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The illegitimate open-mindedness of arithmetic

We are often told that we should be open-minded. In other words, we should be open to the idea that even our most cherished, most certain, most secure, most well-justified beliefs might be wrong. But this is, in one sense, puzzling.

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Prime numbers and how to find them

Prime numbers have now become a crucial part of modern life, but they have been fascinating mathematicians for thousands of years. A prime number is always bigger than 1 and can only be divided by itself and 1 – no other number will divide in to it. So the number 2 is the first prime number, then 3, 5, 7, and so on. Non-prime numbers are defined as composite numbers (they are composed of other smaller numbers).

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At bay: where is that bay?

To keep somebody or something at bay means “to keep a dangerous opponent at a distance; to hold off, ward off a disaster, etc.” The very first interpreters of this idiom guessed its origin correctly. They stated that bay here means “to bark” and that at bay refers to hunting.

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Learning to read emotions in oral history

The most recent issue of the OHR featured two stories on understanding emotion in oral history interviews. In one piece, Julian Simpson and Stephanie Snow asked what role humor plays in healthcare, and how to locate it in oral history. In another piece, Katie Holmes asks how to locate historical emotion during an interview and how to interpret these feelings.

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Hamilton: the man and the musical

For the past two years, the hip-hop musical Hamilton has been the toast of New York, winning all the awards—Grammies, Tonis, and even a Pulitzer Prize—and grossing higher receipts than any Broadway show in history. It’s coming to London later this year, November 2017, and judging by the interest and hype is already guaranteed to be a sell-out success for years to come.

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The historical roots of Iran: an interview

In April 2017 Bridget Kendall, former BBC diplomatic correspondent and now Master of Peterhouse, Cambridge, interviewed Michael Axworthy, author of Iran: What Everyone Needs to Know® about the history of Iran, the characterization of Iran as an aggressive expansionist power, and the current challenges and developments in the country today. Below is a transcribed version of part of the interview.

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The best baby money can buy: are you sure about that?

Take a look at the back page advertisements in any college newspaper. Dotted among the classified ads, there will invariably be an invitation or two to male undergraduates to sell their sperm. It’s an easy and hardly arduous way to make money, and pretty speedy too. Masturbate, ejaculate, hand over the results and you’re on your way with a little money in your pocket.

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Monthly gleanings for April 2017

The previous post on Nostratic linguistics was also part of the “gleanings,” because the inspiration for it came from a query, but a few more tidbits have to be taken care of before summer sets in.

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Storm Stella and New York’s double taxation of nonresidents

The physical aftermath of Storm Stella is now over. The tax aftermath of Storm Stella, however, has just begun. How can a winter storm cause taxes? Because New York State, under its so-called “convenience of the employer” doctrine, subjects nonresidents to state income taxation on the days such nonresidents work at their out-of-state homes for their New York employers.

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How apostrophes came to confuse us

A colleague of mine recently retired from teaching. As she began her last semester, she announced to her students that she hoped they would finally be the class where no one confused “its” and “it’s.” Her wish did not come true. The apostrophe rules of English are built to confuse us. Not intentionally. But they have evolved in a way that can confuse even the most observant readers and writers.

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The less mentioned opioid crisis

You’ve probably seen the dramatic photo of the Ohio couple slouched, overdosed, and passed out in the front seats of a car, with a little kid sitting in the back seat. Even if you haven’t seen that picture, images and words of America’s opioid overdose epidemic have captured headlines and TV news feeds for the last several years. But there’s a different image seared into my mind, a mental picture of a different little kid and two adults.

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Slaves to the rhythm

I met up with Russell Foster in 1996 when I was writing a book on the social impact of the 24 hour society. I wanted to know what effect working nights had on human biology and health. At the time Russell was Reader at Imperial College. Since then he has become professor of circadian neuroscience at Oxford University; a Fellow of the Royal Society; and he has a shelf full of medals from scientific societies around the world.

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Two posts on “sin”: a sequel

The colleague who wrote me a letter is a specialist in Turkic and a proponent of Nostratic linguistics. He mentioned the Turkic root syn-, which, according to him, can mean “to test, prove; compete; prophesy; observe; body, image, outward appearance,” and wondered whether, within the framework of Nostratic linguistics, this root can be compared with the root of Engl. sin.

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Britain votes…again: three crucial questions

Last month, Prime Minister Theresa May announced that Britain would hold a general election on 8 June. The election raises three crucial questions. First, why did the Prime Minister call an election now? Under British law, she could have remained in office without facing the voters until 2020 and, in fact, had promised on multiple occasions that she would not call early elections.

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Jane Austen Practising: Teenage Writings [video]

2017 marks the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s death. In honor of Austen, Oxford University Press has published Teenage Writings. Three notebooks of Jane Austen’s teenage writings survive. The earliest pieces probably date from 1786 or 1787, around the time that Jane, aged 11 or 12, and her older sister and collaborator Cassandra left school. […]

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