Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

November 2011

Book thumbnail image

Ian Fleming and American intelligence (Part 2)

By Nicholas Rankin
In May 1941, Ian Fleming and his boss, the Director of Naval Intelligence, Admiral John Godfrey, were touching base in New York City with William Stephenson, the British Secret Service’s representative in North America as head of British Security Co-Ordination, whose headquarters occupied the 34th and 35th floors of the Rockefeller Center. The place later went into Fleming’s fiction. In chapter 20 of the very first Bond book, Casino Royale, James Bond confesses to the assassination of a Japanese cipher expert cracking British codes

Read More
9780195387070

Monthly Gleanings: November 2011

By Anatoly Liberman
It was good to hear from Masha Bell, an ally in the losing battle for reformed spelling.  Her remarks can be found at the end of the previous post (it was about su– in sure and sugar), and here I’ll comment briefly only on her questions. 

Read More
Book thumbnail image

The periodic table: matter matters

By Eric Scerri
As far back as I can remember I have always liked sorting and classifying things. As a boy I was an avid stamp collector. I would sort my stamps into countries, particular sets, then arrange them in order of increasing monetary value shown on the face of the stamp. I would go to great lengths to select the best possible copy of any stamp that I had several versions of. It’s not altogether surprising that I have therefore ended up doing research and writing books on what is perhaps the finest example of a scientific system of classification – the periodic table of the elements.

Read More
Book thumbnail image

Ian Fleming and American intelligence (Part 1)

By Nicholas Rankin
On 15 May 1941, two Englishmen flew from London to Lisbon, at the start of a ten-day wartime journey to New York City. Though they wore civilian clothes they were, in fact, the Director of Naval Intelligence, Admiral John Godfrey, and his personal assistant, Lieutenant Commander Ian Fleming RNVR, the future author of the James Bond novels. What followed was to change American intelligence forever.

Read More
Book thumbnail image

The disconnect between democracy and Republicanism

By Elvin Lim It should now be clear to all that the highly polarized environment that is Washington is dysfunctional, and the disillusionment it is causing portends yet more headlocks and cynicism to come. Here is the all-too-familiar cycle of American electoral politics in the last few decades. Campaign gurus draw sharp distinctions to get […]

Read More
Book thumbnail image

Haitian leaders declare independence

This Day in World History
On November 29, 1803, Haitian leaders Jean-Jacques Dessalines, Henri Christophe, and a General Clerveaux joined together to sign a preliminary proclamation of independence for St. Domingo, the former French colony that soon after took the name Haiti. The proclamation came just ten days after French forces under the Vicomte de Rochambeau had surrendered to the Haitian rebels.

Read More
Book thumbnail image

Occupy Wall Street: Can the revolution be trademarked?

By Dennis Baron
Psst, wanna buy a hot slogan?

“Occupy Wall Street,” the protest that put “occupy” on track to become the 2011 word of the year, could be derailed by a Long Island couple seeking to trademark the movement’s name. The rapidly-spreading Occupy Wall Street protests target the huge gap between rich and poor in America and elsewhere, so on Oct. 18, Robert and Diane Maresca tried to erase their own personal income gap by filing trademark application 85449710 with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office so they could start selling Occupy Wall St.™

Read More
Book thumbnail image

SciWhys: Why are plants green?

By Jonathan Crowe
After the greyness of winter, the arrival of spring is heralded by a splash of colour as plants emerge from the soil, and trees seemingly erupt with leaves. Soon, much of the countryside has moved from being something of a grey, barren wasteland to a sea of verdant green. But why is it that so much vegetation is green? Why not a sea of red, or blue? To answer this question let me take you on a colourful journey from the sun to within the cells of plant leaves.

Read More
Book thumbnail image

Trendspotting: the future of the computer

By Darrel Ince
I’m typing this blog entry on a desktop computer. It’s two years old, but I’m already looking at it and my laptop wondering how long they will be around in their current form. There are three fast-moving trends that may change computing over the next five years, affect the way that we use computers, and perhaps make desktop and laptop computers the computing equivalent of the now almost defunct record player.

Read More
9780199733538

Do bugs feel pain?

By Jeff Lockwood
It’s hard to know what any organism experiences. For that matter, I’m not even sure that you feel pain—or at least that your internal, mental states are the same as mine. This is the “other minds” problem in philosophy. At least other people can tell us what they feel (even if we can’t be certain that their experience is the same as ours), but we can’t even ask insects.

Read More
Book thumbnail image

We also give thanks for beer

Thanksgiving is all about tradition, and if you are like my family, your dinner will probably be served with wine. But having recently spent some time with The Oxford Companion to Beer and its Editor-in-Chief Garrett Oliver, I am thinking about adding a little twist to the end of the meal.

Read More
Book thumbnail image

Darwin publishes On the Origin of Species

This Day in World History
On the day it was published, Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species sold out—eager readers bought every single copy. This alone is not remarkable: the print run was a mere 1,250 copies. But in presenting to the world his theory of evolution by natural selection, Darwin’s tome made history.

Read More
Book thumbnail image

Honest Ben

By Ian Donaldson ‘Of all styles he loved most to be named honest, and hath of that an hundred letters so naming him’, wrote Ben Jonson’s Scottish friend, William Drummond, after Jonson had visited him at his castle at Hawthornden on the River Esk, seven miles south of Edinburgh, in 1618.  ‘Honest’ seems a reasonable […]

Read More
9780195387070

The phonetic taste of coffee

By Anatoly Liberman
All sources inform us about the Arabic-Turkish home of the word coffee, though in the European languages some forms were taken over directly from Arabic, so that the etymological part of the relevant entry in dictionaries and encyclopedias needs modification. There is a possibility of coffee being connected with the name of the kingdom of Kaffa, but this question need not bother us at the moment. The main puzzle is the development of the form coffee rather than its distant origin.

Read More