Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

Becoming Someone New

Transformative choice and “Big Decisions”

Imagine being invited by a trusted friend to a “life-changing” event. Should you go? The event could be a church service, self-help talk, concert, movie, festival, hike, play, dinner party, book club, union organizing meeting, etc. What sorts of considerations do you reach for in making your choice? The philosopher L. A. Paul has put problems like these, termed transformative choices, on the map for philosophical and scientific inquiry.

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Etymologies in bulk and in bunches

Two things sometimes come as a surprise even to an experienced etymologist. First, it may turn out that such words happen to be connected as no one would suspect of having anything in common. Second is the ability of words to produce one another in what seems to be an arbitrary, capricious, or chaotic way, so that the entire group begins to resemble an analog of a creeping plant.

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Lyricism as activism: Sigurd Olson and The Singing Wilderness

Placing the reader in the poetic and ethical space is the first step toward direct action that affects the larger human community: a step toward activism. Activism formalizes the values that inspire and ultimately direct our will—and action—to preserve and protect. By opening new worlds, other spaces, and creating experiences for the reader—and, crucially, letting the reader explore those worlds for herself or for himself—the lyric writer has an opportunity to create a protected zone for significant communication.

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Journal of Complex Networks

A complex networks approach to ranking professional Snooker players

There is a data revolution taking place in sport whereby athletes are becoming increasingly aware of statistics and, moreover, devoted fans of said sports have amassed huge collections of historical results that readily allow for data-driven mathematical analysis to be conducted. Motivated by this, researchers at MACSI posed the following problem—who is the greatest snooker player of all time?

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Five things you need to know about pronouns

First off, there are more pronouns than you might think. Personal pronouns get most of the attention nowadays, especially the widely accepted singular they and other non-binary pronouns. But personal pronouns are just one group among several.

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GRUR International

Do we need artificial inventors?

Artificial intelligence (AI) has started to unleash a new industrial revolution. It represents a significant technology advantage which already impacts today’s products and services and will drive tomorrow’s industries. Its key importance to the technological progress of future societies is beyond doubt and is reflected by a boom in patent applications on AI technology since 2013 in various industry sectors.

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Spinoza

Was Spinoza a populist? [Long read]

Recent studies of Spinoza’s political theory in a contemporary perspective often place it in one of two categories, depicting him either as a defender of individual free speech and liberal democracy or as a champion of radical democracy and collective popular power. For some, he is something like a liberal supporter of the equal individual rights of all citizens to express whatever is on their mind, an early defender of “free speech.”

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Putting my mouth where my money is: the origin of “haggis”

Haggis, to quote the OED, is “a dish consisting of the heart, lungs, and liver of a sheep, calf, etc. (or sometimes of the tripe and chitterlings), minced with suet and oatmeal, seasoned with salt, pepper, onions, etc., and boiled like a large sausage in the maw of the animal.”

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How can feed additives enhance forage-based diets of beef cattle? [Infographic]

Beef cattle production systems often rely on forage-based diets, consisting of pasture, as a low cost and widely accessible method for feeding herds. Whilst there are financial and practical benefits to forage-based diets, it is important to note that seasonal variations in pasture availability and nutritive quality can impact cattle performance and nutrition. So, are there any solutions to this?

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Environmental histories and potential futures [podcast]

This month marked the 51st observation of Earth Day, which has become one of the largest secular observances in the world. The discourse surrounding environmentalism exists primarily in the realms of science and politics, so we wanted to take this opportunity to talk to researchers who study humankind’s relation with the earth in a broader perspective.

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A Story of Us

What if COVID-19 had emerged in 1719?

We’re often told that the situation created by the attack of the new coronavirus is “unique” and “unprecedented.” And yet, at the same time, scientists assure us that the emergence of new viruses is “natural”—that viruses are always mutating or picking up and losing bits of DNA. But if lethal new viruses have emerged again and again during human history, why has dealing with this one been such a struggle?

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Can skepticism and curiosity get along? Benjamin Franklin shows they can coexist

No matter the contemporary crisis trending on Twitter, from climate change to the US Senate filibuster, people who follow the news have little trouble finding a congenial source of reporting. The writers who worry about polarization, folks like Ezra Klein and Michael Lind, commonly observe the high levels of tribalism that attends journalism and consumption of it. The feat of being skeptical of the other side’s position while turning the same doubts on your own team is apparently in short supply. The consequences of skepticism about disagreeable points of view for the virtues of intellectual curiosity are not good.

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