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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

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The Perfect Tenses in English

What could be simpler than grammatical tense—things happening now are in the present, things happening before are in the past, and things that haven’t happened yet are in the future. If only it were so easy. Consider the present tense. Its meaning often refers not to things happening right now but to some general state […]

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How religious sects can be a force for good

On Sunday, 29 March, Russell M. Nelson, president of the 16-million-member Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, released a video from Salt Lake City calling on church members everywhere to join in a fast “to pray for relief from the physical, emotional, and economic effects of this global pandemic.” Some 71 years before, on […]

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Why vaccines should be compulsory

Imagine we develop a vaccine against the coronavirus (COVID-19). Suppose the vaccine has some very small chance of some serious side effects, for instance seizures. However, this vaccine can save millions of lives globally, in the same way as other vaccines do. You are the prime minister and you have to decide whether to make […]

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Re-reading Camus’s The Plague in pandemic times

Sometime in the 1940s in the sleepy colonial city of Oran, in French occupied Algeria, there was an outbreak of plague. First rats died, then people. Within days, the entire city was quarantined: it was impossible to get out, and no one could get in. This is the fictional setting for Albert Camus’s second most famous novel, The Plague (1947). And yes, there are some similarities to our current situation with the coronavirus.  First, […]

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How G. E. M. Anscombe revolutionised 20th-century western philosophy

Gertrude Elizabeth Margaret Anscombe (b. 1919-d. 2001) was an important figure and gave significant contributions to the field of analytic philosophy, philosophy of mind, and moral and religious philosophy. Born in Limerick in March 1919 to Allen Anscombe and Gertrude Anscombe (nee Thomas), the family returned to England when her father returned from the British Army […]

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Why self-help won’t cure impostor syndrome

Do you feel as if your professional success is due to some kind of mistake? That you don’t deserve your grades, promotions, or accolades? That you’re somehow getting away with a fraud which could be uncovered at any moment?  We have a name for that cluster of anxieties: you’re suffering from impostor syndrome. At the heart […]

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Maria Edgeworth, Jane Austen’s forgotten idol

In the first years of the nineteenth century the most prominent, and highly respected, novelist in Britain was a woman. It was not Jane Austen but her contemporary, Maria Edgeworth. Indeed Austen was herself a fan of the woman regarded as “the great Maria.” “I have made up my mind to like no Novels really, […]

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A visual history of skyscrapers [infographic]

Where did the structural capability for skyscrapers come from? The 1860s saw the refinement of the Bessamer process, or a steel-making process, now largely superseded, in which carbon, silicon, and other impurities are removed from molten pig iron by oxidation in a blast of air in a special tilting retort, pushing skyscraper construction into unstoppable […]

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Yesterday’s fake news: Donald Trump as a 1980s literary critic

In 1987, during a CNN interview with Republican political consultant Pat Buchanan, author and real estate developer Donald Trump was asked about his taste in literature. “Well I have a number of favorite authors,” Trump replied. “I think Tom Wolfe is excellent.” “Did you read Vanity of the Bonfires?” Buchanan asks. “I did not,” Trump responds. […]

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Why it’s so hard to write a William Wordsworth biography

“A divine morning–At Breakfast William wrote part of an ode—Mr Olliff sent the Dung & William went to work in the garden.”  This entry in Dorothy Wordsworth’s journal for 1802 is characteristically straightforward, but for the biographer how to deal with it is anything but. After years of unsettled wandering William and Dorothy Wordsworth had returned to the Lake District where […]

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Seven classics for comfort reading [reading list]

The impact of the COVID-19 can be felt in all areas of our lives, with many staying at home for the next few weeks. Perhaps this is an opportunity to finally start your copy of War & Peace that’s been on the to-be-read pile for years or you find yourself revisiting old friends in Jane Austen’s world. […]

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Why an Irish Buddhist resisted empire in Burma

On 2 March 1901, during the full moon festival at Rangoon’s Shwedagon pagoda, the Buddhist monk U Dhammaloka confronted an off-duty colonial policeman and ordered him to take off his shoes. Burmese pagodas are stupas, containing relics of the Buddha, so wearing shoes on them (as white colonials did) was a serious mark of disrespect. […]

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How Title IX changed American ballet

It has been nearly 50 years since Title IX of the Education Amendments was passed in 1972, prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex by federally funded entities. Title IX proved critical in opening many fields of endeavor to girls and women and is perhaps most famous for its impact on sports. According to Women’s […]

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The mystery of the Elder Pliny’s skull

Has part of the body of the Elder Pliny, the most famous Roman victim of Vesuvius, been recovered?  The story surrounding the relic is a source of continuing fascination. When Vesuvius erupted in 79 C.E. the Elder Pliny was under 20 miles away. He was quite unaware that Vesuvius was a volcano, despite publishing Rome’s […]

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How religion affects global pandemics

People sometimes see religion as an unwelcome infection affecting the secular politics of international relations. Such attitudes easily present themselves in consideration of terrorism and violence. Religion is seen to distort and hamper the healthy peaceful progress of secular politics, operating as an outside pathogen that inflames tensions and challenges already present in global affairs. Religion […]

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How strategists are improving team decision-making processes

How companies and teams make decisions can be very challenging. Poor or ill-structured decision-making processes can make the organization less successful and create destructive conflicts in decision-making teams. But there are a few strategies companies can try that help organizations make big decisions in a better way. People operate in complex and dynamic environments, making […]

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