Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

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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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10 things you should know about weather

From tornadoes and typhoons to deciding the best day for a picnic, the weather impacts our lives on a daily basis. Despite new techniques and technologies that allow us to forecast the weather with increasing accuracy, most of us do not realise the vast global movements and forces which result in their day-to-day weather. Storm Dunlop tells us ten things we should know about weather in its most dramatic and ordinary forms.

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Etymology gleanings for February 2017

From time to time people share with me their versions of Spelling Reform. I rarely respond to such letters, because, unfortunately, I have little to say. The problem, as I see it, is not the ideal version of the reform but the reality of its implementation. The choir is happy, and we keep preaching to it.

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Cicero’s Defence Speeches: an audio guide

In this audio guide to Cicero’s Defence Speeches, Dominic Berry, senior lecturer in the School of History, Classics and Archaeology at Edinburgh University and the translator of this volume, introduces Cicero and his world.

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Accelerated ageing and mental health

The accelerated ageing of the populations of developed countries is being matched in the developing world. In fact, in 2017, for the first time in history, the number of persons aged 65 and over will outstrip those aged 5 and under. This population trend is not just a temporary blip, not just due to a short-term outcome of the baby boomer generation.

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New Grub Street and the starving artist

Sitting alone in front of a computer screen, a writer sometimes feels like screaming at the machine to make the words appear. When inspiration finally strikes, the result may be far from satisfying—but when your next meal is at stake, it hardly matters.

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Cook_Yablo Paradox

Graphs and paradoxes

A directed graph is a pair where N is any collection or set of objects (the nodes of the graph) and E is a relation on N (the edges). Intuitively speaking, we can think of a directed graph in terms of a dot-and-arrow diagram, where the nodes are represented as dots, and the edges are represented as arrows.

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Planting the seeds of resistance

I have been working on preservation of Southern Queer history for ten years, and I have never felt the urgency that I feel at this moment to make certain it is safe and available. I think many archivists would agree that urgency is an undercurrent of most of the work that we do since so much information is lost when people die or move or leave their work.

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The new rock age

of the extraordinary things about our modern world is just how closely we are brought into contact with rock in everyday life. Now this might seem a little counter-intuitive. As I child, I grew up with cartoons such as The Flintstones and, a little later, sat goggle-eyed through films such as One Million Years BC. There the Stone Age protagonists acted out derring-do amid caves, craggy landscapes and erupting volcanoes.

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The eternal Cheshire cat

Unlike Alice, who was advised to begin at the beginning and stop only when she came to an end, I’d rather begin at the end. The English-speaking world is interested in the Cheshire cat only because Lewis Carroll mentioned it. The origin of the proverbial grin has never been explained, so that, if you hope to receive an enlightening answer from this post, you can very well stop here.

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How to write dialogue

I’m sitting at my computer early in the morning and my wife walks in. “Good morning,” she says. “Is there any more coffee?” I nod. “Do you want some?” I answer. “I’ll get it,” she says. “What are you working on?” “A blog post on dialogue,” I reply sleepily. “Good luck,” she laughs, heading for the kitchen. That’s pretty bad dialogue. It has no apparent purpose and too many words: adverbs like sleepily, redundant dialogue tags like answer, reply, and laughs, and nothing that really advances a plot or develops a character.

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Image copyright Oxford University Press / J Butson

Uncovering the story of Percy Grainger’s wine glasses

It is a curious fact that hidden away in the sheet music archive here in Oxford, we have a set of three wine glasses dating back to the 1930s stored in a dusty old suitcase with luggage tags attached, that rarely sees the light of day. We did some research to uncover the history behind the glasses.

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