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Friday procrastination: milking edition

It’s been an eventful week in Oxford spires (although I write this from the New York office which contains no spires). We had a kerfuffle over the OED and we’re gearing up for the Place of the Year extravaganza next week. So what have we learned in between?

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How to avoid programming

By Robert St. Amant
What does a computer scientist do? You might expect that we spend a lot of our time programming, and this sometimes happens, for some of us. When I spend a few weeks or even months building a software system, the effort can be enormously fun and satisfying. But most of the time, what I actually do is a bit different. Here’s an example from my past work, related to the idea of computational thinking.

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Computer programming is the new literacy

By Robert St. Amant
It’s widely held that computer programming is the new literacy. (Disagreement can be found, even among computing professionals, but it’s not nearly as common.) It’s an effective analogy. We all agree that everyone should be literate, and we might see a natural association between writing letters for people to read and writing programs for computers to carry out.

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9780195341119

Biblical women and Lifetime’s The Red Tent

The Red Tent was perfect for the Lifetime channel. The network’s four-hour miniseries closely followed Anita Diamont’s 1997 novel, which gave voice—and agency—to the biblical character of Dinah.

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Weisberg In Praise of Intransigence

Defining intransigence and recognizing its merits

On any given day, a Google search finds the word “intransigent” deployed as though it automatically destroyed an opponent’s position. Charles Blow of the New York Times and Jacob Weisberg (no relation to the present writer) of Slate are only two of many, especially on the political left, who label Republicans “intransigent” and thereby assume they have won the argument against them.

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Leonardo da Vinci from the Benezit Dictionary of Artists

Leonardo da Vinci was the illegitimate son of the Florentine notary Ser Piero da Vinci, who married Albiera di Giovanni Amadori, the daughter of a patrician family, in the year Leonardo was born. Little is known about the artist’s natural mother, Caterina, other than that five years after Leonardo’s birth she married an artisan from Vinci named Chartabriga di Piero del Veccha.

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Come together in Adam Smith

By Daniel B. Klein
I support a classical liberal worldview. I call to social democrats and conservatives alike: Be fair. Let us treat one another like fellow Smithians and come together in Adam Smith.

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Who really deciphered the Egyptian Hieroglyphs?

By Andrew Robinson
The polymath Thomas Young (1773-1829) — physicist, physiologist, physician and polyglot, among several other things — became hooked on the scripts and languages of ancient Egypt in 1814, the year he began to decipher the Rosetta Stone. He continued to study the hieroglyphic and demotic scripts with variable intensity for the rest of his life, literally until his dying day. The challenge of being the first modern to read the writing of what appeared then to be the oldest civilization in the world — far older than the classical civilization of Young’s beloved Greeks — was irresistible to a man who was as equally gifted in languages, ancient and contemporary, as he was in science.

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Commemorating Tippecanoe: The start of an American holy war

By Adam Jortner
The weather in Tippecanoe County, Indiana, played along and delivered a dreary, wet morning—just as it had on November 7, 1811, when a hodgepodge collection of frontier whites exchanged fire with Native American forces. The Americans “won” the Battle of Tippecanoe when the Indian soldiers retreated, but U.S. forces under William Henry Harrison had to evacuate their position the next day.

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