Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

Why can mailboxes only be used for U.S. mail?

Because it is against Federal law to put anything in a mailbox, “on which no postage has been paid,”. If a person is caught doing so, they could be fined up to $5,000 and an organization could be fined up to $10,000. This is called the “Mailbox Restriction Law”, which does not exist in most countries.

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Planetary astronomy in ancient Greece

As eclipse 2017 quickly approaches, Americans—from astronomers to photographers to space enthusiasts—are preparing to witness the celestial wonder that is totality. Phenomenon found within planetary science has long driven us to observe and study space. Through a shared desire to dismantle and reconstruct the theories behind our solar system, ancient Greek philosophers and scientists built the foundation of planetary astronomy.

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Winter is coming: the zombie apocalypse on TV

But maybe the greatest horde of zombies these days is on television, from cult shows like iZombie and Santa Clarita Diet to two of the most popular shows on the planet, The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones. The Walking Dead has recently wrapped its seventh season, but Game of Thrones is getting ready to ramp up for its final two seasons, with the world premiere of its Season Seven coming tonight.

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Brinksmanship does little to resolve crisis in Venezuela

For over eighty days, the opposition has challenged the government of Nicolás Maduro and sought his ouster through direct street actions. Dramatic images of masked protestors violently clashing with the Venezuelan National Guard or the Bolivarian Police dominate western media reporting on the country. The mainstream US media creates the impression that the entire country is in open revolt and Maduro only holds on to power through the use of sheer repression.

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The United States in World War I podcast series

2017 marks the centennial of the United States joining World War I. To commemorate this historic occasion, Oxford University Press put together a podcast series discussing various aspects of America’s involvement in the war.

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Anniversary of Goodall at Gombe Stream [reading list]

Tomorrow, 14 July, is the anniversary of when Jane Goodall first arrived on the shores of Gombe Stream Chimpanzee Reserve in western Tanzania in 1960. Jane Goodall is a famous primatologist and ethologist, and has dedicated her life to researching and understanding primate behavior. During her time at Gombe Stream, Goodall observed chimpanzees making and using tools, the first observations of any wild animal to do so.

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Dogs in ancient Islamic culture

Dogs in Islam, as they are in Rabbinic Judaism, are conventionally thought of as ritually impure. This idea taps into a long tradition that considers even the mere sight of a dog during prayer to have the power to nullify a pious Muslim’s supplications. Similar to many other mistakenly viewed aspects of Islamic history, today both most Muslims and non-Muslims think that Islam and dogs don’t mix.

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Two numerals: “six” and “hundred,” part 1

The reason for such a strange topic will become clear right away. The present post is No. 600 in the career of “The Oxford Etymologist.” I wrote my first essay in early March 2006 and since that time have not missed a single Wednesday.

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Five reasons police think you should turn on ‘Ghost mode’ in Snapchat

Snapchat, an app which allows users to share photos and videos which delete themselves after a few seconds, is used by 166 million people worldwide. The latest Snapchat release has seen police issuing hasty warnings to users of the app, with the new ‘Snap Map’ feature raising a range of questions relating to privacy. What five issues might police have with this seemingly fun app update?

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What’s in the message?

Once upon a time, it could be believed that each advance in communications technology brought with it the probability, if not the certainty, of increased global harmony. The more that messages could be sent and received, the more the peoples of the world would understand each other. Innovators have not been slow to advance comprehensive claims for their achievements. Marconi, for example, selected 1912 as a year in which to suggest that radio, in apparently making war ridiculous, made it impossible.

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Warfare as the creator and destroyer of nations

There are at least four ways in which warfare in its changing forms has been formative in the rise and transformation of national collectivities. First, warfare has been central for much nation-state formation. Most nation-states that came into existence before the mid-20th century were created by war or had their boundaries defined by wars or internal violence.

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Wonder Woman and the realities of World War I

Wonder Woman takes place in an alternative universe, yet the new film of the same name is set in a recognizable historical context: the First World War. For historians, this provides a chance to compare myth to reality. Putting aside the obvious and deliberate alterations—Erich von Ludendorff’s depiction in the story—the film touches on several of the themes that scholars still debate today regarding war and gender.

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Who needs quantum key distribution?

Chinese scientists have recently announced the use of a satellite to transfer quantum entangled light particles between two ground stations over 1,000 kilometres apart. This has been heralded as the dawn of a new secure internet. Should we be impressed? Yes – scientific breakthroughs are great things. Does this revolutionise the future of cyber security? No – sadly, almost certainly not.

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Let your soul escape: send a postcard this summer

‘The politics of postcards’ is not a common topic of conversation or academic study but as the summer approaches, my mind is turning to how I can continue to write about politics from the seaside, campsite, or dreary ‘Bed & Breakfast’ hotel. Could the humble postcard possibly offer a yet under recognized outlet for political expression?

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Fighting cyber crime [timeline]

The Blackstone’s Police team will soon be attending the 10th International Conference on Evidence Based Policing and 2nd Cybercrime Conference in Cambridge. In advance of the event, take a look through the timeline below to learn more about some of the key events in the recent history of cyber crime. Don’t forget to come to the Oxford University Press stand and say hello if you’re attending the conference!

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“The lover”– an extract from Love, Madness, and Scandal

The high society of Stuart England found Frances Coke Villiers, Viscountess Purbeck (1602-1645) an exasperating woman. She lived at a time when women were expected to be obedient, silent, and chaste, but Frances displayed none of these qualities. The following extract looks Frances’ affair with Sir Robert Howard.

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