Hannah Fry and her group at University College London investigate data from the 2011 London riots and found that the complex activity of rioters is reminiscent of shopping behavior and contagion. They propose a mathematical model for riots that could help prevent escalation.
In August 2011, several areas of London experienced episodes of large-scale disorder, comprising looting, rioting and violence. Much subsequent discourse has questioned the adequacy of the police response, in terms of the resources available and strategies used. In this article, we present a mathematical model of the spatial development of the disorder, which can be used to examine the effect of varying policing arrangements. The model is capable of simulating the general emergent patterns of the events and focusses on three fundamental aspects: the apparently-contagious nature of participation; the distances travelled to riot locations; and the deterrent effect of policing.
The video above explains in more general terms. [via Spatial.ly]