Some Statistics on Civil Wars

The Economist: “How to Stop the Fighting, Sometimes” (11/09/2013)

File:Ongoing military conflicts.png

I’m always very impressed with how The Economist weaves statistics (seemingly very credible ones) into its articles. In some cases they are the baseline from which the writer provides opinion, context, and insight. In other cases, they are the context – supporting a strong central theory with some quantitative love.

The recent article on civil wars was both informative on the subject of civil wars as well as a prime example of how powerful statistics can provide essential context to a central theory. Some of the most interesting statistics extracted from the article include:

  • Of the 150 large intrastate wars since 1945, fewer than 10 are ongoing.
  • The rate at which civil wars start is the same today as it has been for 60 years; they kick off every year in 1-2% of countries.
  • The average length of civil wars dropped from 4.6 to 3.7 years after 1991.
  • From 1945-1989, civil war afflicted 18% of the world’s nations.
  • Since 1989, victory for one side has only occurred in 13% of cases (compared to 58% before 1989).
  • Since 1989, negotiated endings have occurred in almost 40% of cases (compared to 10% before 1989).
  • Leadership changes are a factor in the termination of between 25-40% of civil wars.
  • Since its founding, the UN has completed 53 peacekeeping missions. The 15 ongoing ones employ almost 100,000 in uniform.

It seems a good chunk of data came from the Centre for the Study of Civil War at the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO). Very cool. Image is from Wikipedia and shows ongoing military conflicts around the world (major in red, minor in orange).

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World Statistics Day and the Importance of Statistics in Government

The most recent issue of Amstat News features a wonderful summary of the first ever World Statistics Day, which just occurred on October 20, 2010. The article features a series of quotes from the chief statisticians at various U.S. government agencies, all of which serve as a great overview of the critical importance, broad applicability, and growing need for statistics and statistics professionals in the U.S. and around the world. Collectively, we must embrace not only the numbers, data, methods, analyses, and reports, but also the conversations and the debate around such components. In a world heavily fueled by data, I’m very glad that statistics is gaining more international awareness and recognition so that all our lives can be bettered by more informed decisions and debates.

“Statistics produced by the federal government inform public and private decisionmakers in shaping policies, managing and monitoring programs, identifying problems and opportunities for improvement, tracking progress, and measuring change. The programs of our statistical system furnish key information to guide decisionmakers as they respond to pressing challenges, including those associated with the economy, agriculture, crime, education, energy, the environment, health, science, and transportation. In a very real sense, these statistics provide data users with a lens to focus the myriad activities of our society into a more coherent picture of the status, progress, and trends in our nation. The ability of governments, businesses, and individuals to make appropriate decisions about budgets, employment, investments, taxes, and a host of other important matters depends critically on the ready availability of relevant, accurate, and timely federal statistics. Our economy’s complexity, growth, and rapid structural changes require that public and private leaders have unbiased, relevant information on which to base their decisions.”
– Katherine Wallman, Chief Statistician, Office of Management and Budget and Past President of the ASA

A few more important (and relevant) statistics resources can be found at:

Visualizing the U.S. Men’s National Soccer Team Roster

As the World Cup approaches, countries begin to solidify their rosters, trying to optimize their squad to give the best chance of taking home the FIFA trophy. As the Bob Bradley recently announced the United States’ 30-man roster, we wonder where these players come from and how can their stats be visualized?

Obviously, it would be most valuable to visualize comprehensive stat sheets of the U.S. team players against all other teams and their players, especially the others in Group C (England, Algeria, Slovenia). Unfortunately, I don’t have that much time! So, elementary as these may be, here are some quick visualizations, given the data provided on the US Men’s National Team (USMNT) website.

1. Full 30-Man Roster, with Hometowns, Club Teams, and Total USMNT Goals (by Position)

2. Player Experience (Age vs Total Caps, by Position)

3. Player Size (Height vs Weight, by Position)

Some things to note, although I have not determined an international baseline from which these conclusions can be definitively made, is that our goalkeepers are old and our midfielders are relatively small, young and inexperienced. But I bet you didn’t need me to tell you that!

