University professors gave a series of six lectures addressing topics such as bio-terrorism, aircraft security and the collapse of the World Trade Center at a teach-in yesterday afternoon sponsored by the College of Engineering and the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching.
The professors related these issues to the emerging responsibilities and opportunities of the University population, especially those involved in engineering.
“Now that some time has passed and the shock has worn off, other questions besides “Who did this” and “What should we do” have come up,” said Chris O”Neal, an event organizer and member of the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching. “Questions like “Why did the World Trade Center collapse and what can we do in the future?” can now be more rationally and respectfully addressed.”
A lecture centered on bio-terrorism was given by Pester Adriaens, director of Fundamental and Applied Microbiology for the Environment, in order to explain the actual threat of terrorists using bio-weapons and to help separate facts from myths about anthrax.
“What has happened so far is like a blip on the radio screen,” said Adrieans. “If one death is too many then we are going to have bio-terrorism no matter what.”
In addition to the stated goal of improving public understanding, Adrieans spoke about the hope for the further development of technology that could possibly detect anthrax without the enormous cost currently involved.
Adriaens asserted that although anthrax does have the potential to incapacitate and kill a large number of people, it is not a method of mass destruction preferred by terrorists. Even though the effectiveness of this weapon is high, it is extremely inefficient and costly to refine anthrax into a transmittable state.
“I tend to be on the positive side, I”m not entirely sure if there is a wide mass destruction issue,” said Adriaens. “The biggest advantage that terrorists have is that the public is primed for panic. There comes a point when people have too much information and must put it into a proper perspective.”
Engineering Prof. Peretz Friedmann gave a speech titled “Aircraft Security Through Design Is It Practical,” shedding light on how terrorists were technically able to maneuver a passenger plane and made suggestions about how the United States could improve security measures and deal with future terrorist threats.
Friedmann said airplanes should have the ability to lock into autopilot when a pilot is threatened, allowing Air Traffic Control to take over the flight path and thus prevent a terrorist from flying the aircraft.
Although Friedmann explained the many possible advancements in the future of air travel he warned that the terrorists would probably use different methods of attack next time.
“We can”t focus too much on the terrorist attacks as a model, it is very unlikely that the same thing would happen,” Friedman said.
Levi Thompson, associate dean for undergraduate education, explained that the lectures were given in order to give information about the technical and engineering aspects associated with the events of Sept. 11 and how these aspects now apply to the aftermath.
“It was a real privilege as an administrator,” Thompson said. “You don”t usually see directly what the benefit of an event like this is. You can see on people”s faces that they were learning. There was a heightened sense of responsibility. I don”t think that would have come out without an event like this.”