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Vol. V No. 6   ·   21 September 2001 


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Good Morning America (ABC): Fear of flying takes on new meaning

Terrorist attacks have made some Americans fearful of getting on an airplane. On September 15 Good Morning America cohost Elizabeth Vargas asked Curtis Hsia, a CAS research associate in psychology and a psychologist at BU's Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders, how widespread he expects this fear of flying to be in light of the September 11 attacks that used hijacked commercial airliners as weapons of destruction. "I expect it to be relatively widespread," he says. "But one thing I want to emphasize is the fact that this is normal. Normally what I deal with are abnormal or irrational fears of flying, but what we have here is a case where only four days ago we had a very traumatic event which affected all of America. What I would expect is that these concerns will continue for some time, until the public is reassured. And I believe they will be reassured, based on what steps the government is currently taking."

Newsday: CAS prof explains econophysics

Investors have long searched for the financial equivalent of the Holy Grail -- the magic formula that can accurately forecast movements in financial markets. Now physicists under the umbrella of a pioneering new branch of science, econophysics, have joined in the search, according to the September 16 Newsday. H. Eugene Stanley, a CAS professor of physics and director of the Center for Polymer Studies, who coined the term six years ago, says the controversial field takes a scientific view of economics. "Economists usually start with a theoretical model and then later test the model against real data," he says. "Physicists start with the study of empirical facts." Econophysicists begin by viewing financial markets as complex, evolving systems whose fluctuations result from the collective behavior of thousands of investors, traders, and speculators who buy and sell assets in pursuit of profit. Market crashes and bubbles, say econophysicists, represent the "phase transitions" that occur in physics when individual atoms behave in a collective way, resulting in a transition from one state to another, such as water turning into ice.

Los Angeles Times: bin Ladens have Boston links

With more than 50 siblings and an enormous fortune, the Saudi Arabian bin Laden family not only has global ties, but also strong links to the Boston area, reports the September 17 Los Angeles Times.

A $1 million gift "from the generosity of the bin Laden family" promotes the study of Islamic law at Harvard Law School. At Harvard's School of Design, another $1 million donation endows students who pursue the field of Islamic art and architecture. One bin Laden brother, a graduate of Harvard Law School, has offices in Cambridge. Another owns six units in the luxurious Flagship Wharf in Charlestown. But, according to Adil Najam, a CAS assistant professor of international relations, the Saudi-based family disowned suspected terrorist Osama bin Laden in the early 1990s because of his anti-Americanism and his extremist interpretation of Islam. "There is an active hatred relationship," says Najam. "The first thing they tell you is that they have no affiliation with Osama." Islam allows up to four wives, so within the context of multiple mother and sibling groups scattered across various countries, "what it means to be a brother or sister may be somewhat different from what you and I may think," he points out. "It's not always one big family under one big roof. Often there is a fierce sense of competition, and it is not unusual for those competitions to end up in physical violence."

USA Today: Military presence on home front

Fighter jets scream across the skies over the nation's capital and its largest city. Aircraft carriers and destroyers with surface-to-air missiles sit off both coasts. Soldiers in Humvees, armed with M-16 rifles, stand guard on street corners in these cities. Not even during the fiercest fighting of World War II, not during the tensest moments of the Cold War, has the U.S. military mounted a defense of its home turf as massive as the one mobilized in the wake of the terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C., reports the September 17 USA Today. "We are now into something we have never experienced before," says Robert Dallek, a CAS professor of history. During World War II, homeland defense was mainly the preserve of civilian air wardens and coastal watch batteries, he says. And though the Navy and Air Force patrolled coastal waters, "they didn't fly over American cities as an umbrella of defense" as they are now.

"In The News" is compiled by Mark Toth in the Office of Public Relations.


21 September 2001
Boston University
Office of University Relations