Regardless, the World Cup is surely a global spectacle and I’m very much looking forward to it. Hopefully the US squad can take Group C and show some true grit and determination on the international stage. Four weeks to go…

A List of Some Web Data Sources

Well I needed to pull together a listing of publicly available data sources for a project, so I figured I’d post them here as well. Some descriptions and tag lines have been taken directly from the website, and some I quickly created on my own. This list is by no means comprehensive (I probably have about 100 links in the “Data” folder of my bookmarks…) but it’s a quick snapshot at some useful data sources on the web. That being said, there are a lot of considerations when targeting a data set and tomorrow’s need for data will most likely differ from today’s need for data. Build and execute a target data strategy using the vast sets of search engines, libraries, and social networks on the web and you’ll be just fine.

AggData – The advantage of AggData is that the data is collected into one file that is very raw and portable, which makes it easy to integrate into any application or website. You can browse free data sets or purchase any of the many data sets from public and private organizations for a relatively small fee.

The Association of Religion Data Archives – The ARDA Data Archive is a collection of surveys, polls, and other data submitted by researchers and made available online by the ARDA. There are nearly 500 data files included in the ARDA collection. You can browse files by category, alphabetically, view the newest additions, most popular files, or search for a file. Once you select a file you can preview the results, read about how the data were collected, review the survey questions asked, save selected survey questions to your own file, and/or download the data file.

Census.gov American FactFinder – In American FactFinder you can obtain data in the form of maps, tables, and reports from a variety of Census Bureau sources. Click here for a good listing of available data sets, visualizations, and search functionalities.

CIA World Factbook – Contains a lot of country-level metrics/statistics, although they are not very easily exportable and/or available in table format.

City Population – Gazetteer of global geographic data and limited demographic statistics per location.

Data360 – This is essentially a wiki for data. Data360 is an open-source, collaborative and free website.  The site hosts a common and shared database, which any person or organization, committed to neutrality and non-partisanship (meaning “let the data speak”), can use for presentation of reports and visualizations about the data.

Data.gov – The purpose of Data.gov is to increase public access to high value, machine readable datasets generated by the Executive Branch of the Federal Government. Although the initial launch of Data.gov provides a limited portion of the rich variety of Federal datasets presently available, we invite you to actively participate in shaping the future of Data.gov by suggesting additional datasets and site enhancements to provide seamless access and use of your Federal data. Visit today with us, but come back often. With your help, Data.gov will continue to grow and change in the weeks, months, and years ahead. For more information, view our How to Use Data.gov guide.

Data Marketplace – Buy and/or sell data. You can request data sets for others to build and provide for a small fee.

DBpedia – DBpedia is a community effort to extract structured information from Wikipedia and to make this information available on the Web. DBpedia allows you to ask sophisticated queries against Wikipedia, and to link other data sets on the Web to Wikipedia data.

EconoMagic – A directory of data sets specific to US states.

Factual – Factual is a platform where anyone can share and mash open data on any subject. Factual was founded to provide open access to better structured data.

FedStats – Provides access to all federal statistical agencies (by geographic scope or listed alphabetically) with a search function to discover available data sets across all US federal statistical agencies.

GapminderA non-profit venture that, through a interactive viz tool accompanied by a listing of available data tables, aims to “unveal the beauty of statistics for a fact based world view”.

GeoCommons Finder! – Upload, organize and share your Geographic Data. Then you can use their built in application called Maker! to map/visualize it.

GeoNames – The GeoNames geographical database covers all countries and contains over eight million placenames that are available for download free of charge.

Global Airport Database – Comprehensive set of global airport data (download available for free).

Global Health Facts – Search global data by health topic and/or country. You can also interactively compare data for up to five countries at a time.

Google Public Data – In addition to plainly using the main Google search engine to search for a specific data set, Google has a public data library with some valuable sets available for free.

Guardian.co.uk Data Store – Governments around the globe are opening up their data vaults – allowing you to check out the numbers for yourself. This is the Guardian’s gateway to that information. Search for government data here from the UK (including London), USA, Australia and New Zealand – and look out for new countries and places as we add them. Read more about this on the Datablog. Full list of government data sites here.

