Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

some men

Learning from Chris Norton over three decades—Part I

The guy at the front of the room was saying stuff I’d never heard a man say before, especially to a room full of young college guys. Through my basketball-player-eyes, I sized him up to be at least 6’5” with the broad shoulders of a power forward

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9780190219475

Max Planck’s debt

The great German physicist Max Planck once said, “However many specialties science may split into, it remains fundamentally an indivisible whole.” He declared that the divisions and subdivisions of scientific disciplines were “not based on the nature of things.”

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Lawrence+McCartney_Mathmeticians (2)

Will we ever need maths after school?

What is the purpose of mathematics? Or, as many a pupil would ask the teacher on a daily basis: “When are we going to need this?” There is a considerably ruder version of a question posed by Billy Connolly on the internet, but let’s not go there.

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Technology and the evolving portrait of the composer

It’s a cartoon image from my childhood: a man with wild hair, wearing a topcoat, and frantically waving a baton with a deranged look on his face. In fact, this caricature of what a composer should look like was probably inspired by the popular image of Beethoven: moody, distant, a loner… a genius lost in his own world.

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The new social contracts

Fire and collapse in Bangladeshi factories are no longer unexpected news, and sweatshop scandals are too familiar. Conflicting moral, legal, and political claims abound. But there have been positives, and promises of more. The best hope for progress may be in the power of individual contracts.

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The undiscovered elements

How can an element be lost? Scientists, and the general public, have always thought of them as being found, or discovered. However, more elements have been “undiscovered” than discovered, more “lost” than found.

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Freedom from Detention for Central American Refugee Families

August 19th is World Humanitarian Day, declared by the UN General Assembly in 2008, out of a growing concern for the safety and security of humanitarian workers who are increasingly killed and wounded direct military attacks or infected by disease when helping to combat global health pandemics.

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Incoherence of Court’s dissenters in same-sex marriage ruling

The Supreme Court’s much-anticipated decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, the same-sex marriage case, is pretty much what most people expected: a 5-4 decision, with Justice Kennedy — the swing voter between the Court’s four liberals and four conservatives — writing a majority opinion that strikes down state prohibitions.

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Who was Richard Abegg?

One of the most interesting developments in the history of chemistry has been the way in which theories of valency have evolved over the years. We are rapidly approaching the centenary of G.N. Lewis’ 1916 article in which he proposed the simple idea that a covalent bond consists of a shared pair of electrons.

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Individuals as groups, groups as individuals

People exist at different times. My life, for instance, consists of me-at-age-five, me-as-a-teenager, me-as-a-university-student, and of course many other temporal stages (or time-slices) as well. In a sense, then, we can see a single person, whose life extends over time, as akin to a group of people, each of whom exists for just a short stretch of time.

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Mullah Omar’s death and the Haqqani factor

The recently-acknowledged death of Taliban leader Mullah Muhammad Omar has prompted a raft of commentary on what this means for the movement, particularly in relation to its ability and willingness to continue engaging in peace talks. But how much can we reasonably know about how the Taliban will move forward, particularly when so much hinges on how the leadership transition unfolds?

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Amartya Sen on the Modi government, education, health care, and politics

“I had been out for a walk and got caught in the rain,” says Sen, smiling as he walks in to greet us. His knees do not permit him to pedal around Santiniketan as he once did. He is in a pleasant mood, in spite of the controversy surrounding his ouster from Nalanda University and his latest book, The Country of First Boys: And Other Essays, out next month.

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Does ‘divine hiddenness’ belong to theists or to atheists?

Theistic literature is full of references and allusions to a self-concealing deity. The psalm writer whose poems are included in the Hebrew Bible regularly calls out, in alternating notes of perplexity, impatience and despair, to a God whose felt presence apparently seemed frustratingly inconstant. But he or she still assumes that God is there.

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Water and conflict

The four-year drought in California, which is causing severe water shortages and related problems, is receiving increasingly more attention. It is affecting everyone, causing people to adjust their lifestyles and causing small business owners and entire industries to rethink their use–and misuse–of water.

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Studying botany in college

Many of us involved in teaching botany feel a sense of urgency in our profession. Botany departments, botany majors, and botany curricula have gradually disappeared from most colleges and universities in the US,

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