Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

Animal of the month: nine facts about badgers

Badgers are short, stocky mammals that are part of the Mustelidae family. Although badgers are found in Africa, Eurasia, and North America, these animals are possibly best-known from their frequent appearance in literature, such as “Badger” from The Wind in the Willows and Hufflepuff’s house animal in the Harry Potter series, and for being a 2003 internet sensation.

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Crime and punishment, and the spirit of St Petersburg

Crime and Punishment is a story of a murder and morality that draws deeply on Dostoevsky’s personal experiences as a prisoner. It contrasts criminality with conscience, nihilism with consequences, and examines the lengths to which people will go to retain a sense of liberty. One of the factors that brought all these things together was the novel’s setting, around the Haymarket in St Petersburg, where the grandeur of the imperial capital gives way to poverty, squalor, and vice.

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What’s going on in the shadows? A visual arts timeline

Although cast shadows lurk almost everywhere in the visual arts, they often slip by audiences unnoticed. That’s unfortunate, since every shadow tells a story. Whether painted, filmed, photographed, or generated in real time, shadows provide vital information that makes a representation engaging to the eye. Shadows speak about the shape, volume, location, and texture of objects, as well as about the source of light, the time of day or season, the quality of the atmosphere, and so on.

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National Family Caregivers (NFC) Month: a reading list

National Family Caregivers (NFC) Month is celebrated each November, in honor and recognition of the roughly 40 million Americans providing care to an adult family member or loved one. In 1997 President William J. Clinton signed the first NFC Month Presidential Proclamation, articulating that “Selflessly offering their energy and love to those in need, family caregivers have earned our heartfelt gratitude and profound respect.”

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The end of liberalism

Fifty-nine years ago, William Proxmire of the now-Rust Belt state of Wisconsin took the floor of the US Senate in support of a bill that would lower tariffs on imported goods. My then-boss had brought with him a few hundred of the many pro-free-trade letters that our office had received in support of the bill. Liberalism — and not just a reduction in trade barriers — is now in trouble.

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The history of Acupuncture [timeline]

With its roots stretching back to over 6,000 years BCE, Acupuncture is one of the world’s oldest medical practices. This practice of inserting fine needles into specific areas of the body to ‘stimulate sensory nerves under the skin and in the muscles of the body’ is used widely on a global scale to alleviate pain caused by a variety of conditions.

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Is there definitive proof of the existence of God?

When Kurt Gödel, one of the greatest mathematicians of the 20th century, died in 1978 he left mysterious notes filled with logical symbols. Towards the end of his life a rumour circulated that this enigmatic genius was engaged in a secret project that was not directly relevant to his usual mathematical work. According to the rumour, he had tried to develop a logical proof of the existence of God.

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Celtic goddesses to inspire writers [slideshow]

In Greek Mythology, the muses were called upon by artists and musicians to guide and inspire their work. This National Novel Writing Month, we’ve traveled to the Celtic isles to call upon some lesser known goddesses to help inspire different genres and tropes you may wish to put to paper. Referencing Celtic Mythology: Tales of Gods, Goddesses, and Heroes, we’ve pulled together a list of five Celtic goddesses for writers.

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Sharia courts in America?

Islamic courts need not be scary so long as they adopt the general framework used for religious arbitration in America. Islamic arbitration tribunals have a place in America (just like any religious arbitration does), but Sharia Courts must function consistent with American attitudes and laws towards religious arbitration tribunals generally. By observing how Jewish rabbinical courts are regulated by US law and function within their religious communities, one sees that Islamic courts could be another example of the kind of religious arbitration that is a well-established feature of the American religious life.

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Unanswered questions in Gone with the Wind’s main title

If asked to recall a melody from Gone with the Wind, what might come to mind? For many, it’s the same four notes: a valiant leap followed by a gracious descent. This is the beginning of the Tara theme, named by composer Max Steiner for the plantation home of Scarlett O’Hara, whose impassioned misunderstandings of people and place propel the story.

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Fake facts and favourite sayings

When the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations was first published in 1941, it all seemed so simple. It was taken for granted that a quotation was a familiar line from a great poet or a famous figure in history, and the source could easily be found in standard literary works or history books. Those early compilers of quotations did not think of fake facts and the internet. “Fake facts”, or perhaps more accurately misunderstandings, have been around in the world of quotations for a long time.

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The constitutionality of the parsonage allowance

Under Internal Revenue Code Section 107(2), “ministers of the gospel” can exclude from the federal income tax cash payments from their congregations and other religious employers for such ministers’ housing. The IRS and the courts have held that this income tax exclusion applies to clergy of all religions including rabbis, cantors, and imams. Income tax-free housing payments to clergy are commonly denoted as “parsonage allowances.”

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Herpes and human evolution: a suitable topic for dinner?

Politics and religion are always topics best avoided at dinner and it’s perhaps not too much of a stretch to add STIs to that list. But it was over dinner at King’s College, Cambridge that my colleagues Charlotte Houldcroft, Krishna Kumar, and I first started to talk about the fascinating relationship humans have with Herpes.

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Pain medicine and addiction: A reading list

On the 10 August 2017, President Donald Trump declared a ‘national emergency’ in the United States – the cause: the country’s escalating opioid epidemic. This drug crisis has rapidly become one of the worst in American history, with data showing that in 2016 up to 65,000 people died from drug overdoses. Officials state that for citizens under 50 they are the leading cause of death, and opioid-specific overdoses make up two-thirds of all those recorded.

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Catalan independence in the Spanish Constitution and Courts

Following the recent ‘referendum’ and now declaration of independence, the status of Catalonia has become a hotly debated issue. As often happens in such cases, context is everything. It is not possible to appraise the perceived legitimacy of the respective claims without a clear picture of who says or does what in the particular legal environment (see mutatis mutandis the ruling of the Supreme Court of Canada on the secession of Québec, para. 155).

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