Boston Globe: What does reality mean?
Questions that are staples of any undergraduate philosophy course --
how do you know you exist, what does death actually mean, what does reality
mean -- have been answered by many students since September 11 with a
query of their own: Why should I care? Since the terrorist attacks and
ongoing incidences of bioterrorism, some are finding schoolwork irrelevant;
others are discovering a new meaning in less practical subjects such as
philosophy, poetry, and literature, according to an article in the Boston
Globe on October 28. "A university is a place to raise questions,
however theoretical, and seek answers to what motivates people to act,
no matter how repugnant their actions," says Dan Dahlstrom, a CAS
professor of philosophy. "That's what we're doing, and that's the
way to link what's happening in the world with what we're discussing in
Parade Magazine: Wiesel reflects on our nation's response to September 11
"None of us will ever forget that sunny day in September when the United States was subjected to a manmade nightmare," writes Elie Wiesel, Nobel laureate and BU's Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities, in his article entitled "We Choose Honor," published in Parade Magazine on October 28. "The terrorists achieved the opposite of what they wanted," he writes. "They moved people to transcend themselves and choose that which is noble in man. For in the end, it is always a matter of choice. Even when faced with the murderous madness of criminals, and in the presence of the silent agony of their victims, it is incumbent upon us to choose between escape and solidarity, shame and honor. The terrorists have chosen shame. We choose honor."
New York Times: China's heir apparent debuts on world stage
The most commonplace of diplomatic missions -- tours of Moscow, London, Paris, and Berlin for handshakes with heads of state and business titans -- is filled with meaning to the cognoscenti of Chinese politics as Vice President Hu Jintao of China debuts on the world stage, says the October 29 New York Times. Hu is poised to become China's supreme leader in the next 18 months, and he may well lead the world's most populous country for 10 years. "This trip is something of a coming-out party for Hu," says Joseph Fewsmith, a CAS associate professor of international relations and an expert on Chinese politics. One of the seemingly strangest aspects of Hu's career is his avoidance of America and American officials. "For Hu to visit the United States would be unseemly -- as if he were making a power grab," Fewsmith says. "Perhaps his trip to Europe should be seen as a sort of substitute. It does introduce him to the West and gives Hu a firsthand view of the West."
Metro: How terrorist attacks have affected BU students
In an interview published in the October 30 Metro on how the September 11 attacks have changed the atmosphere on Boston University's campus, Kevin Carleton, assistant vice president for public relations, says, "Student groups, faculty, and administrative departments have pulled together dozens of discussion programs, large and small, covering a broad range of topics related to the attacks, and representing a full range of political views." Asked how students from the Middle East have responded to the attacks, Carleton says, "We have well over 4,000 international students, with some 350 from the Middle East. Only 12 chose to return home. Generally, our international students say they feel safe on campus. Since September 11, we've reached out to all students, and to Muslims in particular, to address fears and concerns."
Boston Globe: Lazy does it
A new study published in this week's Nature (and last week's B.U. Bridge "Research Briefs") shows that a person can focus on one thing, television, say, and soak up information on the side without even trying, reports the October 30 Boston Globe. Takeo Watanabe, a CAS associate professor of psychology, has found that the human brain can learn without consciously trying. "Even when our mind is not paying attention to extraneous information, it ends up processing it," says Watanabe, who hopes to learn more about just what kinds of skills can be picked up in a subliminal way -- and if they can enter the brain through other channels, such as listening. Regardless of the future role of implicit learning, he says, it has long helped the human species survive. For instance, someone can walk down a street while talking to a friend and pick up that cars are driving in a particular direction. While paying attention only to the conversation, part of the brain is sensitized to the direction of the cars in order to avoid an accident. "Without that knowledge," Watanabe says, "we'd be in much more danger."