Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

When and why does Islamic law oblige Muslims to fast?

An important prophetic tradition maintains that “Islam was built upon five ‘foundations.’” The Five Pillars, (the profession of faith [shahadah], daily prayers [salat], almsgiv­ing [zakat], the fast of Ramadan [sawm], and the pilgrimage to Mecca [Hajj]) blend the theological with the legal and represent the fundamental principles of personal and collective faith, worship, and social responsibility that unite all Muslims and distinguish Islam from other religions.

Read More

Treating people with Alzheimer’s: The non-pharmacological approach.

On 2 January 2018, National Public Radio’s Terry Gross interviewed British neuroscientist Joseph Jebelli, who discussed Alzheimer’s disease and how “much better treatment” for the disease is about ten years away. The improved treatment to which Dr. Jebelli was referring was pharmaceutical/biomedical treatment. Indeed, the vast majority of stories in the mass media about treatment for Alzheimer’s focuses on the long hoped for biomedical treatment, emerging from drug trials or genetic approaches or both, that can stop the progress of the disease or prevent its occurrence. There is, however, a vast difference between treating a disease and treating people diagnosed with the disease — and this difference is especially critical where people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and their families and friends are concerned.

Read More

What’s the deal with genetically modified (GM) foods?

It’s complicated; but here is a quick summary of what the controversy over genetically modified foods is all about. GM engineering involves reconfiguring the genes in crop plants or adding new genes that have been created in the laboratory. Scientific modification of plants is not something new. Since time began, nature has been modifying plants and animals through natural evolution, meaning that the plants and ani­mals that adapt best to the changing environment survive and pass their genes on to their offspring. Those that are least fit do not survive.

Read More

Women in China, past and present

As we celebrate the lives and accomplishments of women around the world as part of Women’s History Month, we offer a brief look at changing gender roles in different periods of China’s past, and at a group of contemporary activists pushing for greater equality between men and women in the current era. In two excerpts on women from their forthcoming book, China in the 21 Century: What Everyone Needs to Know, Maura Elizabeth Cunningham and Jeffrey N. Wasserstrom place events that have taken place since Xi Jinping took power into a long-term historical perspective.

Read More

The economic relationship between Mexico and the United States

Mexico and the United States share a highly integrated economic relationship. There seems to be an assumption among many Americans, including officials in the current administration, that the relationship is somehow one-sided, that is, that Mexico is the sole beneficiary of commerce between the two countries. Yet, economic benefits to both countries are extensive.

Read More

National Trivia Day [quiz]

Each year, National Trivia Day is observed across the United States on 4 January. To celebrate, we cracked open books from our What Everyone Needs to Know series and pulled some facts. From facts about advertising to tidbits about the human brain, put your knowledge and trivia skills to the test by taking our quiz below!

Read More

Advertising in the digital age

Although advertising is not new, due to digital technologies people are now attacked with ads every day, 24 hours a day. As more data about us continues to be collected through these digital means, the issues of privacy and surveillance tend to arise. In the following excerpt from Advertising: What Everyone Needs to Know.

Read More

An overview of common vaccines [slideshow]

Vaccines represent one of the greatest public health advances of the past 100 years. A vaccine is a substance that is given to a person or animal to protect it from a particular pathogen—a bacterium, virus, or other microorganisms that can cause disease. The slideshow below was created to outline common child and adolescent vaccines from Kristen A. Feemster’s Vaccines: What Everyone Needs to Know.

Read More

Place of the Year nominee spotlight: Russia

This year, Russia was chosen as one of the nominees for Oxford University Press’s Place of the Year. Russia dominated the news cycle throughout the year—from investigations on their interference in the 2016 US elections to Kremlin’s interventions in Ukraine and Syria. The following excerpt from Russia: What Everyone Needs to Know provides an overview of President Vladimir Putin and his meteoric rise to power.

Read More

Morals and the military [an excerpt]

In honor of Veterans Day, we would like to focus on the men and women around the world who have been committed to the defense of their countries and their fellow citizens. Replacing Armistice Day in 1954, this holiday serves to recognize victims of all wars and the US veterans who have served honorably in the military. However, in times of war, the distinction between moral and immoral are unclear

Read More

Crisis in Catalonia

Spain is living through sad times. The Catalan parliament’s illegal proclamation of an independent state has sparked the most serious constitutional crisis since the failed coup in 1981. But unlike that crisis, this one has no easy solution. All the stereotypes that Spaniards are incapable of living together, epitomised by the 1936-39 Civil War, are being reinforced.

Read More

How well do you know quantum physics? [quiz]

Quantum physics is one of the most important intellectual movements in human history. Today, quantum physics is everywhere: it explains how our computers work, how lasers transmit information across the Internet, and allows scientists to predict accurately the behavior of nearly every particle in nature. Its application continues to be fundamental in the investigation of the most expansive questions related to our world and the universe.

Read More

Understanding physician-assisted death [excerpt]

When it comes to end-of-life treatment, patients currently have a few different options available to them. One option, refusal of treatment, is when a decisionally capable patient is put in the driver’s seat with respect to medical treatment under the doctrine of informed consent. Another option is pain management, where palliative medicine is administered to entirely eliminate, or reduce pain to a level that the patient finds tolerable.

Read More

Understanding Puerto Rico’s Commonwealth status [excerpt]

Acquired by the United States from Spain in 1898, Puerto Rico has a peculiar status among Latin American and Caribbean countries. In the excerpt below, author Jorge Duany provides the necessary background for understanding the inner workings of the Commonwealth government and the island’s relationship to the United States. How did Puerto Rico become a US Commonwealth?

Read More

How a failed suicide affects the brain

The numerous factors that induce someone to think about suicide, the “ideators,” are often different from those who actually attempt suicide, the “attempters.” For example, the traditional risk factors for suicide, such as depression, hopelessness, many psychiatric disorders, and impulsivity, strongly predict suicide ideation but weakly predict suicide attempts among ideators.

Read More