University Press Roundup

Welcome to our weekly roundup of the best articles from the blogs of academic publishers! As always, if you particularly enjoy something or think that we missed an important post, please let us know in the comments.

We’ll kick things off this week with a fascinating story by Bonnie Henderson on the Oregon State University Press Blog. Fifteen months ago, the tsunami in Japan broke off a large concrete dock from the port of Misawa, Japan. That same dock just recently washed up on a beach near Newport, Oregon. In her post, Henderson discusses the science behind the dock’s long journey and reflects on what we should learn from the debris from the Japanese tsunami that has washed up on North American coasts.

On July 4th, scientists working with the LHC (almost certainly) discovered a new particle that seems to be the famous Higgs boson. The Harvard University Press blog has a helpful excerpt from their title 101 Quantum Questions explaining just what the Higgs particle is and why it is so important. Meanwhile, at the OUPblog, particle physicist Frank Close discusses who should be awarded the inevitable Nobel Prize for the boson discovery.

Of course, July 4th is a notable date for reasons other than the Higgs boson discovery. July 4th is Independence Day here in the United States, and a number of UP blogs celebrated the occasion with posts offering different takes on the holiday. At the Harvard University Press blog, Eliga Gould explains the global political context of the events of July 4, 1776. Beacon Broadside offers the mixed feelings of three authors who quote Frederick Douglass’s famous speech “What to a Slave is the Fourth of July?”. And finally, the AMACOM staff shares some of their favorite Fourth of July summer recipes.

The relationship between drug trafficking and conflict in countries around the world has rarely been clearer. This week, the Stanford Press blog raises concerns that a powerful drug trade can be a catalyst of civil wars and suggests that the situations in Afghanistan and Mexico are even more dangerous than we may previously have thought. The Yale Press Log examines the drug war in Mexico through Jo Tuckman’s observations on Mexican politics since 2000.

Sadly, TV icon Andy Griffith passed away earlier this week. The UNC Press Blog has a moving article about Griffith’s career and the enormous impact he had on the state of North Carolina: “it’s different if you’re from North Carolina—because he lived here and that show on TV, well that was here, too. And I was watching a show about what it was like to live here in North Carolina when my dad was growing up—at least that’s how I imagined it in 1982. It was my very own mythologized history.”

Last month, the New York Times ran a fascinating article on the family history of Michelle Obama, with a special focus on her distant white relatives and on “the discomfort that many of the people whom the author interviewed have about the nature of the sexual relations between the male slaveholders and the women and girls they enslaved.” At From the Square, the NYU Press blog, Kidada E. Williams revisits the article and discusses why these slaveholder-slave relationships cause such general discomfort today.

We generally take for granted that process by which votes in American elections are counted is consistent, accurate, and generally hitch-free, with a few notable exceptions (e.g. Florida in 2000). However, in Election 101, the Princeton University Press blog’s political series, Heather Gerken lists five common myths about the American voting system. Most worrying may be “Myth 3: We know what’s wrong with our election system and how to fix it.” Gerken claims that “Our sense of what’s wrong with our election system depend largely on anecdote and educated guesses.” Yikes.

In 1898, a Minnesotan farmer (originally from Sweden) claimed to have found a large stone carved all over with runes. The Kensington Rune Stone was initially thought to offer proof that Norsemen had visited the Americas well before Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue. However, most scholars now think that the Rune Stone is a hoax. At the University of Minnesota Press Blog, Larry Millett discusses the Rune Stone, adds Sherlock Holmes to the mix, and explains that “[t]he trouble with fiction, as anyone who wrestles with writing it will tell you, is that it can seldom match the sheer weirdness of reality.”

At This Side of the Pond, the Cambridge University Press blog, Carolyn Bronstein looks back at the debate caused by Deep Throat, a popular pornographic film from the 1970’s. Particularly interesting for Bronstein are the similarities between the arguments over the film and the current debates concerning the huge bestseller Fifty Shades of Grey.

Finally, we can’t end this week’s Roundup without mentioning the heat wave that’s been the cause of sweat, tears, and storms all across the country. The Chicago Blog, the blog of the University of Chicago Press, looks back at other exceptionally hot years in America. 1936 was perhaps the hottest year of the 20th century (and one of the worst years of the Dust Bowl). And the heat wave of 1995 caused a number deaths that are still popularly disputed.

We hope you have a relaxing (and cool) weekend! Thanks again for reading!

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