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A taxonomy of kisses

Where kissing is concerned, there is an entire categorization of this most human of impulses that necessitates taking into account setting, relationship health, and the emotional context in which the kiss occurs. A relationship’s condition might be predicted and its trajectory timeline plotted by observing and understanding how the couple kiss. For instance, viewed through the lens of a couple’s dynamic, a peck on the cheek can convey cold, hard rejection or simply signify that a loving couple are pressed for time.

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Race relations in America and the case of Ferguson

The fatal shooting of African-American teenager Michael Brown, in Ferguson, Missouri during a police altercation in Augusts 2014, resulted in massive civil unrest and protests that received considerable attention from the United States and abroad.

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Race, sex, and colonialism

As an Africanist historian who has long been committed to reaching broader publics, I was thrilled when the research team for the BBC’s popular genealogy program Who Do You Think You Are? contacted me late last February about an episode they were working on that involved mixed race relationships in colonial Ghana.

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Oxford Companion to Food

Nine types of meat you may have never tried

Sometimes what is considered edible is subject to a given culture or region of the world; what someone from Nicaragua would consider “local grub” could be entirely different than what someone in Paris would eat. How many different types of meat have you experienced? Are there some types of meat you would never eat? Below are nine different types of meat, listed in The Oxford Companion to Food, that you may not have considered trying.

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How much do you know about Alexander the Great?

Alexander the Great died more than two-thousand years ago, yet his name lives on as a reminder of his innumerable conquests and incredible leadership. Born in 356 bc, Alexander was tutored in his early years by Aristotle before succeeding his father Philip as King of Macedonia and the mainland of Greece. How much do you know about one of history’s greatest leaders?

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Contagious disease throughout the ages

Contagious disease is as much a part of our lives as the air we breathe and the earth we walk on. Throughout history, humankind’s understanding of disease has shifted dramatically as different cultures developed unique philosophic, religious and scientific beliefs.

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Blue LED lighting and the Nobel Prize for Physics

When I wrote Materials: A Very Short Introduction (published later this month) I made a list of all the Nobel Prizes that had been awarded for work on materials. There are lots. The first was the 1905 Chemistry prize to Alfred von Baeyer for dyestuffs (think indigo and denim). Now we can add another, as the 2014 Physics prize has been awarded to the three Japanese scientists who discovered how to make blue light-emitting diodes.

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Oxford Companion to Food

What’s your gut feeling?

There is an unquantifiable amount of different types of food across the world, ranging from lesser known edibles like elephant garlic and ship’s biscuit to more familiar foods like chocolate and oranges. In the newly updated Oxford Companion to Food, readers will discover more than 3,000 comprehensive entries on every type of food imaginable, and a richly descriptive account of food culture around the world.

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Do you have a vulgar tongue?

Slang is in a constant state of reinvention. The evolution of language is a testament to our world’s vast and complex history; words and their meanings undergo transformations that reflect a changing environment such as urbanization.

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Why do you love the VSIs?

The 400th Very Short Introduction, ‘Knowledge’, was published this week. In order to celebrate this remarkable series, we asked various colleagues at Oxford University Press to explain why they love the VSIs.

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The Hunger Games and a dystopian Eurozone economy

The latest resounding dystopian success is The Hunger Games—a box-office hit located in a nation known as Panem, which consists of 12 poor districts, starved for resources, under the absolute control of a wealthy centre called the Capitol. In the story, competitive struggle is carried to its brutal extreme, as poor young adults in a reality TV show must fight to death in an outdoor arena controlled by an authoritarian Gamemaker, until only one individual remains.

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What commuters know about knowing

If your morning commute involves crowded public transportation, you definitely want to find yourself standing next to someone who is saying something like, “I know he’s stabbed people, but has he ever killed one?” . It’s of course best to enjoy moments like this in the wild, but I am not above patrolling Overheard in London for its little gems (“Shall I give you a ring when my penguins are available?”), or, on an especially desperate day, going all the way back to the London-Lund Corpus of Spoken English, a treasury of oddly informative conversations.

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Whose muse mews?

What could be more fun than an internet quiz about cats? We sat down with Oxford Scholarly Editions Online, and fired up the search, looking for cats stalking the pages of literature. We found some lovely stuff, and something more – a literary reflection of the cat’s unstoppable gambol up the social ladder: a mouser and rat-catcher in the seventeenth century, he springs up the stairs in the eighteenth century to become the plaything of smart young ladies and companion of literary lions such as Cowper, Dr Johnson, and Horace Walpole.

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