Harvard Geographic Information Systems – Contains a highly credible listing of various national and international data providers and data sources, with a strong focus on geographic data.

International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) – Global air traffic data available for a fee.

Infochimps – Request data sets, search for existing data sets, or post and sell your own data sets.

International Statistical Agencies
US Census Bureau: http://www.census.gov/aboutus/stat_int.html
US Bureau of Labor Statistics: http://www.bls.gov/bls/other.htm
United Nations: http://unstats.un.org/unsd/methods/inter-natlinks/sd_intstat.htm

MelissaData – Buy comprehensive zip code data for about $150. Tailored for businesses with use in marketing.

NationMaster – NationMaster is a massive central data source and a handy way to graphically compare nations. NationMaster is a vast compilation of data from such sources as the CIA World Factbook, UN, and OECD. Using the form above, you can generate maps and graphs on all kinds of statistics with ease.

National Association of Counties (NACO) – Includes a US county data library.

Numbrary – Numbrary is a free online service dedicated to finding, using and sharing numbers on the web.

OECD Stat Extracts – OECD.Stat includes data and metadata for OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) countries and selected non-member economies.

QuickFacts (US Census Bureau Site) – Quick, easy access to facts about people, business, and geography.

StateMaster – StateMaster is a unique statistical database which allows you to research and compare a multitude of different data on US states. We have compiled information from various primary sources such as the US Census Bureau, the FBI, and the National Center for Educational Statistics. More than just a mere collection of various data, StateMaster goes beyond the numbers to provide you with visualization technology like pie charts, maps, graphs and scatterplots. We also have thousands of map and flag images, state profiles, and correlations.

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) – Includes UN Human Development reports and statistics such as the Human Development Index.

USA Counties (US Census Bureau Site) – A directory of data tables for US states and individual counties. Includes over 6,500 data items.

Weather Underground – Provides free access to historical weather data for cities around the globe.

Wolfram|Alpha – Deemed a “computational knowledge engine”, the W|A search and discovery tool is mathematically-based and tries to turn queries (term-based or data-driven) into actionable knowledge with visualization of in-house data sets and information relevant to your query.

World Gazetteer – The World Gazetteer provides a comprehensive set of population data and related statistics.

World Port Source – Contains extensive data on global sea ports, characterized by size and searchable by shipping liners and other various data fields.

A Profile of Portugal

The love of my life and I are taking a vacation later this year to Portugal! I figured I would organize and share some Portugal facts/stats as we continue to research and solidify our trip…

Major Dates

  • 1143 – Kingdom of Portugal Recognized
  • 1578 – Battle of Ksar El Kebir in Morocco, in which the Portuguese King and (pretty much) the entire Portuguese nobility were lost. That resulted in Portugal being annexed by Spain for 60 years. (info from Rod Carvalho)
  • 1755 – Major, Devastating Earthquake
  • 1803-1815 – Napoleonic Wars
  • 1822 – Independence of Brazil
  • 1910 – Deposition of the Monarchy, Republic Proclaimed
  • 1974 – Left-Wing Military Coup
  • 1975 – Colonial Independence (Angola, Mozambique, East Timor)
  • 1976 – Constitution Adopted
  • 1986 – Becomes Member of EU (formerly the EC)

Fun Facts

  • During the Napoleonic Wars, Portugal was, for a time, Great Britain’s only ally on the continent.
  • Also during the Napoleonic invasions, the Portuguese royal family moved to Brazil and Rio de Janeiro was, albeit for a brief period, the capital of the Portuguese Empire. Such empire was named the United Kingdom of Portugal, Brazil and the Algarves. (again thanks here to Rod Carvalho!)
  • The oldest alliance in the world, still in force, is the Anglo-Portuguese Alliance, signed in 1373.
  • The Vasco de Gama Bridge in Lisbon is the longest bridge in Europe.
  • Portugal is a global leader in renewable energy with its solar energy farm in Alentejo.
  • It is illegal for a bull to be killed in Portuguese bullfighting.
  • The Estoril Casino, 20 km outside of Lisbon, is the largest gambling outlet in Europe.

