Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

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Keeping movies alive

Film is considered by some to be the most dominant art form of the twentieth century. It is many things, but it has become above all a means of telling stories through images and sounds.

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How do you remember 9/11?

By Patricia Aufderheide
Documentary film both creates and depends on memory, and our memories are often composed of other people’s. How do we remember public events? How do you remember 9/11? On this anniversary of 9/11, along with your own memories, you can delve into a treasure trove of international television covering the event.

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Innovating with technology

By Mark Dodgson and David Gann
If you have ever been lucky enough to design and build a home, you would in the past have been confronted by technical drawings that are incomprehensible to anyone but trained architects. Nowadays you can have a computerised model of your house that lets you move around it in virtual reality so that you get a high fidelity sense of the layout and feel of rooms. That’s innovation.

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How and why do myths arise?

It is trite to say that one’s pet subject is interdisciplinary. These days what subject isn’t? The prostate? But myth really is interdisciplinary. For there is no study of myth as myth, the way, by contrast, there is said to be the study of literature as literature or of religion as religion. Myth is studied by other disciplines, above all by sociology, anthropology, psychology, politics, philosophy, literature, and religious studies.

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The Roman Republic: Not just senators in togas

When we gaze back at the ancient world of the Roman Republic, what images are conjured in our minds? We see senators clad in togas, and marching Roman legions. The Carthaginian Hannibal leading his elephants over the Alps into Italy, Julius Caesar crossing the Rubicon and his murder on the Ides of March. These images are kept fresh by novels and comic books, and by television series like Rome and Spartacus: Blood and Sand.

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The Demise of the Toff

By William Doyle
Born to tenants of a country squire in Yorkshire, I knew about what my grandmother called ‘toffs’ at an early age. The squire was a toff. As a child I scarcely realised that the squire and his lifestyle were already relics of a fast-disappearing pattern of society.

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Did you know that we’re all made of stars?

By Andrew King
What are you made of? You may never have thought about it before, but every atom in your body was once part of a star, even several stars in succession. And almost all the elements that make up your body – carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, and so on – would not exist at all without the stars.

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How exactly did Mendeleev discover his periodic table of 1869?

The usual version of how Mendeleev arrived at his discovery goes something like this. While in the process of writing his textbook, ‘The Principles of Chemistry’, Mendeleev completed the book by dealing with only eight of the then known sixty-three elements. He ended the book with the halogens.

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Can ignorance ever be an excuse?

By Katherine Hawley
We have developed quite a taste for chastising the mighty in public. In place of rotten fruit and stocks, we now have Leveson, Chilcot, and the parliamentary select committees which have cross-examined Bob Diamond of Barclays and Nick Buckles of G4S.

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How radioactivity helps scientists uncover the past

By Claudio Tuniz
Neanderthal was once the only human in Europe. By 40,000 years ago, after surviving through several ice ages, his days (or, at least, his millennia) were numbered. The environment of the Pleistocene epoch was slightly radioactive, the same way it is today, but this was not Neanderthal’s problem. The straw that broke the camel’s back was the arrival of a new human

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The continuing life of science fiction

By David Seed
In 1998 Thomas M. Disch boldly declared in The Dreams Our Stuff Is Made Of: How Science Fiction Conquered the World that science fiction had become the main kind of fiction which was commenting on contemporary social reality. As a professional writer, we could object that Disch had a vested interest in making this assertion, but virtually every day news items confirm his argument that SF connects with an amazingly broad range of public issues.

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What is the probability that you are dreaming right now?

By Jan Westerhoff
Most people think that even though it is possible that they are dreaming right now, the probability for this is very small, perhaps as small as winning the lottery or being struck by lightning. In fact the probability is quite high. Let’s do the maths.

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Languages, Species, and Biological Parallels

By Stephen R. Anderson
Human languages are not biological organisms, despite the temptation to talk about them as “being born,” “dying,” “competing with one another,” and the like.  Nonetheless, the parallels between languages and biological species are rich and wonderful.  Sometimes, in fact, they are downright eerie…

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Do we really need magnets?

By Stephen Blundell
Do you own any magnets?  Most people, when asked this question, say no.  Then they remember the plastic letters sticking to their refrigerator door, or the holiday souvenir that keeps takeaway menus pinned to a steel surface in their kitchen.  Maybe I do own a few, they say.

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In this ‘information age’, is privacy dead?

By Raymond Wacks
Are public figures entitled to privacy? Or do they forfeit their right? Is privacy possible online? Does the law adequately protect private lives? Should the media be more strictly controlled? What of your sensitive medical or financial data? Are they safe and secure? Has the Internet changed everything?

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