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Science whiz with J'can links turns heads in US
published: Sunday | April 18, 2004

- Contributed
Professor Jonathan Farley, second left, shows off one of his many awards as he poses with, from left, Professor Allen Counter, director of the Harvard Foundation, and his parents Dr. Ena Farley and Dr. Rawle Farley.

Lolita Long, New York Editor


THERE IS one area in which the University of the West Indies (UWI) and Jamaica could become global leaders in science, industry and academia; a 'West Indian crocodile' to rival the 'East Asian Tigers' of Singapore or South Korea. That is, by creating an Institute for Mathematical Methods in Counter-terrorism. (IMMC)

This institute would be the first of its kind in the world, and could potentially attract millions of United States dollars in funding from United States Government sources, NATO and private enterprises.

Professor Jonathan Farley says he has these ideas and has discussed them with various representatives from the UWI and they "seemed receptive even though they are new".

The young, bright, Farley is an authority on mathematics and is the 2004 recipient of the Harvard Foundation's Distinguished Scientist Award in recognition of outstanding achievements and contributions in the field of mathematics.

The son of a Jamaican mother, Professor Ena Farley (a former Regent for the State of New York), and Guyanese father, Professor Rawle Farley, former director of the Extra-Mural Studies, UWI, the young Farley co-founded the Phoenix Mathematical Systems Modelling.


As chief scientist for the organisation, he and his partners Dr. Stefan Schmidt and Lennox Farrell have developed mathematical and software tools to help with counter-terrorism and to anticipate trends in the stock market. He is also co-founder of Hollywood Math and Science Film Consulting, which offers advice for movies that have a math or science element.

"The UWI could become a leader in many fields - be a global leader. One area to take the lead is in mathematics through The Institute for Mathematical Methods, which would be the only institute of its kind. It would not require an infrastructural change, and would have the best mathematicians. It would raise the level of science in the West Indies and become a global leader in science, industry, academia," Professor Farley said, in an interview from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where he is also an associate professor of applied mathematics.

"The Minister of National Security (Dr. Peter Phillips) recently revealed new homeland security plans... it would be an interesting partnership with the UWI, the Security Ministry, IMMC and, in collaboration with other agencies, such as NATO, attract millions in funding," he explained.


Professor Farley said that many other institutions examine social, political, public policy and bioterrorism issues, but that none looks at the mathematical analysis of counter-terrorism.

His theory of using math for academic and economic growth is perhaps superseded by that of his alternative approach in examining homeland security issues.

The scientist explains, "It's not enough to disconnect terrorist networks. A remnant may yet contain a leader and enough followers to mount serious attacks. My method uses the order theory to analyse their effectiveness, and to quantify the degree to which a terrorist network is still able to function."

Farley's work that applies the order theory to counter-terrorism analysis, 'Breaking Al Qaeda Cells', was recently profiled in the Chronicle of Higher Education and Science News Online. As an example of the power of mathematical theory, which he also applies to understanding trends on the stock market, Farley and his partner Dr. Stefan Schmidt have put their Reflexive Theory to the test. Schmidt recently used US$5,000 and watched it multiply to US$45,000.


"Nothing is certain," says Farley, "no one can predict the future, but the theory, a branch of mathematical psychology, helps to anticipate trends."

There is one area in which the former Fulbright Distinguished Scholar to the U.K. (one of only four Americans to win this award) has not succeeded. That's politics. In 2002 he was unsuccessful in his Congressional bid in Tennessee, when he ran on the Green Party ticket.

"I didn't do well, and I don't think I would attempt again, it's time consuming. My focus now is math problems and applications," he told The Sunday Gleaner.

The Farley clan has distinguished themselves admirably in the U.S. His mother, Ena, is an accomplished author, and was given a distinguished alumna award from UWI; his father holds a Ph.D. in Economics from the London School of Economics; brother Anthony, holds a J.D. from Harvard Law school and is the former assistant U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia; another brother, Felipe, holds A.B. in biochemistry from Harvard; and Christopher, who holds an A.B. in Government from Harvard, is senior editor for news at Time Magazine, and has just written a book about a Jamaican slave revolt.

In recognition of his many outstanding accomplishments, the city of Cambridge, Massachusetts declared March 19, 2004 "Dr. Jonathan David Farley Day." It would be no brain-twister to guess what Farley's hobby is. "Math...but I also run cross-country."

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