Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

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9780198732594_450

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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Getting to know the Online Product Marketing Team

Spanning the Atlantic from New York to Oxford, the Global Online Product Marketing team is a motley bunch with a love for all things digital. Custodians of a diverse portfolio of online offerings, they definitely know what’s what on the web. Read on for some literary and digital favourites from the team, and a glimpse into the minds of our online gurus here at Oxford University Press.

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Stanley Milgram: Life and legacy

Stanley Milgram was born on the 15 August 1933. In the early 1960s he carried out a series of experiments which had a not just a significant impact on the field of psychology, but had enormous influence in popular culture. These experiments touched on many profound philosophical questions concerning autonomy, authority, and the capacity of individuals to do the right thing in difficult circumstances.

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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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A comma in Catullus

Only Oscar Wilde could be quite so frivolous when describing a matter as grave as the punctuation of poetry, something that causes particular grief in our attempts to understand ancient texts. Their writers were not so obliging as to provide their poems with punctuation marks, nor to distinguish between capitals and small letters.

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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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Commemorating Sri Aurobindo’s anniversary, the birth of a nation, and a new world

The fifteenth of August commemorates Sri Aurobindo’s birthday, and the birth of independent India, a historical landmark where he played a significant role. Aurobindo, the founder of Purna, or Integral Yoga, is a renowned and controversial poet, educationist, and literary critic, a politician, sociologist, and mystic whose evolutionary worldview represents a breakthrough in history. Nevertheless, what is the relevance of Aurobindo nowadays?

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Florence Nightingale’s syphilis that wasn’t

Nursing lore has long maintained that the mysterious illness that sent Florence Nightingale to bed for 30 years after her return from the Crimea was syphilis. At least that’s what many nursing students were told in the 1960s, when my wife was working on her BSN. Syphilis, however, would be difficult to reconcile with the fact that Nightingale was likely celibate her entire life and had not a single sign or symptom typical of that venereal infection.

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The mystery of Meryl Streep

In Ricki and the Flash, now in theaters, Meryl Streep plays an aging rocker, managing in her fourth decade atop the star pile to once again give us a character unlike any she has played before. Raymond Durgnat attests that, “the stars are a reflection in which the public studies and adjusts its own image of itself…The social history of a nation can be written in terms of its film stars.” So what does Streep’s capricious, unpredictable style reflect?

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Complexities of causation

Imagine the thrill of discovering a new species of frog in a remote part of the Amazon. Scientists are motivated by the opportunity to make new discoveries like this, but also by a desire to understand how things work. It’s one thing to describe the communities of microorganisms in our guts, but quite another to learn what causes these communities to change and how these changes influence health.

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9780199976171

Hillary has a point: In defense of empathy and justice

Hillary Rodham Clinton had a point when she recently urged: “The most important thing each of us can do… is to try even harder to see the world through our neighbors’ eyes, to imagine what it is like to walk in their shoes, to share their pain and their hopes and their dreams.”

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9780195387070

Playing God, Chapter 2

From what was said last week it follows that pagans did not need a highly charged word for “god,” let alone “God.” They recognized a hierarchy of supernatural beings and the division of labor in that “heavenly” crowd. Some disturbed our dreams, some bereaved us of reason, and still others inflicted diseases and in general worked evil and mischief.

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