Famous Portuguese

  • Henry the Navigator (explorer)
  • Vasco da Gama (discovered the sea route to India)
  • Bartolomeu Dias (first person to sail round the southern tip of Africa, which he named the Cape of Good Hope)
  • Ferdinand Magellan (first to complete a circumnavigation of the world, which he did in 1522)
  • Pedro Alvares Cabral (discoverer of Brazil)
  • José Mourinho (soccer coach, Inter Milan)
  • Nelly Furtado (singer)
  • Luis Figo (soccer player)
  • Cristiano Ronaldo (soccer player)
  • Click here for more (via Wikipedia)…

Statistics

  • Total Area: 92,090 sq km (ranked #110, slightly smaller than Indiana)
  • Land Area: 91,470 sq km
  • Water Area: 620 sq km
  • Capital: Lisbon
  • Structure: 18 Districts, 2 Autonomous Regions (Azores, Madeira)
  • Land Boundary: 1,214 km (with Spain)
  • Coastline: 1,793 km
  • Highest Altitude: 2,351 km (Ponta do Pico in the Azores)
  • Population: 10,707,924 (July 2009 est., ranked #76)
  • Population Growth Rate: 0.275% (ranked #178)
  • Population Density: 115 ppl / sq km (ranked #89)
  • Median Age: 39.4 years
  • Life Expectancy at Birth: 78.21 years (ranked #47)
  • HIV/AIDS Prevalence Rate: 0.50% (ranked #74)
  • Religious Breakdown: 84.5% Roman Catholic, 9.0% unknown, 3.9% none, 2.2% other Christian
  • Literacy: 93.3%
  • Education Expenditures (% of GDP): 5.5% (ranked #50)
  • Human Development Index: 0.909 (ranked #34)
  • Happy Planet Index: 37.5 (ranked #98)
  • Euromoney Country Risk Rating (Low=Best): 82.43 (ranked #24)
  • Military Expenditures (% of GDP): 2.3% (ranked #72)
  • GDP: $232.2 Billion (ranked #50)
  • GDP – Per Capita: $21,700 (ranked #56)
  • Exports: $41.42 Billion (ranked #52)
  • Export Partners: Spain (25.6%), Germany (12.6%), France (11.1%), Angola (5.9%), UK (5.3%)
  • Imports: $58.79 Billion (ranked #40)
  • Import Partners: Spain (28.9%), Germany (11.6%), France (8%), Italy (4.9%), Netherlands (4.4%)
  • Unemployment Rate: 9.2% (ranked #103)
  • Total Airports: 65 (ranked #76)
  • Annual Air Traffic (2006): 11,722,211 (ranked #20)
  • Railways: 2,786 km (ranked #59)
  • Roadways: 82,900 km (ranked #55)
  • Internet Hosts: 1.967 Million (ranked #33)
  • Internet Users: 4.476 Million (ranked #45)
  • Cell Phone Users: 14.91 Million (ranked #44)
  • Freedom Press Rating (Low=Free): 16 (ranked #16)

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Curiosity, Passion, and Quantifying Human Characteristics

“You can’t light the fire of passion in someone else if it doesn’t burn in you to begin with.” – Thomas Friedman

In his The World Is Flat, Friedman speaks to the growing need for curiosity and passion in today’s job market. Core intelligence, as historically measured by the Intelligence Quotient (IQ), is and will always be important, but in a flat world it’s the curiosity and passion that will matter most.

Friedman references a Curiosity Quotient (CQ) and a Passion Quotient (PQ) that purportedly parallel the common IQ framework for scoring a person’s intelligence. More specifically, he expresses a comparative relationship between the three variables: CQ + PQ > IQ. But can curiosity and passion be measured like intelligence? More generally, can other individual characteristics be measured?

