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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

Representation in Cognitive Science

What is “representation” in the human brain and AI systems?

Neuroscience is beginning to make sense of what’s going on inside the human brain—a seemingly inscrutable organ of even great complexity. We can now see what some patterns of activity are, and we have an inkling of what they are doing, of how they track the environment, and subserve behaviour.

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Global Environmental Politics: Understanding the Governance of the Earth

COVID-19 and pollution: double standards, quadruple bias

The difference between policy responses to COVID-19 and to environmental crises is striking. When faced with the pandemic, governments around the world (with a few notable exceptions) adopted draconian measures to limit the disaster. These measures are not inconsequential: it will take years to reduce unemployment and the public debt. Yet, they were sacrifices considered necessary to protect public health.

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Cubs galore

The time has come to find out where cub came from. “Cub,” which surfaced in English texts only in the early sixteenth century, turned out to be an aggressive creature: it ousted whelp, and later the verb “to cub” came into existence. The constant suppression of old words by upstarts is a process worth noticing.

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Genome Biology and Evolution

Good news for honey bees from 150-year-old museum specimens

The past several decades have been hard on Apis mellifera, the Western honey bee. Originally native to Europe, Africa, and the Middle East, Western honey bees have spread worldwide thanks to the nutritional and medicinal value of their honey, pollen, beeswax, and other hive products.

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Posthuman Bliss? The Failed Promise of Transhumanism

Playing to lose: transhumanism, autonomy, and liberal democracy [long read]

[long read] Transhumanists insist that their vision of the “radical” bioenhancement of human capacities is light-years removed from prior eugenics, which was state managed. This reassuring, empowering picture is undercut by transhumanists’ own arguments, which offer incompatible pictures of personal autonomy in relation to decisions about the use of bioenhancement technologies.

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Henry James and the Art of Impressions

Impressionism’s sibling rivalry

Sixty world-famous impressionist paintings arrived at the Royal Academy of Arts in London from Copenhagen in March of this year, a whisker before lockdown was imposed. Instead of drawing box-office crowds, they sat in storage for four months. But then the Academy reopened its doors in August with the Covid-secure ‘Gauguin and the Impressionists’. That this exhibition sold out so quickly is testament not only to our hunger for unmediated culture after a period of captivity, but also to the enduring popularity of impressionism.

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Was the dog-demon of Ephesus a werewolf?

Apollonius of Tyana was a Pythagorean sage and miracle-worker whose life was roughly conterminous with the first century AD. He is often, accordingly, referred to as “the pagan Jesus.” We owe almost all we know about him to a Life written by Philostratus shortly after AD 217. In one of the biography’s more striking episodes (4.10), the great man eliminates a plague (a timely subject indeed for us!) that has fallen upon the people of Ephesus.

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A mild case of etymological calf love

As far as I can judge, the origin of “calf”, the animal, contains relatively few riddles, and in this blog, I prefer not to repeat what can be found in solid dictionaries and on reliable websites. But there is a hitch in relation to the frolicsome calf, the lower leg. That is why I decided to give calf a chance…

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The Changing Energy Mix

The economic and environmental case for electric vehicles

Electricity generation comes from many energy sources, including fossil fuels such as natural gas and coal, nuclear energy, and a variety of renewable sources such as wind, solar, hydroelectric, and biomass. For the transportation sector, however, energy comes primarily from crude oil.

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Oxford African American Studies Center

Women & Literature: Maya Angelou

Angelou’s creative talent and genius cut across many arenas. One of the most celebrated authors in the United States, Angelou wrote with an honesty and grace that captured the specificity of growing up a young black girl in the rural South.

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Understanding un-

Recently I had occasion to use the word unsaid, as in what goes unsaid. Looking at that phrase later, I began to ponder the related verb unsay, which means something different.

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