Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

9780199539543

What exactly is intelligence?

Ask anybody that question and you will probably get a different answer every time. Most would argue that intelligence is limited to mankind and give examples of brainy people like Einstein or Newton. Others might identify it as being clever, good in exams or being smart, having a high IQ. But was Einstein particularly intelligent or Newton?

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“A Bright But Unsteady Light”

Edgar Allan Poe died 165 years ago today in the early morning of 7 October 1849. Only a few details of the illness that extinguished his “bright but unsteady light”4 are known because his physician, Dr. John Joseph Moran, used the illness to promote his own celebrity and in the process denied posterity an accurate clinical description.

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Are we alone in the Universe?

World Space Week has prompted myself and colleagues at the Open University to discuss the question: ‘Is there life beyond Earth?’ The bottom line is that we are now certain that there are many places in our Solar System and around other stars where simple microbial life could exist, of kinds that we know from various settings, both mundane and exotic, on Earth. What we don’t know is whether any life DOES exist in any of those places.

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World Water Monitoring Day 2014

World Water Monitoring Day is an annual celebration reaching out to the global community to build awareness and increase involvement in the protection of water resources around the world. The hope is that individuals will feel motivated and empowered to investigate basic water monitoring in their local area.

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9780199914012

Aspirin the wonder drug: some food for thought

So far it has been an unusually warm and sunny summer in the United Kingdom, but unfortunately this clement weather has not been matched by the news coverage of world events, which for months has been overcast and stormy as war and tragedy have stalked Europe and the Middle East. But there was a break […]

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Pigment profile in the photosynthetic sea slug Elysia viridis

How can sacoglossan sea slugs perform photosynthesis – a process usually associated with plants? Kleptoplasty describes a special type of endosymbiosis where a host organism retain photosynthetic organelles from their algal prey. Kleptoplasty is widespread in ciliates and foraminifera; however, within Metazoa animals (animals having the body composed of cells differentiated into tissues and organs, and usually a digestive cavity lined with specialized cells), sacoglossan sea slugs are the only known species to harbour functional plastids.

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9780199985562

Engaged Buddhism and community ecology

For the most part, Buddhists have historically been less concerned with explaining the world than with generating personal peace and enlightenment. However, the emergence of “engaged Buddhism” – especially in the West, has emphasized a powerful commitment to environmental protection based in no small part on a fundamental ecological awareness that lies at the heart of Buddhist thought and practice.

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Living in the dark

It is well known that many of the permanent inhabitants of caves have evolved a bizarre, convergent morphology, including loss of eyes and pigment, elongation and thinning of appendages, and other adaptations to conditions of complete darkness and scarce food.

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What goes up must come down

Biomechanics is the study of how animals move. It’s a very broad field, including concepts such as how muscles are used, and even how the timing of respiration is associated with moving. Biomechanics can date its beginnings back to the 1600s, when Giovanni Alfonso Borelli first began investigating animal movements. More detailed analyses by pioneers such as Etienne Jules Marey and Eadweard Muybridge, in around the late 1800s started examining the individual frames of videos of moving animals.

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The environmental case for nuclear power

Time is running short. When the IPCC published its first scientific report in 1990 on the possibility of human-caused global warming, the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) was 354 ppm. It is now 397 ppm and rising. In spite of Kyoto, Copenhagen, Cancun, Durban, and Doha, atmospheric CO2 continues its inexorable upward path.

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ocean-worlds

The life of oceans: a history of marine discovery

It pays to be nice. One of the most absolutely, emphatically wrong hypotheses about the oceans was coined by one of the most carefree and amiable people in nineteenth century science. It should have sunk his reputation without trace. Yet, it did not.

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If it’s 2014, this must be Sacramento

It is likely that most ecologists have their own stories regarding the annual meetings of the Ecological Society of America (ESA), the world’s largest organization of professional ecologists. Some revere it, whereas others may criticize it. There is, however, truth in numbers—growth in attendance has been seemingly exponential since my first meeting in the early 1980’s.

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Why you can’t take a pigeon to the movies

Films trick our senses in many ways. Most fundamentally, there’s the illusion of motion as “moving pictures” don’t really move at all. Static images shown at a rate of 24 frames per second can give the semblance of motion. Slower frame rates tend to make movements appear choppy or jittery. But film advancing at about 24 frames per second gives us a sufficient impression of fluid motion.

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Microbes matter

By John Archibald
We humans have a love-hate relationship with bugs. I’m not talking about insects — although many of us cringe at the thought of them too — but rather the bugs we can’t see, the ones that make us sick. Sure, microorganisms give us beer, wine, cheese, and yoghurt; hardly a day goes by without most people consuming food or drink produced by microbial fermentation.

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