Researchers have discovered that the seemingly erratic behavior of the “Rostov Ripper,” a prolific serial killer active in the 1980s, conformed to the same mathematical pattern obeyed by earthquakes, avalanches, stock market crashes and many other sporadic events. The finding suggests an explanation for why serial killers kill.
Mikhail Simkin and Vwani Roychowdhury, electrical engineers at the University of California, Los Angeles, modeled the behavior of Andrei Chikatilo, a gruesome murderer who took the lives of 53 people in Rostov, Russia between 1978 and 1990. Though Chikatilo sometimes went nearly three years without committing murder, on other occasions, he went just three days. The researchers found that the seemingly random spacing of his murders followed a mathematical distribution known as a power law.
In epileptics, a threshold-crossing cascade of neurons induces a seizure. And if the Simkin and Roychowdhury’s theory is right, a similar buildup of excited neurons is what flooded the Rostov Ripper with an overwhelming desire to commit murder. Sometimes he went years without his neurons crossing the threshold, other times, just days.
Tip: Life’s Little Mysteries
This is a nice piece that notes potential flaws in this idea and why it might not be quite right or very useful. I wonder how useful it would be to predict? But, is does sound plausible in terms of brain chemistry and it supported by other models such as that of drug addiction.