Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

From the life of words, part 1

From time to time, various organizations invite me to speak about the history of words. The main question I hear is why words change their meaning. Obviously, I have nothing new to say on this subject, for there is a chapter on semantic change in countless books, both popular and special.

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12 Star Wars facts from a galaxy far, far away

On 25 May 1977, a small budget science fiction movie by a promising director premiered on less than 50 screens across the United States and immediately became a cultural phenomenon. Star Wars, George Lucas’ space opera depicting the galactic struggle between an evil Empire and a scrappy group of rebels, became the highest-grossing movie of the year and changed the course of movie history and American pop culture.

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Wilfrid Sellars and the nature of normativity

Wilfrid Sellars would have been 105 this month. He stands out as one of the more ambitiously systematic philosophers of the last century, with contributions to ethics, metaphysics, epistemology, and philosophy of language, alongside incisive historical examinations of Kant, and several others. We can read him as a philosopher in a classical mode, always in conversation with figures from the past.

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Asking Gandhi tough questions

Why did Gandhi exclude black South Africans from his movement? Could Gandhi reconcile his service in the Boer War with his later anti-imperialism? Why did Gandhi oppose untouchability, but not caste?

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Agricultural policy after Brexit

A majority of Britain’s farmers voted for Brexit in the referendum. This is perhaps surprising in the context of an industry which receives around £3 billion in subsidies from the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), and yet comprises only about 0.7% GDP. Of all the vested interests, British farmers have more to lose from Brexit than almost any other industry. From the public interest perspective, there is much to gain.

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How well do you know early video game history?

From their genesis in the development of computers after World War II to the ubiquity of mobile phones today, video games have had an extensive rise in a relatively short period of time. What started as the experimental hobbies of MIT students and US government scientists of the 1950s and 60s became a burgeoning industry with the emergence of home consoles and arcades in the 1970s.

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Why are world food problems so hard to solve?

More than 20 million people in Yemen, South Sudan, Somalia, and northeast Nigeria are now facing extreme hunger, with the potential for not just widespread death, but also the deepening of long-term political and military crises in East Africa. United Nations humanitarian coordinator Stephen O’Brien has called this food crisis the world’s greatest humanitarian crisis since 1945.

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Why are giant pandas black and white?

Most people in the western world learn that the giant panda has striking black and white colouration at kindergarten; but are never told why! The question is problematic because there are virtually no other mammals with this sort of colouration pattern, making analogies difficult. At UC Davis and CSU Long Beach, we instead decided to break up the external appearance of giant pandas into different regions

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Analyzing genre in Star Wars

Inaugurating the most financially successful franchise in the history of entertainment, the original Star Wars (1977) has become one of the most widely and intensely loved movies of all time. Film scholars, however, lambasted Star Wars for its simplicity.

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Julius Evola in the White House

Conjecture and supposition tend to dog public figures who avoid the press. But the attention paid to Trump’s embattled Chief Strategist Steve Bannon is uncanny. Bannon’s reluctance to speak with the media—combined with a steady stream of commentary on him from anonymous associates and friends—is fueling speculation about his agenda and ideology.

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Aristophanes: Frogs and other plays [extract]

The Theatre of Dionysos in Athens, on the south-east slope of the Akropolis, was the location for the dramatic performances at both the City Dionysia and, almost certainly, the Lenaia too (cf.‘Aristophanes’ Career’, above).

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Mental health at all ages

This May, Mental Health Awareness Month turns 68. To raise awareness of the fact that mental health issues affect individuals at all stages of the life course, we have put together a brief reading list of articles from The Journals of Gerontology: Social Sciences Series B. These articles also explore aspects of mental health that may be under-appreciated in the traditional social psychological literature.

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A photographer’s guide to solar eclipses

How do you capture the spectacle of a total eclipse with a camera? Photographing an eclipse isn’t difficult. It doesn’t take fancy or expensive equipment. You can take a snapshot of an eclipse with a simple camera (even a smartphone) if you can hold the camera steady or place it on a tripod. The first step in eclipse photography is to decide what kind of pictures you want.

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The Walking Dead and the security state

Did The Walking Dead television series help get President Donald J. Trump elected? During the presidential campaign, pro-Trump ads regularly interrupted episodes of the AMC series. Jared Kushner, who ran the campaign’s data program, explained to Forbes that the campaign’s predictive data analysis suggested it could optimize voter targeting by selectively buying ad-space in shows such as The Walking Dead.

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