Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

How do male hummingbird dance moves alter their appearance?

Many animals use colorful ornaments and exaggerated dances or displays to attract mates, such as birds of paradise. Some animals go even further and have colors that can change as they dance, such as in peacocks or morpho butterflies. This special type of color is called iridescence, and its appearance changes based on the angles of observation and illumination.

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Ten reasons to write in plain English [excerpt]

Medical science writing is important and writing in plain English (that being writing that conveys the right content, clearly, and concisely) is a skill honed by practice. Learning to express complex ideas succinctly is in no way a remedial skill. Rather, it can only be seen as a sign of mastery. This matters in the 21st century, as English is the global language of science.

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Creativity, the brain, and society

Creativity research has come of age. Today, the nature of the creative process is investigated with every tool of modern cognitive neuroscience: neuroimaging, genetics, computational modeling, among them. Yet the brain mechanisms of creativity remain a mystery and the studies of the brains of “creative” individuals have so far failed to produce conclusive results.

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A step in the light direction for arrhythmia

Each successful beat of the heart is the result of a well-timed electrical orchestra, headed by a conductor tasked with tirelessly maintaining this life-sustaining rhythm. The conductor of this silent symphony is the heart’s natural pacemaker cells, which synchronize the muscular contractions necessary to pump blood throughout the body.

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An interdisciplinary view of cows and bulls. Part 1: cow

When people began to domesticate the cow, what could or would they have called the animal? Ideally, a moo. This is what children do when they, Adam-like, begin to invent names for the objects around them. However, the Old English for “cow” was cū, that is, coo, if we write it the modern way, not mū. Obviously, cows don’t say coo. Pigeons do. Therefore, we are obliged to treat this word in the traditional way, that is, to look for the cognates, reconstruct the most ancient form, and so on.

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Do government officials discriminate?

Suppose you write an email to a school district or a library asking for information about enrolling your child to the school or becoming a library member. Do you expect to receive a reply? And do you expect this reply to be cordial, for instance including some form of salutation? It turns out that the answers to the two questions above depend on what your name is and on what it embodies.

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Something Old, Something New

The art of secular dying

When Stephen Hawking died recently, a report echoed around the internet that he had rejected atheism in his last hours and turned to God. The story was utterly false; Hawking experienced no such deathbed conversion. Similar spurious accounts circulated after the deaths of other notoriously secular figures, including Christopher Hitchens and, back in the day, Charles Darwin.

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Professionalizing leadership – training

Leadership is taught as casually and carelessly as ubiquitously. With few exceptions, the leadership industry sends the mistaken, misguided, and misleading message that leadership can be learned quickly and easily in, say, a course or a workshop; in a year or even a term. Which raises this question: What if leadership were conceived a profession instead of an occupation? What constitutes good leadership training?

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Social media use and disturbed sleep

Are you spending more and more time consuming social media through your computer, mobile phone, video games, and social media apps? If so, you’re not alone. Data from Pew Research Center has shown that use of social media among adults has grown from 5% in 2005 to 69% in 2018, with almost 90% of 18–29-years-olds indicating use. Using social media of various forms may have some benefits

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Melody—why isn’t it taught?

Melody is one of the four foundational materials—melody, harmony, rhythm, and texture— used to make music. It is also the one most people would cite as the most attractive, the one that draws audiences to the works of Puccini, Tchaikovsky, Chopin, and others, and to the popular songs of George Gershwin, Diane Warren, Bruno Mars, and more. Yet I know of no college course that is devoted to teaching this subject in depth.

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Science and spectacle: exposing climate change through the arts

Despite scientific consensus about the reality of climate change, one of the challenges facing the scientific community is effectively facilitating an understanding of the problem and encouraging action. Given the complexity of the issue, its many interdependencies, and lack of simple solutions, it’s easy to ignore. For many people, the threat of climate change feels distant and abstract—something they don’t easily perceive in their day-to-day lives. One of the ways that might help people grasp the real complexities of climate change is through narratives and storytelling.

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Considerations for peacemaking and peacekeeping

Since the end of the Cold War, there has been an increasing amount of attention paid to peacekeeping. Consequently, peace has generated considerable interest in the areas of education, research, and politics. Peacekeeping developed in the 1950s as part of preventive diplomacy. It has since become an essential component of conflict prevention and peacebuilding. Peacebuilding has become embedded in the theory and practice of national governments, nongovernmental organizations, and regional and global intergovernmental organizations. Most regional intergovernmental organizations now have departments for peacemaking, peacekeeping, and peacebuilding.

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The agonies of the Multilateral Trading System

As of late, the Multilateral Trading System has been beset by several serious agonies. The symptoms have been obvious. The 11th Ministerial of the World Trade Organization (WTO), which took place in December 2017 in Buenos Aires, has demonstrated that the WTO’s rule-making function is no longer performing as expected: with the exception of a shared willingness to collectively and constructively work further on the issue of disciplining fishery subsidies, it did not result in any new normative multilateral outcome. Likewise, the WTO’s dispute settlement function has been affected by a stalled selection process for its new judges. If this situation persists, the WTO might cease to be the Multilateral Trading System’s final legal arbiter.

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The social importance of dance in the 17th and 18th centuries

In the 21st century, dance is a part of life—it can be an occupation, a part of traditional weddings, a hobby, and a pastime, among other things. However, it is regarded quite differently than it was in the time of the Enlightenment, when it was a much more important part of regular social life, especially for the wealthier classes. In this time, young adults went to dance instructors to make sure they were properly trained for the social activities they would soon be a part of. Read on for excerpts of correspondence from Electronic Enlightenment highlighting just how important dancing was to everyday life in the 17th and 18th centuries.

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Trust in face-to-face diplomacy

President Donald Trump and his North Korean counterpart, Kim Jong-un, are due to meet for a historic summit in an as yet undisclosed location to try and resolve the nuclear stand-off on the Korean peninsula. For academics that study the potential of face-to-face diplomacy to de-escalate and transform conflicts, the summit is a fascinating case for testing the validity of their theories and prescriptions.

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Soil protists: a fertile frontier in biology research

For many years, soil has been considered the ultimate frontier to ecological knowledge. Soils serve many ecosystem functions for humans; for example, they provide the basis for most of our nutrition. Yet, the organisms which act as the catalysts for those services—i.e. the soil microbiota—still remain a relatively unexplored field of research.

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