Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

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The future of an illusion

By Andrew Scull
Fights over how to define and diagnose mental illness are scarcely a novel feature of the psychiatric landscape, but their most recent manifestation has some unusual features. For more than a decade now, the American Psychiatric Association has been preparing a new edition of its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM), the fifth (or by some counts the seventh) edition of that extraordinary tome, each incarnation weightier than the last. Over the past two years, however, major attacks have been launched on the enterprise, replete with allegations that the new edition shows signs of being built on hasty and unscientific foundations

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What is the position of HIV & AIDS in North Africa & the Middle East?

The biennial International AIDS Conference was held in Washington D.C. in July of 2012. This was the first time that the conference had been on US soil for 20 years. The International AIDS Society  had previously decided that while legislation prevented HIV positive people from travelling to the States, the conference would not be held there. However, these laws were repealed by the Obama administration in 2010. The meeting was huge: 25000 people. Speaking at the conference, I identified three key issues…

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Permission-giving: from Cromwell to Kate Middleton

Some of my more radical academic colleagues remain inordinately sceptical of the role of individual leaders set against the tectonic plates of economic systems, social classes, genders, political alliances and ethnic groups. To suggest that individual leaders might make a difference is to place an unwarranted responsibility upon mere actors when the real issue is ‘the system’ – whatever the system is.

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Context clues in the American presidential campaigns

By Sandy Maisel
Presidential campaign watching is a great American game. Did Romney respond correctly when challenged on why he failed to mention our men and women in uniform in his convention speech? Does President Obama really like hanging out in sports bars and receiving giant bear hugs from pizza shop owners? How big was the Obama convention bounce and what does it mean?

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The sustainability of civil engineering

By David Muir Wood
The definition of civil engineering is a historical curiosity. Originally so called to distinguish it from military engineering, it was particularly concerned (in the 18th century, for example) with the provision of infrastructure for transport – hence the French emphasis on ponts et chaussées in their organisation of education and professional activity. But there is really no difference in the nature of the engineering performed by civil engineers and military engineers…

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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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