Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

January 2011

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Because We all Share the Sledding Instinct

After a nice little afternoon in Central Park yesterday, I consulted the AIA Guide to New York City to read up on the history of the 840 acre playground (which, I learned, is larger than Monaco). I share with you now my gleanings on how the park came to be the funky hybrid of leisure and active sport it is today, as well as my own thoughts on why parks prove we all really aren’t that different.

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This Day in History: Abolition

Today is a very important day in American history, the anniversary of when the 13th Amendment to the Constitution was passed by Congress, that which formally abolished slavery in the U.S. in 1865. The Thirteenth provides that “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” It was ratified later that year on December 6. In honor of this anniversary, we offer an excerpt from The Oxford Guide to United States Supreme Court Decisions, which provides an overview of the Civil Rights Cases.

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Entropy: Should we just go with the flow?

By Jonathan Crowe
It began with the sound of a tyre rim grinding on the surface of the cycle path I’d been travelling along, and a sudden sensation of being on a bike that was moving through treacle rather than through air. My rear tyre had punctured and, not for the first time of late, I found myself resenting the seeming futility of life: of having the bad luck to get the puncture, of having to spend time and effort buying and fitting a new inner tube – of my life being enriched not one iota by the whole experience.

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Linked Up: Egypt, Dancers, Advertising

Tweet ON EGYPT Watch the Al Jazeera live stream Nick Baumann is keeping us updated on what’s happening in Egypt [Mother Jones] State department spokesman says US wants peaceful change and more freedoms in Egypt. [Al Jazeera] Friday of Wrath [CNN] “Egypt unrest” live updates [BBC] The Guardian’s live updates Map of Cairo’s “day of […]

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Galileo and the Church

By John Heilbron

What Galileo believed about providence, miracles, and salvation, is hard to say. It may not matter. Throughout his life he functioned as the good Catholic he claimed to be; and he received many benefits from the church before and after the affair that brought him to his knees before the Holy Inquisition in 1633.

First among these benefits was education. Galileo studied for a few years at the convent of Vallombrosa (a Benedictine order) near Florence. He loved the place and had entered his novitiate when his father removed him from the temptation. Later the Vallombrosans gave him his first important job teaching mathematics. He probably lived briefly at the Benedictine convent of

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The Government Does Not Control Your Grammar

By Dennis Baron

Despite the claims of mass murderers and freepers, the government does not control your grammar. The government has no desire to control your grammar, and even if it did, it has no mechanism for exerting control: the schools, which are an arm of government, have proved singularly ineffective in shaping students’ grammar. Plus every time he opened his mouth, Pres. George W. Bush proved that the government can’t even control its own grammar.

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Up the Wazoo and Into the Abyss: Words I Love

By Mark Peters

It’s easy to find articles about words people hate. Just google for a nanominute and you’ll find rants against moist, like, whom, irregardless, retarded, synergy, and hordes of other offending lexical items. Word-hating is rampant.

So if that’s the kind of thing that yanks your lexical crank, look elsewhere: this column is all about word love, word lust, word like, word kissy-face, and word making-sweet-love-down-by-the-fire, as South Park’s Chef would put it.

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Freedom from Religion: Protecting Society Against Religious Extremist Inciters

By Amos N. Guiora

Religious extremism poses the greatest danger to contemporary civil society. The threat comes from religious extremists, not people of moderate faith. The recent suicide bombing by Islamic extremists killing 21 Copts in Egypt is a prime example.

Decision makers, the general public and people of moderate faith – whose faith does not lead them to kill others in the name of their god – must address how to minimize this palpable threat. Step one is recognizing the threat, although it may make us uncomfortable. Step two is involves proactive, concrete measures to protect society. Society can say a collective “woe is me” or take aggressive proactive measures.

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On Religious Revival

By William K. Kay
Evan Roberts was [a] ‘revivalist’ whose preaching triggered off intense religious reaction. In the pubs and factories mysterious powers are attributed to him.

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Economics: A Rogue Profession

By George DeMartino

At the annual meetings of the American Economic Association (AEA), held the first weekend of January in Denver, the association’s leadership established a committee to explore whether there is a need for rules in the profession to govern disclosure of apparent or real conflicts of interest. The issue arose in reaction to Charles Ferguson’s new documentary Inside Job, which exposes what appear to be stunning failures of leading academic economists to reveal the large incomes they received from business interests when writing reports and taking positions on policy matters of direct concern to those interests.

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Monthly Gleanings: January 2011

By Anatoly Liberman

I have collected many examples about which I would like to hear the opinion of our correspondents. Perhaps I should even start an occasional column under the title “A Word Lover’s Complaint.”

Hanging as. Everybody must have seen sentences like the following: “…as the president, our cares must be your concern.” This syntax seems to be acceptable in American English, for it occurs everywhere, from the most carefully edited newspapers to essays by undergraduate students. The idea of the sentence given above is obvious: “you, being the president…” or “since you are the president…” but doesn’t the whole sound odd? Don’t we expect something like “as the president, you should (are expected to)….”

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Leaky Diplomacy and Arab Anxiety

By Dana H. Allin and Steven Simon

The Wikileaks trove of diplomatic documents confirms what many have known for a long time: Israel is not the only Middle Eastern country that fears a nuclear armed Iran and wants Washington to do something about it.

If Tehran was listening, the truth of this fear was apparent last month in Bahrain, where the International Institute for Strategic Studies organized a large meeting of Gulf Arab ministers, King Abdullah of Jordan, Iran’s foreign minister Mottaki, and top officials from outside powers including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The convocation was polite: no one said it was time to “cut off the head of the snake,” as Saudi Arabia’s King was reported, in one of the Wikileaks cables,

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A GOP Front-runner Emerges

By Elvin Lim

The Republican party has traditionally been a more ordered, hierarchical organization, one in which the norm of waiting for one’s turn has been entrenched through the decades. When there is no consensus on the available candidates in the field, the runner-up to the last nomination contest becomes, by default, the front-runner. Today, Palin, Pawlenty, Thune, Huckabee, Gingerich, and Santorum are all names being mentioned. Yet no name stands out the way Mitt Romney‘s does.

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Happy Birthday Virginia Woolf!

This day in 1882, the brilliant and talented Virginia Woolf was born, and to celebrate it, a few lucky tweeters will win a copy of one of her books. When you see,

“It’s Virginia Woolf’s birthday!

just retweet it, along with the answer to this trivia question:

What was Virginia’s mother’s maiden name?

International readers, keep your eyes on @OWC_Oxford and RT before 3pm GMT! Live in the US? Follow @OUPblogUSA. You’ll have until 3pm ET.

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Why the Trenta?

So, why did we launch the Trenta? We listened to you,” says Starbucks. Really?
Looking for more answers, I asked my friend Greg Dietrich for his thoughts on the matter. Greg works at Paragon Coffee Trading, which means he imports coffee and collaborates with members of the New York commodities coffee trade. Oh and he gets to roast beans and cup all day (see picture below on right). Below is a conversation (via Gmail’s instant messaging service) we had about the Bucks’ latest creation.

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