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Captain Cook sights Australia

This Day in World History
“What we have as yet seen of this land appears rather low, and not very hilly, the face of the Country green and Woody, but the Sea shore is all a white Sand.” Thus James Cook concluded his log entry for April 19, 1770 — the day Europeans first sighted the continent of Australia.

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Paradox and flowcharts

The Liar paradox arises when we consider the following declarative sentence: This sentence is false. Given some initially intuitive platitudes about truth, the Liar sentence is true if and only if it is false. Thus, the Liar sentence can’t be true, and can’t be false, violating out intuition that all declarative sentences are either true or false (and not both). There are many variants of the Liar paradox. For example, we can formulate relatively straightforward examples of interrogative Liar paradoxes, such as the following Liar question: Is the answer to this question “no”?

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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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Beer: A Global Journey through the Past and Present

Ten refreshing books to read for National Beer Day [reading list]

Beer is one of the world’s oldest produced alcoholic beverages and since its invention some 13,000 years ago, people across the globe have been brewing, consuming, and even worshiping this amber nectar. Whether you prefer a pale ale, wheat beer, stout, or lager, from the cask or a humble bottle, beer enthusiasts can agree that the topic of beer is as complex as its taste.

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The surviving letters of Jane Austen

Famed English novelist Jane Austen had an extensive, intimate correspondence with her older sister Cassandra throughout her life, writing thousands of letters before her untimely death at the age of 41 in July 1817. However, only 161 have survived to this day. Cassandra purged the letters in the 1840s, destroying a majority and censoring those that remained of any salacious gossip in a bid to protect Jane’s reputation.

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A Q&A with composer Will Todd

British composer and pianist Will Todd has worked at the Royal Opera House, the Lincoln Center in New York, London’s Barbican, and with Welsh National Opera, award-winning choirs The Sixteen, the BBC Singers, and Tenebrae. His music is valued for its melodic intensity and harmonic skill, which often incorporates jazz colours. We caught up with Will to ask him a few questions about his inspiration and approach to composition.

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Silas Marner, Threads, and Weaving [an excerpt]

Repetition and storytelling are bound in the novel’s representation of weaving, a theme that exemplifies the manner in which Silas Marner deftly moves between fable and realism. Classical mythology and fairy tales are crowded with weavers. Silas’s insect-like activity (he is reduced ‘to the unquestioning activity of a spinning insect’ and ‘seemed to weave, like the spider, from pure impulse, without reflection’ (p. 14)) calls to mind the myth of Arachne, who boldly challenged a goddess to a weaving contest.

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How to be a successful special adviser: five tips

Political advice is the topic of the moment. Added to periodic quarrels about the pay and influence of special advisers, a new US President is putting the final touches to his team of advisers while the British Prime Minister faces an array of conflicting recommendations about Brexit. Advice itself seems to have become politicised.

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Where to eat in San Diego during SfN 2016

In just a few days, the Society for Neuroscience annual meeting will be kicking off in San Diego, California. I’ve had a number of homes in my 48 years; the most recent being the New York/New Jersey area for the last ten years as part of Oxford University Press. But the longest home, and the one I keep coming back to, is San Diego. The weather is perfect, the multi-cultural facets are inspiring, the local universities top-notch, and the food scene is divine.

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‘Us’ and ‘Them’: Can we define national identity?

Surveys show that a high percentage of British citizens “feel British.” But what exactly do people have in mind when they say this? People may think differently about this question, and perhaps it is also British to give various meanings to British identity. Still, can we define what it is to “feel” British? Or even what is un-British—be it a pattern of behavior, a belief, or a way of doing things?

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The 34 most popular OUPblog posts of the last ten years

Yesterday we shared 34 selections of the OUPblog’s best work as judged by sharp editorial eyes and author favorites. However, only one of those selections coincides with the most popular posts according to pageviews. Does Google Analytics know something that our editors do not? Do these articles simply “pop” (and promptly deflate)? Or are there certain questions to which people always demand an answer?

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The best of a decade on the OUPblog

Wednesday, 22 July 2015, marks the tenth anniversary of the OUPblog. In one decade our authors, staff, and friends have contributed over 8,000 blog posts, from articles and opinion pieces to Q&As in writing and on video, from quizzes and polls to podcasts and playlists, from infographics and slideshows to maps and timelines. Anatoly Liberman alone has written over 490 articles on etymology. Sorting through the finest writing and the most intriguing topics over the years seems a rather impossible task.

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ZaSu Pitts, the little-known confectioner

Silent-screen star ZaSu Pitts is usually remembered for her extraordinary name, her huge eyes, and her fluttering fingers, but not many know that she also put her nimble fingers to confectionery use, crafting elegant candies that were famous on Hollywood sets.

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FEMS Microbiology Letters

Is the history of science still relevant?

It was a simple request: “Try and put the fun back into microbiology”. I was about to write a new practical course for first year students, and apparently there had been complaints that microbiology is just another form of cookbook chemistry. Discussions showed that they liked the idea of doing their own experiments without a pre-determined outcome. Of course, with living microorganisms, safety must be a major concern, and some control was needed to prevent hazardous surprises, but “fun” and safety are not mutually exclusive.

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Putting one’s foot into it

Last week, I wrote about the idiom to cry barley, used by children in Scotland and in the northern counties of England, but I was interested in the word barley “peace, truce” rather than the phrase. Today I am returning to the north, and it is the saying the bishop has put (or set) his foot in it that will be at the center of our attention.

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The final years of Fanny Cornforth

Family historians know the sensation of discovery when some longstanding ‘brick wall’ in their search for an elusive ancestor is breached. Crowds at the recent ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ exhibition at Birmingham explored the new resources available to assist their researches, and millions worldwide subscribe to online genealogical sites, hosting ever-growing volumes of digitized historical records, in the hope of tracking down their family roots.

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