News and views from the University of Notre Dame

Author: Dennis Brown, Cynthia Day and Michael Garvey

Fundamentalism: The capacity of religious belief to inspire both peaceful and violent social action among people of the same faith traditions is explored in a new book by Notre Dame historian R. Scott Appleby . Published by Rowman&Littlefield, “The Ambivalence of the Sacred: Religion, Violence, and Reconciliation” examines the contradictory responses of believers to suffering and injustice. One of the world’s leading authorities on religious fundamentalisms, Appleby explores what religiously motivated terrorists and religiously inspired peacemakers share in common and what prompts them to radically opposite paths in fighting injustice. He also examines how a deeper understanding of religious extremism can and must be integrated more effectively into worldwide thinking about tribal, regional and international conflict. *Professor Appleby can be reached for comment on his new book and issues related to religious fundamentalism at (219) 631-5441 or .

  • p. Applause: The dynamics of applause are explained in the Feb. 24 issue of the prestigious research journal Nature by an international team of physicists headed by Albert-Laszlo Barabasi , associate professor of physics at Notre Dame. The conclusions have possible implications for other complex social systems, such as our ability to describe social processes in a precise mathematical framework. Applause in appreciation of a good performance follows a well-defined pattern of initial thunder turning into synchronized clapping, according to Barabasi. The synchronization process is relatively sudden, after which the individuals in the audience clap simultaneously and periodically, and the synchronization can disappear and reappear several times during the duration of the applause. “The phenomenon is a wonderful expression of social self-organization,” explains Barabasi, “and provides a human-scale example of the synchronization processes observed in numerous systems in nature, ranging from the synchronized flashing of the Southeast Asian fireflies to oscillating chemical reactions.” *Professor Barabasi can be reached for further comment at (219) 631-5767 or .
  • p. Campaign 2000: Despite the recent mudslinging, a Republican ticket of George W. Bush and John McCain is quite possible, says William O’Rourke , professor of English at Notre Dame and author of “Campaign America ’96: The View From the Couch.” In an op-ed for the Chicago Sun-Times, O’Rourke writes that Bush and McCain “do appear to ‘like’ each other, regardless of the rough rhetoric flying” and suggests that an alliance between them would be particularly advantageous to Bush. By supplying the Texas governor “some of the gravitas he conspicuously lacks,” McCain would, according to O’Rourke, compensate for Bush’s inexperience with foreign policy while attracting the “independents and Reagan Democrats who figure to be important swing votes, those who Bush himself has been busily alienating.” Professor O’Rourke can be reached for further comment on the presidential campaigns at (219) 631-7377 or o’ .
    p. * The escalating war of words between Bush and McCain is likely to hurt the GOP in the end, says Peri Arnold , professor of government at Notre Dame. “Surprising most of us, the Republican primary race is a cat fight that is eroding Bush and McCain’s war chests and reputations,” says Arnold, author of the award-winning book “Making the Managerial Presidency.” “The real winner might be the Democratic nominee in November.” *Professor Arnold can be reached for further comment on the campaigns at (219) 631-5016 or .
  • p. Russia: Notre Dame political scientist Martha Merritt says of the March 26th presidential election in Russia: “Boris Yeltsin’s resignation was timed to allow him to do something the Soviet leaders never managed: select a successor. The intense manipulation of state-controlled media prior to the legislative elections in December led to electoral success for Yeltsin’s chosen party, and now acting President Vladimir Putin will try to exercise the same control. This is not democracy. Stage-managed elections, timed for incumbent advantage, do not allow the people a real choice.”p. *Note: Professor Merritt will conduct a policy briefing in February for the State Department on the Russian presidential election and will be in Moscow for the election itself. She can be reached for further comment at (219) 631-7695 or at .
  • p. Homelessness: Solving the problems of the homeless requires far more than simply putting roofs over their heads, writes Louis Nanni , executive assistant to the president at Notre Dame, in an article for the campus magazine Scholastic. “It is interesting that the social problem is not called ‘houselessness,’ whereby housing and a job would simply satisfy for answers,” says Nanni, former director of the nationally recognized Center for the Homeless in South Bend, Ind. “Instead, homelessness is a social ill that cries out for a deeper level of community among us all. There is no quick fix to building meaningful community. Indeed, community-building is labor intensive and requires time and creativity. We must restore a sense of family to people who experience disconnectedness and isolation in their lives …. This is sobering news, and perhaps why so many people find social problems of the day, like homelessness, intractable.” *Louis Nanni can be reached for comment on issues related to the homeless at (219) 631-6798 or .
