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Mershon Center for International Security Studies

Alexander Wendt

Editor’s note: Mershon affiliate Alexander Wendt, Ralph D. Mershon Professor of International Security, is perhaps best known for his 1999 book Social Theory of International Politics. Winner of Best Book of the Decade Award from the International Studies Association, the book essentially brought the constructivist school of thought into the field of international relations.

Now, more than 15 years later, Wendt has published a second book, Quantum Mind and Social Science: Unifying Physical and Social Ontology. This book is a substantial departure from the first. In this interview, Cathy Becker, public relations coordinator at the Mershon Center, asks Wendt about how his new book applies the philosophy of quantum mechanics to social science.

Cathy Becker (C): What gave you the idea of applying quantum mechanics to social science in the first place, and what made you think you could do it?

Alex Wendt (W): Well, I had recently finished my first book in 1999, and I was looking around for something new to do -- in terms of my own intellectual situation, I was sort of casting about. I knew there were problems in the book -- I wasn’t satisfied with my resolution of various issues -- so in that sense I was motivated to find something that would speak to those problems.

It was really sheer coincidence that I was in a bookstore in Chicago and came across a book called The Quantum Society by Danah Zohar and Ian Marshall (Morrow, 1995), which was a non-academic book, but basically makes the argument that I make in my new book, which is that the brain and society are quantum phenomena.

So I read this book, and I thought, “Wow! This could be it.” Then the more I followed up on their citations and read about the ideas, the more I became convinced that the argument was true. So I decided that I wanted to write a book for a more academic audience where this would get taken more seriously.

So that was how it came to be. The book took a lot longer to write than I expected. I had to teach myself a lot of stuff, and it was just a very hard book to write, but it finally got done.

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Cardinal Peter Turkson

Mershon Auditorium was nearly filled to capacity with a crowd that gave Cardinal Peter Turkson a standing ovation after his discussion about world ecology on November 2.

Turkson visited the campus of Ohio State University, talking to students who showed them their work in ecology, touring Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center, and capping off the day with a presentation on Pope Francis’s Encyclical on Ecology, "Laudato Si’: On Care for our Common Home."

The community discussion on global sustainability included Turkson’s explanation of the encyclical, released by the Roman Catholic Church this spring, and then a roundtable discussion with University President Michael Drake and Bruce McPheron, dean of the College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. Questions were submitted by the audience via Twitter and Facebook.

“Sustainability is a reminder of the power of a place like Ohio State,” McPheron said in his welcome address. “We are one of the world’s most comprehensive universities – a place to discuss, debate and solve these grand challenges.”

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Kevin McClatchy

The Responsibility, Morality, and the Costs of War symposium, organized by Kevin McClatchy and Janet Parrott in the Department of Theatre with support from the Mershon Center, blends performing and visual arts with leading research to explore the costs of war.

This symposium, to be held November 12-14, 2015, at Drake Performance and Event Center, The Ohio State University, is a three-day interdisciplinary event that speaks to key issues facing our nation today: the challenges that confront veterans from the numerous, ongoing sites of combat and conflict around the globe.

The symposium will feature panel discussions by a range of scholars, artists, and veterans, keynote lectures, an art installation, an exhibition, a film screening, a short film exhibition, a solo performance, and a staged reading of a new play.  Highlights include:

  • Jonathan Shay, author of Achilles in Vietnam: Combat Trauma and the Undoing of Character and Odysseus in America: Combat Trauma and the Trials of Homecoming, will deliver the symposium's keynote address.
  • Czech designer Simona Rybáková leads the creation of a performance/installation and will deliver the Ohio State Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee Theatre Research Institute lecture.
  • Emmy and Independent Spirit award-winning filmmaker Heather Courtney will screen her film Where Soldiers Come From.
  • Kevin McClatchy will perform his new solo play, Scrap Heap, about a Special Forces veteran with PTSD.

Other notable participants include Mershon affiliate and decorated veteran Peter Mansoor, Ohio State endowned chair of History Bruno Cabanes, combat veteran and founder of American Women Veterans Genevieve Chase, and award-winning playwright and actor Bianca Sams.

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Mark StewartJohn Mueller

Following 9/11, Americans' fears of terrorists -- especially domestically based Islamic extremists -- reached near-hysteria levels.  Government and media reports stoked fears that bad actors living in the United States had not only the desire but the means to wreak extreme havoc and destruction.

Early reports estimated slightly more than 300 al Qaeda operatives living in the United States, and it wasn't long before this number became 2,000 or 5,000 domestic terrorists. As these estimates snowballed, so did spending on federal counterterrorism organizations and measures, now totaling more than $1 trillion.

The federal government launched more covert operations in the name of fighting terrorist adversaries than they did in the entirety of the 45-year Cold War. For each apprehension of a credible terrorist suspect, the U.S. government created or re-organized two counterterrorism organizations.

The scale of these efforts has been enormous, yet somehow Americans remain fearful of what they perceive to be a massive terrorist threat. But how well-founded is this fear? Is the threat of terrorism in the United States as vast as it seems, and are counterterrorism efforts effective and appropriately-scaled?

In Chasing Ghosts: The Policing of Terrorism (Oxford University Press, 2015), Mershon affiliates John Mueller and Mark Stewart show that it has not, statistically speaking, been efficient or successful. Only one alarm in 10,000 has proven to be a legitimate threat -- the rest are what Mueller and Stewart call "chasing ghosts."

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