Generalized gelation theory traces onset of terrorist support

Tinuku - The University of Miami and George Washington University team developed a model to simulate terrorist group development using the physics surrounding the behavior of gels. The paper published in the Physical Review Letters describes manipulating physics theories to make them work in a simulation they created. They also report on how well the simulation performed when compared it to the growth of a real-life terrorist group.

Modern technology has allowed smaller groups to exert a bigger influence on the world around them using aggressive tactics. The internet allows individuals from around the world to converge, interact and if they so desire, form groups capable of carrying out terrorist activities.

Tinuku Generalized gelation theory traces onset of terrorist support

Sadly, modern law enforcement groups have found it difficult to identify and stop such groups before they carry out these attacks. The researchers with this new effort insist part of the problem is in the "lone wolf" approach that is so often used in such efforts. They suggest a better way might be to note how milk curdles and to use models based on it.

The researchers note that internet group formation quite often resembles gel formation in some ways. Individuals meet and form a pair. Pairs meet others and form clusters. Clusters grow in size until at some point, a group emerges. They further note that gel formation has been studied and math has been developed to describe and predict such behaviors.

The researchers noted that one difference between human group formation and gel formation is that gel formation involves interactions between identical elements. They got around that problem by creating elements with a characteristic that could be represented by a number between 0 and 1. Interactions between elements that randomly came into contact with one another were then based on matching characteristics.

The simulation showed terrorist cell groups forming and more importantly the point at which they jelled, allowing them to act. This jelling point followed a 5/2 power law distribution. They further report that when they ran their simulation using data from a Russian internet site regarding formation of an ISIS group that it reliably predicted the jelling point. They suggest that such tools might be useful to law enforcement in the coming years.