  • p. Nanoscience: President Clinton’s call to almost double the nation’s spending on research into nanotechnology coincides with Notre Dame’s recent creation of a Center for Nanoscience and Technology. Under the direction of Gerald J. Iafrate , professor of electrical engineering and one of the leading figures in the field, the multidisciplinary center will be comprised of researchers from electrical engineering, computer science and engineering, chemistry and biochemistry, and physics. Nanoscience and nanoengineering are the study of small devices and device-related phenomena on a spatial scale of less than one-tenth of a micron – that is, one-thousandth the diameter of a human hair. Researchers in the Notre Dame center will continue the University’s ground-breaking work on quantum-based devices as well as other ongoing and new projects. *Professor Iafrate can be reached for comment at (219) 631-8673 or .
  • p. Campaigning Christians: The increasing number of political candidates who use their Christianity as a campaign platform will suffer greater consequences if their personal behavior is lacking, says Nathan O. Hatch , provost at Notre Dame and one of the world’s leading experts on American religious history. “It seems to me that it has crossed into a new area, one of deeply personal, experiential terms,” Hatch, the Tackes Professor of History, said in an interview with The National Journal. “In the process, these candidates are setting a higher bar for themselves. Once you say you live by certain standards, it doesn’t take a theologian to judge whether they are meeting that standard. The average Tom, Dick and Harry are going to notice when they fall short.” *Professor Hatch can be reached for further comment at (219) 631-6631 or .
  • p. Mergers and acquisitions: A study by Tim Loughran , associate professor of finance at Notre Dame, finds that typical mergers and acquisitions fail to add share value. “It’s a zero gain; there’s no effect,” he says in the March issue of SmartMoney magazine. However, Loughran also notes that hostile takeovers usually are better for shareholders than friendly deals. A hostile acquirer “is more prone to get rid of product lines, plants and people that aren’t creating value,” he says. *Professor Loughran can be reached for comment at (219) 631-8432 or .
  • p. Supernova spectacular: A Notre Dame physicist is part of a team of astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope to witness a never-before-seen celestial collision in a galaxy 169,000 light years from Earth. The galactic encounter is the collision between debris from an immense stellar explosion seen in February 1987 and the gas ring that circles the site, according to Peter Garnavich , assistant professor of physics at Notre Dame. Using the Hubble telescope, Garnavich and his colleagues earlier this month were able to observe the gases in the ring begin to glow as they were hit by a 40-million-mile-per-hour blast of debris from the 1987 supernova. In pictures taken Feb. 2, four new knots of superheated gas appeared for the first time since Hubble began monitoring the aftermath of the explosion. “The real fireworks show is finally starting, and over the next 10 years things will get spectacular,” Garnavich said. “It helps that Hubble is giving us an unparalleled view.” Note: An image of the event is available on the World Wide Web at:×5.jpg *Professor Garnavich can be reached for further comment at (219) 631-5972 or .
  • p. Human rights: A Notre Dame Law School professor has written a new book that stands as the first comprehensive treatment of methods to address and rectify worldwide violations of human rights. “Remedies in International Human Rights” (Oxford University Press, 387 pages), by Dinah Shelton , provides a theoretical framework, historical overview, and practical guide for lawyers, judges, academics and others interested in the subject. The cases of the Inter-American and European courts of human rights are included, as well as decisions of the African and Inter-American commissions on human rights, United Nations bodies, the European Court of Justice, administrative tribunals, and national courts that apply human rights law. A member of the Notre Dame faculty since 1996, Shelton has published three previous texts: “Protecting Human Rights in the Americas,” “Manual of European Environmental Law,” and “International Environmental Law.” She has served as a consultant to the United Nations, the European Community, the Council of Europe and several individual national governments. *Professor Shelton can be reached for comment on the various human rights stories in the news at (219) 631-7233 or .

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