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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

Diplomatic History

Queering America and the world

“We had him down as a rent boy,” remarked a bartender in Brussels about Salah Abdeslam, one of the suspected jihadists in the recent Paris attacks. Several reports noted that Abdeslam frequented gay bars and flirted with other men. These revelations were difficult to slot into existing media narratives and stood in uneasy relation to his posited allegiance with the group best known in the United States as ISIS. After all, there have been numerous credible reports of ISIS’s violent condemnation and abuse of queer people. In many instances, the penalty for homosexuality has been death.

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Why ‘ageism’ is bad for your health

According to research conducted by Levy, Slade, Kunkel, and Kasl in 2002, the average lifespan of those with high levels of negative beliefs about old age is 7.5 years shorter than those with more positive beliefs. In other words, ‘ageism’ may have a cumulative harmful effect on personal health. But what is ageism – and what is its impact, both for society and healthcare?

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The importance of long-term marriage for health and happiness

Each year around Valentine’s Day, a new crop of romantic comedies hit the silver screen. Viewers wait in anticipation for the on-screen couple’s first kiss, or the enviably lavish wedding. But what happens to that couple, many decades after the first kiss or exchange of rings? Recent research shows that long-married couples exchange love and emotional support, but also regularly engage in spats or minor conflicts which affect older adults’ health in both expected and surprising ways.

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The romance of chocolate

Is chocolate an aphrodisiac? Gifts of chocolate are given usually with that intent at this time of the year. Does it work? Well, maybe; gastronomy is known as the sister art of love. Women often crave chocolate. In 1648, according to the diary of English Jesuit Thomas Gage, the women of Chiapas Real arranged for the murder of a certain bishop who forbade them to drink chocolate during mass.

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Beyond the noise barrier

Noise barriers are not regarded with a great deal of affection. In fact, they’re not much regarded at all; perhaps not surprising, given that the goal of their installers is to ensure that those who benefit notice neither the barrier nor the noise sources it hides. The majority are basic workmanlike structures, built according to tried and trusted principles.

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African American Studies Center

Celebrating African American inventors

It’s been over 195 years since Thomas Jennings received a patent for a dry cleaning process, and black inventors have continued to change, innovate and enhance day-to-day life. This Black History Month, the team behind the Oxford African American Studies Center is excited to explore some of the many inventions, dreamed up, brought to life, and patented by black inventors.

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Whose chat-up line is it anyway?

Along with death and trees, love is probably the most commonly explored theme in literature. So many of our favorite maxims and aphorisms about love are drawn from classical fiction. But how well do we really know these quotes or the novels and poems from which they derive?

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The evolution of humans [infographic]

Where did we come from? How did we become human? What’s the origin of our species? It is hard to imagine our understanding of humanity without, of course, Charles Darwin’s Theory of Evolution. Our own family tree testifies to this age-old pattern of extinction, adaption, and evolution.

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Ten facts about the cornet

Sometimes mistaken for the trumpet, a near relation, the cornet has had a fascinating and diverse history. Popular from military and jazz bands to the 19th century European stage, the cornet has had a home in the American music scene for generations of musicians and music styles.

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Illusions for survival and reproduction

Much of what we think we see is not real – it’s an illusion. A favourite pastime for many visual psychologists and artists is to baffle and confuse our perception by making things appear that are not really there, or manipulating the way that we might see patterns or colours. The origin of many illusions lies in the fact that the brain often receives incomplete or conflicting information.

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Between language and folklore: “To hang out the broom”

We know even less about the origin of idioms than about the origin of individual words. This is natural: words have tangible components: roots, suffixes, consonants, vowels, and so forth, while idioms spring from customs, rites, and general experience. Yet both are apt to travel from land to land and be borrowed. Who was the first to suggest that beating (or flogging) a willing horse is a silly occupation, and who countered it with the idea that beating a dead horse is equally stupid?

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Why is addiction treatment so slow to change?

The US taxpayers fund the overwhelming majority of addiction research in the world. Every year, Congress channels about $1 billion to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). An additional almost $0.5 billion is separately given to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), my own workplace for the past decade.

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Marriage equality in Australia: will 2016 bring a change in the law?

Hopes for change on the issue in Australia were raised and quickly dashed following September’s leadership spill in the centre-right Liberal Party, in which Malcom Turnbull defeated Prime Minister Tony Abbott, 54 votes to 44. Once seen by advocates of law reform as a champion of marriage equality, the new Prime Minister stated his intention to maintain the coalition’s position on the issue.

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Economics of Chocolate

“The experience of chocolate craving”- an extract from The Economics of Chocolate

It is indisputable that chocolate consumption gives instant pleasure and comfort, especially during episodes of ‘emotional eating’, which involves searching for food (generally in large amounts) even if not physiologically hungry in order to get relief from a negative mood or bad feelings (e.g. stressful life situations, anxiety, depression). The pleasure experienced in eating chocolate can be, first of all, due to neurophysiological components.

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Which mythological creature are you? [Quiz]

Today, we’re looking at the less fashionable side of this partnership and focussing our attention on the creatures that mortals feared and heroes vanquished. Does your gaze turn others to stone? Do you prefer ignorance or vengeance? Have any wings? Take this short quiz to find out which mythological creature or being you would have been in the ancient world.

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Mary Church Terrell: a capital crusader

When Mary Church Terrell died on 24 July 1954, at the age of 90, her place in civil rights history seemed secure. She had served as the first president of the National Association of Colored Women. She had been a charter member of the NAACP.

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