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“Stunning” success is still round the corner

By Anatoly Liberman
There are many ways to be surprised (confounded, dumbfounded, stupefied, flummoxed, and even flabbergasted). While recently discussing this topic, I half-promised to return to it, and, although the origin of astonish ~ astound ~ stun is less exciting than that of amaze, it is perhaps worthy of a brief note.

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Reflections on Disko Bay

By Patricia Seed
Miniature icebergs that would fit in the palm of my hand float along the water’s edge, but the air is cold enough to resist the impulse to crouch down and remove my gloves to pick them up. Looking up across the glass-like surface, I spot hundreds of similar chunks like pieces of frozen vanilla popsicle that have fallen just out of reach.

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And the Nobel Prize goes to… Higgs and Englert!

By Jim Baggott
Earlier today the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announced the award of the 2013 Nobel Prize in Physics to English theorist Peter Higgs and Belgian François Englert, for their work on the ‘mechanism that contributes to our understanding of the origin of mass of subatomic particles’. This work first appeared in a series of research papers published in 1964.

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How film music shapes narrative

Reflecting on his futuristic 2002 film Minority Report, Steven Spielberg said “one of the most exciting scenes” he had to shoot was this action scene – in which two characters (John and Agatha) traverse a busy shopping mall with armed police in pursuit, relying on Agatha’s ability to see into the future in order to hide and successfully evade capture.

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Striking Syria when the real danger is Iran

By Louis René Beres
As the world’s attention focuses on still-escalating tensions in Syria, Tehran marches complacently to nuclear weapons status, notably nonplussed and unhindered. When this long-looming strategic plateau is finally reached, most probably in the next two or three years, Israel and the United States will have lost any once-latent opportunities to act preemptively.

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Jackie Robinson and Branch Rickey

15 April 2013 marked the fifth Jackie Robinson Day, commemorating the 66th anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers, an event which broke baseball’s racial barrier. In each game that is now played on 15 April, all players wear Jackie Robinson’s iconic #42 (also the title of a new film on Robinson). Thirty years ago, historian and ardent baseball fan Jules Tygiel proposed the first scholarly study of integration in baseball, shepherded by esteemed Oxford editor, Sheldon Meyer: Baseball’s Great Experiment.

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The essential human foundations of genocide

By Louis René Beres
“In the end,” says Goethe, “we are creatures of our own making.” Although offered as a sign of optimism, this insight seems to highlight the underlying problem of human wrongdoing. After all, in the long sweep of human history, nothing is more evident and palpable than the unending litany of spectacular crimes.

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A holiday maze

By Georgia Mierswa
Ah, the holidays. A time of leisure to eat, drink, be merry, and read up on the meaning of mistletoe in Scandinavian mythology… Taken from the Oxford Index’s quick reference overview pages, the descriptions of the wintry-themed words above are not nearly as simplistic as you might think — and even more intriguing are the related subjects you stumble upon through the OI’s recommended links. I’ll never look at a Christmas tree the same way again.

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In memoriam: Charles Rosen

Charles Rosen, a titan of the music world, passed away on Sunday. He was a fine concert pianist, groundbreaking musicologist, and a thoughtful critic who wrote prolifically, including regular articles for the New York Review of Books, not just on music but on its broader cultural contexts. We’re excerpting his entry in Grove Music Online below.

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Curly-murly, flippy-floppy boom-booms

By Mark Peters
There are many words I love. Some of my favorites are abyss and buttmunch. I also love many categories of words, such as euphemisms and variations of the f-word. One of my favorite types of word makes my heart go thump-thump and pit-a-pat: reduplicative words. Reduplicative words are far more than a bunch of mumbo-jumbo, though they’re often a load of gaga.

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Mad Men and the dangerous fruit of persuasion

With the season premiere of AMC’s Mad Men coming this weekend, we thought we’d use this opportunity to introduce you to one of the most highly respected scientists in the field of Persuasion. As a matter of fact, many people consider Dr. Robert Cialdini as the “Godfather of influence”. What better way to do that then provide you with the foreword he wrote to a just-released book, Six Degrees of Social Influence. Enjoy his words below and enjoy the premiere.

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The case against pension-financed infrastructure

By Edward Zelinsky
Media reports have indicated that New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has been considering the use of public pension funds to finance the replacement of the Tappan Zee Bridge and to underwrite other infrastructure investments in the Empire State. This is a bad idea, harmful both to the governmental employees of the Empire State and to New York’s taxpayers. Using public pension monies in this fashion trades the immediate benefits of public construction for the long-term cost of underfunded public retirement plans.

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On the need for an avant-garde in strategic studies

In an important work of contemporary philosophy and social science, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Thomas S. Kuhn articulates the vital idea of “paradigm.” By this idea, which has obvious parallels in the arts, Kuhn refers to certain examples of scientific practice that provide theoretical models for further inquiry: Ptolemaic or Copernican astronomy; Aristotelian dynamics; Newtonian mechanics, and so on. At any given moment in history, we learn, the prevailing paradigm within a given discipline defines the basic contours of all subsequent investigation.

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Neuromania

By Paolo Legrenzi and Carlo Umlitá
Increasingly often, the press offers explanations of human behaviour by drawings, photographs, and graphic descriptions of sections of the brain which show that part of our grey matter that is activated when we think about something or plan an action. We are told that how we behave depends on the functioning of certain neurons. We hear about new disciplines such as neuroeconomics, neuroaesthetics, neuroethics, neuropolitics, neuromarketing, and even neurotheology (over 20,000 results on Google!).

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Assassinating terrorist leaders: A matter of international law

By Louis René Beres

Osama bin Laden was assassinated by U.S. special forces on May 1, 2011. Although media emphasis thus far has been focused almost entirely on the pertinent operational and political issues surrounding this “high value” killing, there are also important jurisprudential aspects to the case. These aspects require similar attention. Whether or not killing Osama was a genuinely purposeful assassination from a strategic perspective, a question that will be debated for years to come, we should now also inquire: Was it legal?

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