocent people in several host countries along the way. (Note: Apparently, this method has also been superseded by the U.S. giving $2 billion in military aid to the Pakistani so they can do it themselves.)
What these magician-mathematicians have shown is that it is much, much more effective and less resource-intensive to isolate hubs within a terrorist network rather than try to eliminate them, which goes against centuries of military strategy, including the one currently used to pursue Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups globally. This math-based counter-terrorism strategy is also much less pervasive than its predecessors.
Philip Vos Fellman, an expert in mathematical modeling and strategy, explains that "the nature of a dynamic [terrorist] network is akin to the robust Internet but contrasts starkly with the structure of the armed forces or homeland security systems, which tend to be centralized and hierarchical." His sophisticated computer simulations of real-world terrorist networks show that isolation rather than removal of terrorist cells is the key to successfully defeating terrorists networks as a whole.
Then again, those math club members in high school could also have gone on to be the next software multi-billionaire software developers. But where is the glory in that?
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