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What Jane heard

Music is everywhere and nowhere in Jane Austen’s fiction. Everywhere, in that pivotal scenes in every novel unfurl to the sound of music; nowhere, in that she almost never specifies exactly what music is being performed. For film adaptations this absence of detail can be a source of welcome freedoms, since the imaginative gap can be variously filled by choosing more or less appropriate historical repertoire

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Molecular Human Reproduction

Preimplantation genetic screening: after 25 years and a complete make-over, the truth is still out there

More than 25 years ago, it was found that human embryos of about three days old cultured in the lab, showed chromosomal abnormalities in more than half of them. Many of these abnormalities were not coming from the sperm or the egg, but occurred after the embryo has cleaved two times, obtaining four cells, or three times, reaching the eight-cell stage.

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Queering oral history

In their substantial essay from OHR 43.1 on the peculiarities of queer oral history, authors Kevin Murphy, Jennifer Pierce, and Jason Ruiz suggest some of the ways that queer methodologies are useful and important for oral history projects.

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What is college for?

1 May was National College Decision Day in the U.S. – the deposit deadline for admission into many U.S. colleges and universities. Early indications suggest that we’re poised for a fifth straight year of declining enrollments. In the Atlantic earlier this year, Alia Wong pointed out that this trend continues the widening gap between high school graduation and college enrollment in this country.

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From “O Fortuna” to “Anaconda”: A playlist of musical profanity

Almost everyone swears, or worries about not swearing, from the two-year-old who has just discovered the power of potty mouth to the grandma who wonders why every other word she hears is obscene. Whether they express anger or exhilaration, are meant to insult or to commend, swear words perform a crucial role in language. But swearing is also a uniquely well-suited lens through which to look at history

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Historical lessons for modern medicine

When looking at the use of drugs in modern medicine, specifically anaesthesia and intensive care – it is important to realise that this is nothing new at all. The first attempts at general anaesthesia were most likely herbal remedies and opiates, evidence of which has been found as early as the third millennium BCE. Antiseptics, from the Greek words anti (against) and sepsis (decay) were also used in ancient times

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Lord Byron’s Passion

Two hundred years ago today Lord Byron wrote a brief, untitled Gothic fragment that is now known as ‘Augustus Darvell’, the name of its central character. The most famous author in the world at the time, Byron produced the tale when he was living at the Villa Diodati, on the shores of Lake Geneva, and in the daily company of Percy Bysshe Shelley, Mary Godwin (the future Mary Shelley), and John Polidori, Byron’s personal physician.

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Inequality of what?

Has inequality increased over the last several generations? The answer depends upon the “currency” for inequality assessment. An item has been distributed among the population of interest, and we are using a number to summarize that distribution. But which item is it?

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Bleak skies at night: the year without a summer and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

Two hundred years ago this month, Mary Shelley had the terrifying ‘waking dream’ that she subsequently molded into the greatest Gothic novel of all time; Frankenstein. As all who have read the book or seen one of the many film adaptations will know, the ‘monster’ cobbled together out of human odds and ends by rogue scientist, Victor Frankenstein, is galvanised into existence by the power of electricity.

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Dublin on Bloomsday: James Joyce and the OED

The sixteenth of June is the day on which James Joyce fans traditionally email each other their Bloomsday greetings. And nowadays it has become the focus for a global celebration of Joyce’s work, marked by readings and performances, and many other acts of Joycean homage.

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“A dream, which was not all a dream”: dark reflections from June 1816

Two hundred years ago, on 16 June 1816, one of the most remarkable gatherings in English literary history occurred in a villa just outside Geneva. Present at the occasion were Lord Byron, who had left England in April to escape (unsuccessfully, in the event) the scandal surrounding his separation from Lady Byron; John Polidori, whom Byron had engaged as his personal physician.

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A timeout: the methods of etymology

I expected that my series on dogs would inspire a torrent of angry comments. After all, dog is one of the most enigmatic words in English etymology, but the responses were very few. I am, naturally, grateful to those who found it possible to say something about the subject I was discussing for five weeks, especially to those who liked the essays.

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American Entomologist

Researchers use drones and satellite photos to document illegal logging in monarch butterfly reserve

The monarch butterfly has been called “the Bambi of the insect world.” These fascinating insects are famous for their bright colors and their incredible fall migratory route, which can be as long as 2,500 miles. Starting from as far north as Canada, millions of monarchs take a two-month journey to a mountain range that straddles the border of two Mexican states, Michoacán and México, where they spend the winter.

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The perks and perils of trespassing

Some eight years ago I sat down to draw out a blueprint for a book that should tell stories about how the chemistry of individual elements of the periodic table had changed, for better or for worse, the courses of ordinary peoples’ lives. Several things motivated me; I was sitting on a number of stories where literature and history intersected with chemistry that I would love to tell to a bigger audience

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