Math in the Media

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Mathematical Digest

Short Summaries of Articles about Mathematics
in the Popular Press

"Splitting Terrorist Cells," by Ivars Peterson. Science News, 10 January 2004.

Mathematician Jonathan D. Farley (MIT) "uses order theory to quantify thedegree to which a terrorist network is still able to function" after a cellmember is captured or killed. He contends that using a graph model with nodesis insufficient to model terrorist cells, as graphs do not take into accounthierarchies of leaders and followers. Although his method of analysis may bebetter than other current methods that law enforcers, policy- anddecision-makers could use, he acknowledges that his "break the chains" modelcould be modified to take into account additional and more complicated factors.Farley's research was published in the November-December 2003 issue ofStudies in Conflict and Terrorism, and was covered in The Chronicle of Higher Education ("A Mathematical Method for Assessing Whether a Terrorist Cell is Broken," by David Glenn, December 5, 2003).

--- Annette Emerson