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Toward a new history of Hasidism

By David Biale
Two years ago, I agreed to serve as the head of an international team of nine scholars from the US, UK, Poland and Israel who are attempting to write a history of Hasidism, the eighteenth-century Eastern European pietistic movement that remains an important force in the Orthodox Jewish world today. I was perhaps not the obvious choice for this role: although I’ve written several articles and book chapters on Hasidism, it has not been my main area of research.

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Textual Variants in the Digital Age

By Christopher Cannon
The editing of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales in the form in which we now read it took many decades of work by a number of different scholars, but there is as yet no readily available edition that takes account of all the different versions in which the Canterbury Tales survives. Some of this is purely pragmatic. There are over 80 surviving manuscripts from before 1500 containing all or some parts of the Tales (55 of these are complete texts or were meant to be).

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Richard Causton, the EUYO, and the Cultural Olympiad

Composer Richard Causton worked with the European Union Youth Orchestra on Twenty-Seven Heavens, premiering in the UK tonight at Usher Hall in Edinburgh as part of the Edinburgh International Festival. Causton composed the work, which he describes as a Concerto for Orchestra, for the 2012 Cultural Olympiad festivities celebrating the UK, London, and the Olympics.

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The science behind drugs in sport

What is cheating? What drug compounds for performance enhancement are legal and why? Why do the sports drug classification systems change all the time? If all the chemical were legal, what effect would this have on sport? Biochemist and author Chris Cooper explores the biological, moral, political, and ethical issues involved in controlling drug use in sports.

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Bob Chilcott and Charles Bennett on “The Angry Planet”

Composer Bob Chilcott and librettist Charles Bennett discuss their experiences of creating “The Angry Planet”, a large-scale cantata on the theme of the environment which was premiered at the 2012 Proms by the Bach Choir, the BBC Singers, the National Youth Choir of Great Britain, and London schoolchildren.

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British Olympic lives

By Mark Curthoys
The London Games have unsurprisingly stimulated renewed interest in Britain’s Olympic heritage. The National Archives has made available online records of the modern Olympic and Paralympic Games. Chariots of Fire (1981), the film which tells the story of the sprint gold medals won in Paris in 1924 by Harold Abrahams and Eric Liddell, has been re-released. English Heritage commemorative blue plaques have recently been unveiled in London at the homes of Abrahams and his coach Sam Mussabini.

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Dispelling the myths of emancipation

The story of the Civil War has never been simple: from slavery to states rights, liberation to sharecropping, the loss of life on the battlefield with bullet wounds to in the camps with illness. As new scholarship for the sesquicentennial emerges, many myths are shattering. One such myth is exactly how liberating emancipation was.

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The Ties That Bind Ancient and Modern Sports

What do we share with the Ancient World? Thankfully, not too much. But we do share a love of sports and strangely enough we still approach sports in the same way. We complain about commercialization, but sponsors and marketing have existed since games began (although we’ve moved on from statues to cereal). And for the greatest games, the Olympics, we seek the best: the peak of human physical achievement and unique moments in time as records shatter. As the world awaits the London 2012 Summer Olympics, we spoke with David Potter, author of The Victor’s Crown: A History of Ancient Sport from Homer to Byzantium, about how sports unites us with our past.

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The Myths, Realities, and Futures of Child Soldiers

Imagine a child soldier. You probably think of a poor African boy, no older than ten, forced by ruthless commanders to take drugs and fire guns whenever and wherever directed. And this image completely contradicts the reality for the vast majority of child soldiers. Washington and Lee School of Law interviewed Professor Mark Drumbl, author of Reimagining Child Soldiers in International Law and Policy, and discovered the myths and realities of child soldiering. What’s more, this distorted images inform the place of a child in local and international justice systems — to the detriment of victims, communities, and the child soldiers themselves.

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Online editions in the classroom

By Lisa Rodensky
Every year I teach a research seminar for English majors at Wellesley College. One of those seminars — “The Victorian Novel: Text and Context” — makes literary research its topic. For this course, the students choose one Victorian novel and that novel is the focus of the papers they produce on biography, transmission, editions, sources, and reception. I also pick a novel (by an author that no other student has picked) and we work together on research questions related to that novel.

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The role of ignorance in science

Most of us have a false impression of science as a surefire, deliberate, step-by-step method for finding things out and getting things done. In fact, more often than not, science is like looking for a black cat in a dark room, and there may not be a cat in the room. We sat down with author Stuart Firestein to discuss the relationship between science and ignorance, the importance of asking the right questions, and which scientists are to be admired for throwing everything that was known out the window to come up with some of the unifying theories of life itself.

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Protestantism in Hollywood

Hollywood and Christianity often seem to be at war. There is a long list of movies that have attracted religious condemnation, from Gone with the Wind with its notorious “damn,” to The Life of Brian and The Last Temptation of Christ. In his latest book, historian and award-winning commentator William Romanowski explores the complicated and remarkable relationship between Protestants and the American film industry. In it he reveals the surprising story of how mainline church leaders opposed government censorship, preferring instead self-regulation by both the industry and individual conscience.

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Snail attacks pencil

On the Pacific coast of Costa Rica a major predator in the community of animals living on sandy beaches is a snail, a species of Olive Shell (Agaronia propatula). This snail moves up and down the beach by ‘surfing’, extending its foot so that it is carried along in the wave swash. It is a voracious hunter and its main prey is a smaller species of Olive Shell. In its wave-washed environment it has to act quickly.

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50 years of Algerian independence

2012 marks the 50th anniversary of Algerian independence. Martin Evans, author of Algeria: France’s Undeclared War, talks about the complexities of Algerian colonial history and the country’s fight for independence in this new video.

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Edmund Spenser: ‘Elizabeth’s arse-kissing poet?’

Edmund Spenser’s innovative poetic works have a central place in the canon of English literature. Yet he is remembered as a morally flawed, self-interested sycophant; complicit in England’s ruthless colonisation of Ireland; in Karl Marx’s words, ‘Elizabeth’s arse-kissing poet’– a man on the make who aspired to be at court and who was prepared to exploit the Irish to get what he wanted.

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Jan Zalasiewicz and Mark Williams talk four billion years of climate change

Climate change is a major topic of concern today, scientifically, socially, and politically. But the Earth’s climate has continuously altered over its 4.5 billion-year history. Geologists are becoming ever more ingenious at interrogating this baffling, puzzling, infuriating, tantalizing, and seemingly contradictory evidence. The story of the Earth’s climate is now being reconstructed in ever-greater detail — maybe even providing us with clues to the future of contemporary climate change. Below, you can listen to Dr Jan Zalasiewicz and Dr Mark Williams talk about the topics raised in their book The Goldilocks Planet: The four billion year story of Earths Climate.

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