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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

Rome: the Paradise, the grave, the city, the wilderness

The following is an abridged extract from The Rome We Have Lost by John Pemble and discusses how Rome, the eternal city, the centre of Europe and, in many ways, the world evolved into a city no longer central and unique, but marginal and very similar in its problems and its solutions to other modern cities with a heavy burden of “heritage.” These arguments illuminate the historical significance of Rome’s transformation and the crisis that Europe is now confronting as it struggles to re-invent without its ancestral centre—the city that had made Europe what it was, and defined what it meant to be European.

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Learning about the First World War through German eyes

Thanks to the ongoing centenary commemorations, interest in the First World War has never been higher. Whether it be through visiting the poppies at the Tower, touring the battlefields of Belgium and France, tracking grandad’s war or digging in local archives to uncover community stories – unprecedented numbers of people have come face to face with their history in new and exciting ways.

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Next lane please: the etymology of “street”

As long as there were no towns, people did not need the word street. Yet in our oldest Germanic texts, streets are mentioned. It is no wonder that we are not sure what exactly was meant and where the relevant words came from. Quite obviously, if a word’s meaning is unknown, its derivation will also remain unknown. Paths existed, and so did roads. Surprisingly, the etymology of both words (path and road) is debatable.

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Paris in Translation: Eugène Briffault’s Paris à Table [excerpt]

“When Paris sits down at the table, the entire world stirs….” Eugène Briffault’s Paris à Table captures the manners and customs of Parisian dining in 1845. He gives a panoramic view of the conception of a dish (as detailed as the amount of coal used in stoves) to gastronomy throughout the city—leaving no bread roll unturned as he investigates how Paris eats. The below excerpt from Paris à Table (translated into English by J. Weintraub) provides statistics to capture the magnitude of the Parisian way of life.

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2019, the year of the periodic table

The periodic table turns 150 next year. Given that all scientific concepts are eventually refuted, the durability of the periodic table would suggest an almost transcendent quality that deserves greater scrutiny, especially as the United Nations has nominated 2019 as the year of the Periodic Table. These days it seems that physics gives a fundamental explanation of the periodic table, although historically speaking it was the periodic table that gave rise to parts of atomic physics and quantum theory. I am thinking of Bohr’s 1913 model of the hydrogen atom and his extension of these ideas to the entire periodic table.

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Reverse-mullet pedagogy: valuing horror fiction in the classroom

Are you familiar with the mullet? It’s a distinctive hairstyle—peculiarly popular in continental Europe in the 1980s—in which the hair is cut short on the top and sides but left long at the back. Whatever the aesthetic gravity of the mullet, it comes with a philosophy. The philosophy of the mullet is this: “Business in the front, party in the back.” I’ll argue that the reverse holds true for the horror genre, didactically speaking. Horror fiction is sexy. Horror has zombies. It has ghosts and vampires. It has Hannibal Lecter and Jigsaw, Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees, Freddy Krueger and Leatherface. It has cannibal hillbillies and crazed college kids.

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The life of an activist-musician: Japanese rapper ECD

When the family of the Japanese rap pioneer and activist ECD aka Ishida Yoshinori announced on 24 January 2018 that he had passed away, the music and activist worlds let out a collective sigh of mourning. Zeebra, Japan’s most commercially successful rapper, cried audibly while honoring him on his radio show. Meanwhile, political theorist Ikuo Gonoi credited his constant presence in demonstrations with creating a “liberal moment” mixing culture and politics. But who was ECD, and what were his contributions to Japanese culture?

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We can predict rain but can’t yet predict chronic pain

Accurate weather forecasts allow us to prepare for rain, snow, and temperature changes. We can avoid driving on icy roads, pack an umbrella, or purchase sunblock, depending on what is predicted.  Forecasting also generates information trustworthy enough to evacuate a city at risk from a category 4 hurricane. Meteorology has come a long way; today satellite data inform sophisticated computer weather models. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for forecasting chronic pain. In most cases, health care providers can’t anticipate early or accurately enough which patients might develop long-lasting pain.

