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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

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Cicero’s On Life and Death [extract]

In 58 BC, Roman politics was paralyzed by the coalition of Pompey, Crassus, and Caesar, known as the First Triumvirate. Marcus Tullius Cicero, Rome’s greatest orator, who had successfully climbed the political ranks to reach the level of consul, struggled to maintain his independence while on occasion lending reluctant oratorical support to their projects and associates.

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A cross-section of the Earth

We now know that the Earth is many billions of years old, and that it has changed an unimaginably number of times over millennia. But before the mid-eighteenth century we believed that the Earth was only a few thousand years old. Then scientists (who we now call geologists) began to explore the Earth’s layers and found fossils, suggesting it was much, much older than they first thought.

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Why bother?

Yes, there is every reason to bother. Read the following: “One of the most common expressions in everyday life, and one which is generally used by all classes, is the expression ‘Don’t bother me!’ and the origin of the word bother has so frequently bothered me that I have spent some time in tracing its etymology.

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How to “bee” a smart animal

The public is turning out to be, whether knowingly or not, animal ethnographers. The diversity of pets, farm animals, and wild animals they track with lens is exposing the rarest of behaviors. These behaviors not only make intriguing viewing but serve to widen our thinking about the animal world and perhaps diminish our iron-gripped hold on cleverness. Might we be less willing to destroy creatures whom we believe are ‘smart’?

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Six underrated Irish women writers

To celebrate both Women’s History Month and St. Patrick’s Day, the Oxford World’s Classics team has picked just a few of our favorite—and sometimes underrated in Irish literary history—female writers from our series. Ireland is known for producing many influential writers, but the men typically get a lot of the credit and a lot of the attention.

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How and when to quote

I have a confession to make. I often skip the long blocks of quotes when I am reading academic articles and books. I suspect that I’m not the only one who does this. I don’t skip the quotes because I’m lazy. I skip them because they often pull me away from a writer’s ideas rather than further into them. The writer has put a voice and an idea in my ear only to cede the floor to another voice, that of some quoted authority.

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Voltaire and the one-liner

As we mark Voltaire’s 323rd birthday – though the date of 20 February is problematic, the subject of another blog – what significance does the great Enlightenment writer have for us now? If I had to be very very short, I’d say that Voltaire lives on as a master of the one-liner. He presents us with a paradox. Voltaire wrote a huge amount – the definitive edition of his Complete works will soon be finished, in around 200 volumes.

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Tom, Dick, Harry, and other memorable heroes

Why Tom, Dick, and Harry? Generic names? If so, why just those? From Suffolk to Yorkshire people speak about some Laurence and some Lumley, whose fame rests only on the fact that both have alliterating lazy dogs (as lazy as L.’s dog, as laid him down to bark). Other farmers had worse luck.

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Accounting, Donald Trump style

Firms and individuals depend on honest accountants. Managers make decisions on the basis of information they provide. Investors decide whether to buy, sell, or hold on the basis of their pronouncements. And the advice of an accountant can make the difference between collecting a fat refund and going to prison for tax fraud. Honest accounting is as important for countries as it is for firms and individuals.

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Getting to know Antonina in music marketing

Our Cary office has welcomed a new assistant. Antonina Javier joined the marketing team in November 2016 after moving to North Carolina from Hawaii. We sat down with her to talk about publishing, books, and the outdoors. She is always ready for an adventure and is eager to share what she has seen.

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The right way to amend the Johnson Amendment

President Trump, reiterating the position he took during the presidential campaign, has reaffirmed his pledge to “get rid of and totally destroy the Johnson Amendment.”The Johnson Amendment is the portion of Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code which prohibits tax-exempt institutions from participating in political campaigns.

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The culture of nastiness and the paradox of civility

Headlines are by their very nature designed to catch the eye, but Teddy Wayne’s ‘The Culture of Nastiness’ (New York Times, 18 February 2017) certainly caught my attention. Why? Because increasing survey evidence and datasets have identified growing social concerns about declining levels of civility. Politics, it would seem, has become raw, rude, direct, divisive… and don’t just think Trump…

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What is artificial intelligence?

There are many proposed definitions of artificial intelligence (AI), each with its own slant, but most are roughly aligned around the concept of creating computer programs or machines capable of behavior we would regard as intelligent if exhibited by humans. John McCarthy, a founding father of the discipline, described the process in 1955 as “that of making a machine behave in ways that would be called intelligent if a human were so behaving.”

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Oral history and empathy at the Women’s March on Washington

Today we continue our series on oral history and social change by turning to our friends at the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program (SPOHP) at the University of Florida. A group of SPOHP students and staff traveled to the Women’s March on Washington this January as part of an experiential learning project.

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