Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

A good death beyond dignity?

According to the Australian euthanasia activist Philip Nitschke, to choose when you die is “a fundamental human right. It’s not just some medical privilege for the very sick. If you’ve got the precious gift of life, you should be able to give that gift away at the time of your choosing.” This view combines two extreme standpoints in the debate on euthanasia and assisted suicide.

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Top 10 facts about the giraffe

This June, people around the globe are marking World Giraffe Day, an annual event to recognise the bovine dwellers of the African continent. While these long-necked herbivores remain a firm favourite of the safari, there remains much about the giraffe which is relatively unknown. In order to celebrate our Animal of the Month, we bring you 10 amazing facts about the giraffe.

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C.P. Snow and thermodynamics, 60 years on

It’s nearly 60 years since C.P. Snow gave his influential “Two Cultures” lecture, in which – among many other significant insights – he advocated that a good education should equip a young person with as deep a knowledge of the Second Law of Thermodynamics as of Shakespeare. A noble objective, but why did Snow highlight this particular scientific law?

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Five things you might not know about Edmund Burke

Edmund Burke (1730-1797) was an Irishman and a prominent Whig politician in late 18th century England, but he is now most commonly known as “the founder of modern conservatism”—the canonical position which he has held since the beginning of the 20th century in Britain and the rest of the world.

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How (un)representative is the British political class? [QUIZ]

The fact that the British political class doesn’t fully reflect the diversity seen in the population as a whole is hardly news. However, many people don’t fully appreciate exactly how unrepresentative its members are, or the specific (and sometimes slightly odd) ways in which the political class differs from Britain as a whole.

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Five ways entrepreneurship is essential to a classical music career

The other day, I posted something on my professional Facebook page about entrepreneurship and my compositional activities, and someone who I don’t know commented: “Forget entrepreneurship. Just compose.” (Well, they actually put it in somewhat more graphic terms, but in the interests of decorum…) This sentiment is nothing new: resistance to “the e-word” continues; if anything it’s intensified in recent years as entrepreneurship has become an over-used buzzword.

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The amorous and other adventures of “poor pilgarlic”

The word pilgarlic (or pilgarlik and pilgarlick) may not be worthy of a post, but a hundred and fifty years ago and some time later, people discussed it with great interest and dug up so many curious examples of its use that only the OED has more. (Just how many citations the archive of the OED contains we have no way of knowing, for the printed text includes only a small portion of the examples James A. H. Murray and his successors received.) There is not much to add to what is known about the origin of this odd word, but I have my own etymology of the curious word and am eager to publicize it.

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Crises and population health

On the day after the horrific shooting that claimed the lives of 17 students at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, the local state representative predicted what would happen next. “Nothing.”

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The IMF’s role in the evolution of economic orthodoxy since the Crisis

The IMF & World Bank’s Spring meetings with finance ministers and central bankers, which took place in Washington DC recently, are one key forum where the IMF performs its mandated role as conduit of international economic co-ordination. The IMF uses its knowledge bank, expertise and mandate for economic surveillance and coordination to act as global arbiter of legitimate or ‘sound’ policy.

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She Preached the Word

Ten things to know about women’s ordination in the United States

Pope Francis recently appointed three women for the first time to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, an important advisory body to the Pope on matters of Catholic orthodoxy. He has also recently established a commission for studying the role of women deacons in the early Christian church. While encouraging for supporters of women’s ordination in the Catholic Church, Pope Francis has also made it clear that he is keeping the door firmly shut in terms of the possibility of women priests.

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The gravity of gravitational waves

Rarely has a research field in physics gotten such sustained worldwide press coverage as gravity has received recently. A breathtaking sequence of events has kept gravity in the spotlight for months: the first detection(s) of gravitational waves from black-holes; the amazing success of LISA Pathfinder, ESA’s precursor mission to the LISA gravitational wave detector in space; the observation — first by gravitational waves with LIGO and Virgo, and then by all possible telescopes on Earth and in space — of the merger of two neutron stars, an astrophysical event that likely constitutes the cosmic factory of many of the chemical elements we find around us.

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Divine victory: the role of Christianity in Roman military conquests

The Roman Empire derived its strength from its military conquests: overseeing territories across Europe, Africa and Asia. Before Christianity, emperors were praised and honored for their successes on the battlefield; as Christianity took root throughout Rome, it was used as a means to elevate emperors to an even greater status: raising them from successful imperialists to divinely appointed leaders.

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The scientist as historian

Why should a trained scientist be seriously interested in science past? After all, science looks to the future. Moreover, as Nobel laureate immunologist Sir Peter Medawar once put it: “A great many highly creative scientists…take it for granted, though they are usually too polite or too ashamed to say so, that an interest in the history of science is a sign of failing or unawakened powers.”

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Economic inequality, politics, and capital

Economic inequality and campaign finance are two of the hottest topics in America today. Unfortunately, the topics are typically discussed separately, but they are actually intertwined.

The rise of US economic inequality that economist Thomas Piketty chronicles in his renowned book Capital in the Twenty-First Century – starting in the late 1970s and continuing through today – coincides remarkably with the US Supreme Court’s decision of Buckley v. Valeo.

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Why We Need Religion

The power of the religious imagination [excerpt]

Although often divided between believers and non-believers, or sacred and secular, spirituality is not dichotomous. Some believers accept the concept of God, but reject the literal existence of God. Some non-believers dismiss religious parables as fiction, but embrace the history and culture that comes with religion. This excerpt from “Why We Need Religion” examines these intermediate positions, and explores how religious imagination helps us find connection and meaning in a mystifying world.

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History books for Dads [reading list]

In recent years, consumer surveys have shown an upward trend in Father’s Day gift-giving. According to the National Retail Federation, U.S. Father’s Day spending in 2017 hit record highs: reaching an estimated $15.5 billion. This change could be related to nature of modern fatherhood: today’s dads report spending an average of seven hours per week on child care (nearly triple what fathers reported 50 years ago). To celebrate Father’s Day, we put together a video collection of books we think dads will love. More details about each book can be found in the list below. If you have any reading suggestions for Father’s Day, please share in the comments section!

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