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Impunity for international criminals: business as usual?

The shocking images capturing the atrocities of armed conflicts in Syria have so shocked the world that, in March 2011, the UN General Assembly set up the International Impartial and Independent Mechanism (IIIM) to assist in the investigation and prosecution of those responsible for the most serious crimes under international law committed in Syria. The most serious crimes under international law are generally understood to be acts of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. The international support for the IIIM gained traction after the reported confirmation that chem­ical weapons had been used in Syria.

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Women artists in conversation: Zoe Buckman [Q&A]

Zoe Buckman is a young artist and activist whose work in sculpture, photography, embroidery, and installation explores issues of feminism, mortality, and equality. She was born in London in 1985 and lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. Buckman was a featured artist at Pulse Projects New York 2014 and Miami 2016, and was included in the curated Soundscape Park at Art Basel Miami Beach 2016. Her new public work, Champ, produced in collaboration with the Art Production Fund, is located on the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Sweetzer Avenue in front of The Standard in West Hollywood.

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“The American People”: current and historical meanings

Virtually all US politicians are fond of  “The American People.” Indeed, as the ultimate fallback stance for any candidate or incumbent, no other quaint phrase can seem so purposeful. Interesting too, is this banal reference’s stark contrast to its original meaning. That historic meaning was entirely negative. Unequivocally, America’s political founding expresses general disdain for any truly serious notions of popular rule.

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What’s the deal with genetically modified (GM) foods?

It’s complicated; but here is a quick summary of what the controversy over genetically modified foods is all about. GM engineering involves reconfiguring the genes in crop plants or adding new genes that have been created in the laboratory. Scientific modification of plants is not something new. Since time began, nature has been modifying plants and animals through natural evolution, meaning that the plants and ani­mals that adapt best to the changing environment survive and pass their genes on to their offspring. Those that are least fit do not survive.

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How well do you know the US Supreme Court? [quiz]

The Supreme Court is at the heart of the United States of America’s judicial system. Created in the Constitution of 1787 but obscured by the other branches of government during the first few decades of its history, the Court grew to become a co-equal branch in the early 19th century. Its exercise of judicial review—the power that it claimed to determine the constitutionality of legislative acts—gave the Court a unique status as the final arbiter of the nation’s constitutional conflicts. From the slavery question during the antebellum era to abortion and gay rights in more recent times, the Court has decided cases brought to it by individual litigants, and in doing so has shaped American constitutional and legal development.

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OUP Philosophy

Philosopher of the month: Adam Smith [Timeline]

This April, the OUP Philosophy team honors Adam Smith (1723-1790) as their Philosopher of the Month. Smith was an eminent Scottish moral philosopher and the founder of modern economics, best- known for his book, The Wealth of Nations (1776) which was highly influential in the development of Western capitalism.

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Better health care delivery: doing more with existing resources

The healthcare sector faces challenges which are constantly escalating. Populations are growing worldwide and so is the share of the elderly in society. There is a constant proliferation of new medications, diagnostic methods, medical procedures and equipment, and know-how. This huge progress greatly improves the quality of medical treatment but at the same time increases its costs. Governments and authorities are allocating ever growing budgets to healthcare systems but the increased budgets do not cover the increased costs of providing quality healthcare to the public.

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Revered and reviled: George Washington’s relationship with Indian nations

During George Washington’s presidency, Indian delegates were regular visitors to the seat of government. Washington dined with Cherokees, Chickasaws, Creeks, Kaskaskias, Mahicans, Mohawks, Oneidas, and Senecas; in one week late in 1796, he had dinner with four different groups of Indians on four different days—and on such occasions the most powerful man in the United States followed the customs of his Indian visitors, smoked calumet pipes, exchanged wampum belts, and drank punch with them.

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