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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

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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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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Blue planet blues

The Earth we live on was formed from a cloud of dust and ice, heated by a massive ball of compressed hydrogen that was the early Sun. Somewhere along the four billion year journey to where we are today, our planet acquired life, and some of that became us. Our modern brains ask how it all came together and progressed, and what shaped the pathways it followed.

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Adolescents and adolescence: the glass really is half-full

Recently I was invited to be the guest clinician for a school district’s new young men’s choral festival. The original composition of the festival changed over the course of planning and, long story short, I ended up with a group of 79 fourth- through ninth-grade male singers.

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The CISG: a fair balance of interests around the globe

The CISG may be called a true story of worldwide success which is not only proven by the ever increasing number of member states around the world but also by the fact that during the last 20 years the CISG has served as a decisive blueprint for law-making in the area of contract law on the international as well as on the domestic level.

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Another unpleasant infection: Zika virus

Over two years ago I wrote that “new viruses are constantly being discovered… Then something comes out of the woodwork like SARS which causes widespread panic”. Zika virus infection bids fair to repeat the torment. On 28 January 2016 the BBC reported that the World Health Organization had set up a Zika “emergency team” as a result of the current explosive pandemic.

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How can we hold the UN accountable for sexual violence?

Cometh the new year, cometh the fresh round of allegations that United Nations peacekeepers raped or abused some of the most vulnerable people in the world. 2016 has just begun and already reports are surfacing of UN peacekeepers paying to have sex with girls as young as 13 at a displaced persons camp in the Central African Republic.

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A history of the poetry of history

History and poetry hardly seem obvious bed-fellows – a historian is tasked with discovering the truth about the past, whereas, as Aristotle said, ‘a poet’s job is to describe not what has happened, but the kind of thing that might’. But for the Romans, the connections between them were deep: historia . . . proxima poetis (‘history is closest to the poets’), as Quintilian remarked in the first century AD. What did he mean by that?

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Philosopher of the month: Plato

The OUP Philosophy team have selected Plato (c. 429–c.347 BC) as their February Philosopher of the Month. The best known and most widely studied of all the ancient Greek philosophers, Plato laid the groundwork for Western philosophy and Christian theology. Plato was most likely born in Athens, to Ariston and Perictione, a noble, politically active family.

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