Traditional measurement is the process of obtaining a magnitude for a quantity. Things are measured by counting, and not by observation or estimation. It’s supported by strong criteria that support that measured value, such as a universal frame or scale of reference. By traditional measurement, we cannot really find CQ, PQ, or even IQ. However, there are other types of measurement…

In representational theory, measurement is defined as a correlation of numbers with entities that are not numbers. In information theory, measurement is actually a component of estimation with the uncertainty reduced infinitesimally to zero. Measurement means estimating through support of any number of measurable or unmeasurable parameters, and reducing uncertainty through various means until reaching a high-confidence end value. By the extended definitions of measurement, we can practically quantify anything!!!

So what do we get by measuring traditionally-unmeasurable human characteristics, emotions, abilities, and qualities? What do we get by identifying any new particular Qualitative Quotient (QQ) such as the CQ or PQ? Well, Friedman is on the right track here. We become smarter by surpassing our current understanding of intelligence. And as our QQs surpass the IQ, so does our ability to flatten the world, innovate, grow and succeed as a civilization and society.

The process of trying to quantify characteristics helps us realize the underlying factors that contribute to a specific quality. What makes someone passionate? How can we tell if someone is curious? Is it genetic, demontrated by experience, and exhibited sub-consciously? Can it be determined through the collective interpretation of dreams? Examining the underpinnings of qualities makes us more intelligent as individuals, organizations, and societies. Once quantified, we can look for patterns and trends in our data across different geographies, demographics, and slices of traditionally-measurable data.

What we’ll learn then, well, I’m curious to find out.

The Power of Anticipation

In today’s society, gaining an inch can be like gaining a mile.

Soccer takes a lot of skill and athleticism. You need to be able to dribble, pass, shoot, tackle, communicate, see, sprint, etc. But as I’ve stated before (“mind bend it like beckham” – 2/11/2009) it’s just as much a mental game as it is a physical one. You need to think like your opponent and play somewhat of a guessing game, connecting dots before there’s any visible relationship between them. You need to forecast outcomes, intellectually seeing into the future guided by the data that’s available.

This sort of anticipation is an imperative ability for success in the future – within any endeavor. In business, anticipation means a gaining a leading edge on the competition. For defense, it means preparation and contingency plans for what might be likely to occur. In decision-making its gaining threshold confidence in your decision – using as much relevant information to guide a range of actions, opinion,s and ultimately, outcomes. And not to mention, it helps us grab our umbrella when running out the door.

Predictive analytics, although a seemingly new, hot topic today, has been around forever. Prophets, Mayans, Nostradamus, Pythia, lunar calendars, and the Akashwani – in a historical sense the predictions were informed by a variety of sensory stimuli coupled with intuition and a variety of other external factors. Nowadays, it’s really not that different. Today, we have data and semi-sophisticated mathematical processes that parallel conscious perception and intuition. We can quantify much of what could not have been quantified in the past.

“Predictive analytics encompasses a variety of techniques from statistics, data mining and game theory that analyze current and historical facts to make predictions about future events.

In business, predictive models exploit patterns found in historical and transactional data to identify risks and opportunities. Models capture relationships among many factors to allow assessment of risk or potential associated with a particular set of conditions, guiding decision making for candidate transactions.” (Wikipedia)

It’s imperative that people embrace predictive analytics to inform decision-making. Math doesn’t have to make the decision – that’s mostly for humans – but the math can give a comprehensive picture that outlines components of the decision and also tells us what the decision may lead to (or may have led to in the past) in terms of primary, secondary, and tertiary outcomes. Bruce Bueno de Mesquita is a great example of this, using computer algorithms to predict world events of the future – war, proliferation, conflict, etc. Decisions are not made by computer models, but humans are briefed of probable scenarios in order to make better-informed decisions.

I’ve said this before – math can be simple when it’s made to be simple. It’s a toolbox of problem-solving techniques and thought processes to help guide real-world decisions and understanding. It’s important to not be afraid of the math – start small and grow your mathematical toolbox over time. Take it head on and don’t be overwhelmed. We all have something to learn and we all have something to gain by embracing prediction and anticipation.

So whether it’s sport, meteorology, national security, or adding garlic to the pan, find a way to anticipate. In doing so, my prediction is that you’ll be better off…

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