Saturday, March 26, 2011

Really 21 flights in a month?

This morning I arrived at Schiphol Airport. I am on transit to a conference in Berlin, and after that the Congo. This the first flight in a rather (completely) nuts flight schedule this month:

New York City -> Amsterdam -> Berlin -> Amsterdam -> Nairobi -> Kigali -> Kamembe/Bukavu -> [Goma ->] Kindu -> [Punia -> Kibombe ->] Bukavu -> [Kalemie -> Moba ->] Lubumbashi -> Kalemie [-> Moba] -> Bukavu/Kamembe -> Kigali -> Nairobi -> Amsterdam -> New York City.

In square brackets are flights where the plane lands for just for several hours, and the flights in between Kamembe/Bukavu and Bukavu/Kamembe are made within the DRC. Exactly. Let's see how many of these 21 flights I will actually be on.

Btw, the sun was shining when I picked up my visa at the DRC Mission at the UN yesterday so I went for a walk downtown. Not far from the UN an artist (I don't know who) had placed statutes in a park - very nice effect.

Figure: The UN General Assembly building in the back.

Figure: The UN General Assembly building in the back.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Evolutionary Games and Spatial Chaos (Nowak & May. 1992).

For my dissertation I recently have been reading a lot from the evolutionary biology literature. These guys have done much very interesting work on cooperation.

Martin Nowak and Robert May wrote an interesting paper in 1992. What they did is to play the famous Prisoners’ Dilemma spatially. Yep, indeed interesting, because my dissertation is about migration and cooperation. In brief, they put the players on a lattice; assign different starting conditions (different payoffs, different number of cooperators and defectors in society, etc.), run the computer software and see what happens from one generation to the next when the players interact with each other. What they get is chaotically changing spatial patterns!

The figures below are not Persian rugs, but illustrate the presence of cooperators and defectors in a society for one generation, and the change from one generation to the next. Blue is a cooperator that was also a cooperator the preceding generation, Red is a defector that was also a defector, Yellow is a defector that was a cooperator, and Green is a defector that was a defector.

Figures 1 and 2 are societies on a 200x200 lattice after 200 generations that started with 10% cooperators, 90% defectors. The difference in starting conditions is the advantage for defectors over cooperators.

Fig 1.

Fig 2.

Figure 3 and 4 are societies on a 99x99 lattice that started with a single defector at the center. The difference is that the snapshot of society is taken at different points in time. Nowak and May show that one gets an almost infinite sequence of different patterns. Also, because the rules of the game are symmetrical, the symmetry is maintained.

Fig 3. After 219 generations.

Fig 4. After 221 generations.

Martin A. Nowak. Robert M. May. Evolutionary Games and Spatial Chaos. Nature. Vol. 359. 29 October 1992.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Eastern Congo First Letter Mystery.

I've been working for over two years on Eastern Congo now, visited the area three times (a fourth time starts in three weeks), and all-together lived there for more than a year. Throughout this time something has been bothering me:
Why do so many (place)names start with the letter "K"?
Let me illustrate this. The work that we do in the DRC, next to the Voix des Kivus project, is an evaluation of a large CDR development project (more here). The project (and the evaluation) takes place in four provinces in Eastern Congo (Sud Kivu, Haut Katanga, Maniema and Tanganyika) and are highlighted below:

Fig. 1: Map.

For the CDR project and the evaluation our implementing partners (the IRC and CARE International) together with local governments constructed a large database with information on over 8,000 so-called LLUs in these four provinces. The term "LLU" we invented and is a "Lowest Level Unit". Some villages consist out of "sousvillages", some "sousvillages" consist out of "quartiers", some "quartiers" consist out of "avenues", etc. An LLU is the lowest of these natural units present.

Let's have a look at what the data says regarding first letters of these units. Ready? Hereby a straightforward pie-chart:

Fig. 2: The first letters K + L + M is more than half of all villages.

Indeed: wooh! Each letter in the alphabet probably doesn't have a 1/26th chance of being selected, but just the three letters K + L + M take up well over 50% of all the first letters! This seems nuts. And this seems to be the case across the four different provinces (the K is number 11):

Fig. 3: And it seems kind of similar for all four provinces.

To emphasize this point, within the four provinces we work in particular territories. Here is the list:

  • Haut Katanga: Kipushi, Kasenga, Mitwaba and Kambove
  • Tanganyika: Kalemie, Kongolo and Kabalo
  • Maniema: Kailo, Kabambare, Pangi and Kibombo
  • Sud Kivu: Uvira, Walungu, Kalehe, Mwenga

You see my point, or better the lines underneath the letters K? 2/3rd of all the territories start with a "K"! This is substantially more than (a likely prior of) 1/26; 2/3 is the same as 17 one-third over 26! So, what's going? I don't know the distribution in other countries, but this doesn't seem to be very normal. Two thoughts (please suggest other ones!):

  1. The Belgian Colonialist. Shame on me that I don't know this, but did the Congolese have a written language when the Belgians arrived (or probably the Arabs is more appropriate knowing they were in the east much earlier)? And (if so) the same one? Maybe the local languages had many sounds that sound like a "k", so when the Belgians visited far-away villages and documented their names they heard and thus wrote down "k"s. Or, Another reason would be that the "K" on the typewriter got stuck back then.
  2. The Language Origin. In Swahili one of the uses for the prefix "ki" is to indicate that the stem that follows is a language (Kifaransa is for example french, Kirega is the language of the Rega tribe, etc.). I know that "ki" is not the same as a "k", and that Swahili is not the same as the local languages spoken in Eastern Congo, but could it be that the natural units started of as mainly language units?

But I don't know. And am curious. Any anthropologist an idea?