Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

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A question of consciousness

By Susan Blackmore
The problem of consciousness is real, deep and confronts us any time we care to look. Ask yourself this question ‘Am I conscious now?’ and you will reply ‘Yes’. Then, I suggest, you are lured into delusion – the delusion that you are conscious all the time, even when you are not asking about it.

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Is our language too masculine?

As Women’s History month comes to a close, we wanted to share an important debate that Simon Blackburn, author of Ethics: A Very Short Introduction, participated in for IAITV. Joined by Scottish feminist linguist Deborah Cameron and feminist psychologist Carol Gilligan, they look at what we can do to build a more feminist language.

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Ice time

Jamie Woodward
On 23 September 1840 the wonderfully eccentric Oxford geologist William Buckland (1784–1856) and the Swiss naturalist Louis Agassiz (1809–1873) left Glasgow by stagecoach on a tour of the Scottish Highlands

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Thinking more about our teeth

By Peter S. Ungar
Most of us only think about teeth when something’s wrong with them — when they come in crooked, break, or begin to rot. But take a minute to consider your teeth as the extraordinary feat of engineering they are. They concentrate and transmit the forces needed to break food, again and again, up to millions of times over a lifetime. And they do it without themselves being broken in the process — with the very same raw materials used to make the plants and animals being eaten.

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Law and the quest for justice

By Raymond Wacks
The law is always news. It plays a central role of law in our social, political, moral, and economic life. But what is this thing called law? Does it consist of a set of universal moral principles in accordance with nature? Or is it merely a collection of largely man-made rules, commands, or norms? Does the law have a specific purpose, such as the protection of individual rights, the attainment of justice, or economic, political, and sexual equality? Can the law change society as it has done in South Africa?

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Best Original Score: Who will win (and who should!)

By Kathryn Kalinak
This year’s slate of contenders includes established pros (John Williams, Thomas Newman, Alexandre Desplat) along with some newcomers (William Butler and Owen Pallett, Steven Price). This used to be a category where you had to pay your dues, but no longer.

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Art and industry in film

With the Oscars round the corner, we’re delving into Film: A Very Short Introduction. Here’s an extract from Chapter 3 of Michael Wood’s book. In this extract he looks at the industry and the role of the moviegoer.

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The world’s revolutions [infographic]

How many revolutions have there been in the world’s history? Are they all violent? As revolutions around the world continue to make front page news, we asked Jack Goldstone, author of Revolutions: A Very Short Introduction, to help us pull together a timeline of the revolutions that have shaped the world.

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Is love real?

In honor of Valentine’s Day today, the holiday that celebrates love, we’re sharing an excerpt from Emotion: A Very Short Introduction by Dylan Evans. Evans presents us with the differing opinions on romantic love. Some believe it to be an invention, while others classify it as a universal emotion hardwired into the brain. As we open heart-shaped boxes of candy today, is it possible that the romantic love we feel is something we learned from the romantic stories we read and saw in our life?

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Celebrating Charles Darwin’s birthday

February 12th has been coined Darwin Day because it marks the anniversary of the birthday of Charles Darwin. One could come up with several creative ways to celebrate the life of such an influential and revered scientist—baking a cake with 73 candles in honor of Darwin’s 73 years of life, or taking a walk through a local park or nature reserve in an attempt to make observations about wild animals, to name a few.

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Nations and liberalism?

By Steven Grosby
Nationalism and nations have understandably been associated with the most illiberal treatment of human beings. History is replete with well-known examples of the murder of innocents in the cause of some nation. It continues today, for example, in Syria, Kurdistan, the Kashmir, and other places.

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Ronald Reagan Day

By Gil Troy
When running for president in 2008, Barack Obama infuriated both Bill and Hillary Clinton by saying he dreamed of being a transformational leader like Ronald Reagan – and unlike Bill Clinton. Insulted by this challenge to their legacy, the Clintons accused their opponent of endorsing Reagan’s policies, when Obama was assessing impact not ideology.

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A goddess’s long life

By Amanda Podany
As an undergraduate, long before I chose to become an ancient historian, I took a course on ancient art history. I remember sitting in the darkened auditorium in the first weeks of the term, looking at images of prehistoric art and scribbling down notes as the professor paced the stage and pointed out features of each slide. Then came an image that took my breath away: a white marble face of a woman, almost life-size (though blown up to about six feet tall on the screen).

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A crossroads for antisemitism?

By Steven Beller
In the conclusion to Antisemitism VSI (2007) I saw antisemitism as an almost completely spent force. Events since then give one pause for thought. Israel appears no more accepted as a “good citizen” by much of the international community, and Jews continue to be attacked for their supposed support of the “Jewish state”.

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Fractal shapes and the natural world

By Kenneth Falconer
Fractal shapes, as visualizations of mathematical equations, are astounding to look at. But fractals look even more amazing in their natural element—and that happens to be in more places than you might think.

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