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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

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The quest for a malaria vaccine continues

The 2016 World Malaria Report estimates that there were approximately 215 million cases of malaria and 438,000 deaths in 2015. The majority of deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa and among young children, and malaria remains endemic in around 100 countries with over three billion people at risk. Over the past 15 years there have been major gains in reducing the global burden of malaria

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Protecting the Earth for future generations

Earth Day is an annual celebration, championed by the Earth Day Network, which focuses on promoting environmental protection around the world. The Earth Day Network’s mission is to build a healthy, sustainable environment, address climate change, and protect the Earth for future generations. The theme for Earth Day 2016 is Trees for the Earth, raising awareness around protecting the Earth’s forests.

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Science informed by affection and ethics

“We may, without knowing it, be writing a new definition of what science is for,” said Aldo Leopold to the Wildlife Society in 1940. A moderate but still crisp April breeze was playing in my hair as the sun worked to melt the last bits of frost in the silt. Shoots of prairie grasses were popping up through the mud, past shell skeletons of river mussels and clams.

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The evolution of evolution

How did it come to this? How was evolution transformed from a scientific principle of human-as-animal to a contentious policy battle concerning children’s education? From the mid-19th century to today, evolution has been in a huge tug-of-war as to what it meant and who, politically speaking, got to claim it.

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Unnatural disasters and environmental injustice

The recent tragedy involving toxic, lead-laced tap water in Flint, Michigan highlights the growing gulf between rich and poor, and majority and minority communities. In an ill-fated measure to save costs for the struggling city of Flint, officials stopped using Detroit’s water supply system and switched to the Flint River.

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Defining biodiversity genomics

Many say now is the century of biology, the study of life. Genomics is therefore “front-and-centre”, as DNA, is the software of life. From staring at stars, we are now staring at DNA. We can’t use our eyes, like we do in star gazing, but just as telescopes show us the far reaches of the Universe, DNA sequencing machines are reading out our genomes at an astonishing pace.

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10 facts you should know about moons

Proving to be both varied and fascinating, moons are far more common than planets in our Solar System. Our own Moon has had a profound influence on Earth, not only through tidal effects, but even on the behaviour of some marine animals. But how much do we really know about moons?

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Passion and compassion: The people who created the words and numbers of environmental science

These are the images I carry in memory that form my understanding of passion and compassion in science: Rachel Carson waking at midnight to return to the sea the microscopic marine organisms she has been studying, when the tidal cycle is favorable to their survival; John Muir clinging to the upper branches of a tall pine during a violent storm, reveling in the power of natural forces.

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How does chemistry shape evolution?

When people think of evolution, many reflect on the concept as an operation filled with endless random possibilities–a process that arrives at advantageous traits by chance. But is the course of evolution actually random? In A World from Dust: How the Periodic Table Shaped Life, Ben McFarland argues that an understanding of chemistry can both explain and predict the course of evolution.

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Underground in the city

Most people living in large towns and cities probably give little thought to soil. Why should they? At a first glance, much of the ground in towns and cities is sealed with concrete, asphalt and bricks, and most city-dwellers have little reason to have contact with soil. To most, soil in cities is simply dirt. But soil is actually in abundance in cities: it lays beneath the many small gardens, flower beds, road and railway verges, parks, sports grounds, school playing fields, and allotments of the city, where it plays many under appreciated roles.

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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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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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