Statistical physics and modern human warfare

Alex Dixon, Zhenyuan Zhao, Juan Camilo Bohorquez, Russell Denney, Neil F Johnson

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

4 Scopus citations


Modern human conflicts, such as those ongoing in Iraq, Afghanistan and Colombia, typically involve a large conventional force (e.g., a state army) fighting a relatively small insurgency having a loose internal structure. In this chapter, we adopt this qualitative picture in order to study the dynamics – and in particular the duration – of modern wars involving a loose insurgent force. We generalize a coalescence-fragmentation model from the statistical physics community in order to describe the insurgent population, and find that the resulting behavior is qualitatively different from conventional mass-action approaches. One of our main results is a counterintuitive relationship between an insurgent war’s duration and the asymmetry between the two opposing forces, a prediction which is borne out by empirical observation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationModeling and Simulation in Science, Engineering and Technology
PublisherSpringer Basel
Number of pages32
StatePublished - 2010

Publication series

NameModeling and Simulation in Science, Engineering and Technology
ISSN (Print)2164-3679
ISSN (Electronic)2164-3725

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Fluid Flow and Transfer Processes
  • Engineering(all)
  • Computational Mathematics
  • Modeling and Simulation


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