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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

Viruses: The Invisible Enemy, second edition

What are viruses for?

What are viruses for? What use are they? These are questions that my frustrated grandson asked during the first lockdown in 2020, when he was deprived of friends, school and sports, all because of a virus.

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Looking for Alicia: The Unfinished Life of an Argentinian Rebel

Memory, truth, and justice as Argentina honours the victims of state terrorism

24 March is a public holiday in Argentina, officially designated as The Day of Remembrance for Truth and Justice. The date commemorates the 1976 coup d’état that unleashed seven years of military dictatorship. The legacy of the coup continues to echo in Argentina, especially for the tens of thousands of families who lost loved ones during the military’s euphemistically-styled “national re-organization process.”

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Souls searched for but not found (part two)

This is the second and last part of the series on the origin of the word “soul.” The perennial interest in the etymology of this word should not surprise us. It is our inability to find a convincing solution that causes astonishment and disappointment.

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Zenobia: Shooting Star of Palmyra

Zenobia: warrior queen or political tactician?

Popular culture often romanticizes Zenobia of Palmyra as a warrior queen. But the ancient evidence doesn’t support that she fought in battles. Instead, we should remember Zenobia as a skilled political tactician. She became ruler without being dominated by the men of her court.

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Manhattan Phoenix: The Great Fire of 1835 and the Emergence of Modern New York by Daniel S. Levy

New York City: the grid

There had been attempts to lay out streets in New York going back to its founding. It was a process that would go on for the next few centuries, and would only accelerate in the decades before and after the Great Fire of 1835.

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The Silken Thread

History repeats—yellow fever and COVID-19

See if this sounds familiar: misinformation, disinformation, and incomplete information are applied to an epidemic, its causes, and treatments. I am not referring to COVID-19 but to 1878 and the yellow fever epidemic that decimated a wide swath of the southern reach of the Mississippi River.

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Human-Centered AI by Ben Shneiderman

Behind the cover: Human-Centered AI

Human and robot handshakes, humanoid robots with electronic wiring, and human brains with chip circuitry dominate depictions of AI. I’ve long felt that these images were misleading, thereby slowing research on technologies that enhance and empower human performance. The challenge is to find other ways to present future technologies.

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Soul searching, or the inscrutable word “soul” (part one)

If we expect someone to save our souls, this person won’t be an etymologist, because no language historian knows the origin of the word soul, and without a convincing etymology, how can anyone save the intangible substance it denotes? Yet nothing prevents us from looking at the main attempts to decipher the mysterious word.

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Corporate Governance in Contention

Shared governance—not shareholder governance

The intellectual basis for shareholder control of firms is that what is good for shareholders is good for everyone. In turn that is rationalized by the claim that only shareholders bear risks that are not compensated by contracts.

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Music Therapy Perspectives

Managing the power of music to foster safety and avoid harm

Pulitzer Prize recipient and American playwright Lynn Nottage shared in a recent interview, “What music can do is get to the emotion with incredible economy and efficiency.” This capacity that music holds to reach in and connect to the wide range of emotions we experience as human beings can be a wonderful asset as it accesses those feelings we want to revisit and are ready to express. This becomes challenging and potentially harmful when it relates to unexpressed or unresolved emotions and experiences.

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Dreams of Love: Playing the Romantic Pianist

The Piano meets The Power of the Dog

In Jane Campion’s 1993 film “The Piano”, and her new film, “The Power of the Dog”, the grand piano serves as more than the emblematic instrument of feminine domestic music-making and of European bourgeois culture transported to the hinterlands of the nation or empire; it also functions as a gender technology because it regulates the metaphorical sound-body of the woman who plays it.

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Five books to celebrate British Science Week

To celebrate British Science Week, join in the conversation and keep abreast of the latest in science by delving into our reading list. It contains five of our latest books on evolutionary biology, the magic of mathematics, artificial intelligence, and more.

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Manhattan Phoenix: The Great Fire of 1835 and the Emergence of Modern New York by Daniel S. Levy

New York City: the streams and waterways of Manhattan

We think of New York as an island packed with buildings, a place of concrete sidewalks and tarmacked avenues, a city that as Frank Sinatra sang, “doesn’t sleep.” But Manhattan at the turn of the 19th century—in the years before its street grid was laid out and decades before the Great Fire of 1835 which would accelerate the city’s northward growth—was a very different sort of place. New York City back then was a sleepy town just on the island of Manhattan.

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