Blog on Math Blogs

Mathematical Digest

Short Summaries of Articles about Mathematics
in the Popular Press

"Statistics of Deadly Quarrels," by Brian Hayes. American Scientist, January-February 2002, pp. 10-15.

In this article, Brian Hayes describes the quantitative study of war by Lewis Fry Richardson (whose work with numerical weather forecasting was described by Hayes in the January-February 2001 issue of American Scientistand in Math Digest). In the 1940s, Richardson began carefully collecting the number of human deaths caused by deliberate action in hopes of testing theories about the causes of war. He organized the data using many different variables-for example, time, distance, and culture-and his conclusion was that the causes of war appear to be random. Researchers haven't abandoned the idea of analyzing the causes of war and several are working at collecting more data, extending further back in time than Richardson's data did. There are many interesting facts in this article, such as: Wars account for approximately 1 percent of all human deaths.

--- Mike Breen