Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World


10 surprising facts about spiders

Arachnophobia, an irrational fear of spiders, affects millions of people around the world. This is not helped by popular culture portraying them as scary, deadly creatures who could creep up on you, and bite you, when you least expect it. They also do look pretty creepy… We’ve found the following ten facts about these misunderstood creatures.

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9780190275501 - Out of Eden: The Surprising Consequences of Polygamy by David P. Barash

What about polygamy?

In today’s world where the majority of developed countries tend to favor monogamous relationships, what should we think about polygamy? David P. Barash, author of Out of Eden: The Surprising Consequences of Polygamy, reveals a few facts about polygamy that’ll give you some food for thought.

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Deception and the eye of the beholder

Deception is rife in nature, from spiders that mimic ants for protection through to carnivorous plants that lure insects with attractive smells. As highly visual animals ourselves it’s only natural that we humans often judge the appearance of other species through our own senses.

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Leap day, giant viruses, and gene-editing

2016 is a leap year. A leap year, or intercalary year, is a year with an extra day inserted to keep pace with the seasons. In the Gregorian calendar this falls every four years on Feb 29th. On Leap Day this year a wonderful piece of science was published about an equally rare part of nature – giant viruses.

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Women mycologists

Some individuals loom larger in mycological history than they deserve, but, to be fair, this mild indictment applies both to those with, and those without, a Y chromosome. The science of mycology blossomed in Darwin’s time, when German botanist Anton de Bary (1831-1888) began to decode the life cycles of fungi and penned the first textbook on fungi.

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Climate change and COP21 – Episode 32 – The Oxford Comment

The Paris Agreement, held from 30 November to 12 December 2015, has been hailed as a “historic turning point” in the battle against global climate change. Consequently, dialogue surrounding greenhouse gas emissions, particularly around political and economic compliance.

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Lui et al-Pandas and People

Pandas and people: understanding their complex relationships for successful conservation

Amid failures in saving numerous wildlife species worldwide, there is an encouraging success—decades of panda habitat degradation have been transformed into a remarkable recovery. The success is taking place in Wolong Nature Reserve of China—home to endangered giant pandas and more than 5,000 residents who share a 200,000-ha mountainous area. It is also occurring in many of the other 66 nature reserves and non-reserve areas across southwestern China.

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The true meaning of cell life and death

Two hundred years ago, William Lawrence blew the roof off the Hunter Lecture Series at the Royal College of Surgeons by adding the word “biology” to the English language to discuss living physiology, behavior, and diversity as a matter of gunky chemistry and physics, sans super-added forces.

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Enslaved ants and cuckoo bees

Many of us know that some birds trick other host parents from a different species into rearing their young. Best known is the common cuckoo in the UK and much of mainland Europe, However, this type of deception is not only the forte of birds – many insects ‘brood parasites’ too, especially ants, wasps, and bees.

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Earth’s climate: a complex system with mysteries abound

We are living with a climate system undergoing significant changes. Scientists have established a critical mass of facts and have quantified them to a degree sufficient to support international action to mitigate against drastic change and adapt to committed climate shifts. The primary example being the relation between increased atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations and the extent of warming in the future.

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biodeverity book cover

Can re-wilding the uplands help to prevent flooding in the lowlands?

The recent flooding in the north of England has prompted calls for better flood defences and river dredging. But these measures are unlikely to work by themselves, especially with the increased likelihood of extreme weather events in the coming years. A new approach is needed that considers whole catchment management – starting with the source of rivers in upland areas.

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Lead poisoning of Flint, Michigan—penny wise, pound foolish, and criminal

The tragedy of children poisoned by lead-contaminated water in Flint, Michigan is not an isolated incident. More than 11 counties in New Jersey have children with higher lead levels than those of Flint. Since 2008, drastic cuts in funding for public health programs across the board have slashed programs to educate parents and pediatricians to test young kids for lead poisoning or test water for its residues.

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Beyond the noise barrier

Noise barriers are not regarded with a great deal of affection. In fact, they’re not much regarded at all; perhaps not surprising, given that the goal of their installers is to ensure that those who benefit notice neither the barrier nor the noise sources it hides. The majority are basic workmanlike structures, built according to tried and trusted principles.

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The evolution of humans [infographic]

Where did we come from? How did we become human? What’s the origin of our species? It is hard to imagine our understanding of humanity without, of course, Charles Darwin’s Theory of Evolution. Our own family tree testifies to this age-old pattern of extinction, adaption, and evolution.

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Illusions for survival and reproduction

Much of what we think we see is not real – it’s an illusion. A favourite pastime for many visual psychologists and artists is to baffle and confuse our perception by making things appear that are not really there, or manipulating the way that we might see patterns or colours. The origin of many illusions lies in the fact that the brain often receives incomplete or conflicting information.

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