Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

Infinity Puzzle

Celebrating 60 years of CERN

2014 marks not just the centenary of the start of World War I, and the 75th anniversary of World War II, but on 29 September it is 60 years since the establishment of CERN, the European Centre for Nuclear Research or, in its modern form, Particle Physics.

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The construction of the Cartesian System as a rival to the Scholastic Summa

René Descartes wrote his third book, Principles of Philosophy, as something of a rival to scholastic textbooks. He prided himself in “that those who have not yet learned the philosophy of the schools will learn it more easily from this book than from their teachers, because by the same means they will learn to scorn it, and even the most mediocre teachers will be capable of teaching my philosophy by means of this book alone” (Descartes to Marin Mersenne, December 1640).

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The 150th anniversary of Newlands’ discovery of the periodic system

The discovery of the periodic system of the elements and the associated periodic table is generally attributed to the great Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev. Many authors have indulged in the game of debating just how much credit should be attributed to Mendeleev and how much to the other discoverers of this unifying theme of modern chemistry.

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The Lost Elements

Dmitri Mendeleev’s lost elements

Dmitri Mendeleev believed he was a great scientist and indeed he was. He was not actually recognized as such until his periodic table achieved worldwide diffusion and began to appear in textbooks of general chemistry and in other major publications.

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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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science-of-cheese

The health benefits of cheese

Lipids (fats and oils) have historically been thought to elevate weight and blood cholesterol and have therefore been considered to have a negative influence on the body. Foods such as full-fat milk and cheese have been avoided by many consumers for this reason. This attitude has been changing in recent years.

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Boxes and paradoxes

By Marjorie Senechal
It was eerie, a gift from the grave. But I thank serendipity, not spooks. The gift, it turns out, was given forty years ago.

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True or false? Ten myths about Isaac Newton

By Sarah Dry
Nearly three hundred years since his death, Isaac Newton is as much a myth as a man. The mythical Newton abounds in contradictions; he is a semi-divine genius and a mad alchemist, a somber and solitary thinker and a passionate religious heretic. Myths usually have an element of truth to them but how many Newtonian varieties are true? Here are ten of the most common, debunked or confirmed by the evidence of his own private papers.

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The Man in the Monkeynut Coat and the men in the yellow jerseys

By Kersten Hall
It is a safe bet that the name of Pierre Rolland rings very few bells among the British public. In 2012, Rolland, riding for Team Europcar finished in eighth place in the overall final classifications of the Tour de France whilst Sir Bradley Wiggins has since become a household name following his fantastic achievement of being the first British person ever to win the most famous cycle race in the world.

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Feynman diagrams and the fly in the ointment

By Tom Lancaster and Stephen J. Blundell
Sometimes it’s the fly in the ointment, the thing that spoils the purity of the whole picture, which leads to the big advances in science. That’s exactly what happened at a conference in Shelter Island, New York in 1947 when a group of physicists gathered to discuss the latest breakthroughs in their field which seemed at first sight to make everything more complicated.

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Inferring the unconfirmed: the no alternatives argument

By Richard Dawid
“When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth”. Thus Arthur Conan Doyle has Sherlock Holmes describe a crucial part of his method of solving detective cases. Sherlock Holmes often takes pride in adhering to principles of scientific reasoning.

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18 facts you never knew about cheese

Have you often lain awake at night, wishing that you knew more about cheese? Fear not! Your prayers have been answered; here you will find 18 of the most delicious cheese facts, all taken from Michael Tunick’s The Science of Cheese. Bon Appétit.

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BICEP2 finds gravitational waves from near the dawn of time

By Andrew Liddle
The cosmology community is abuzz with news from the BICEP2 experiment of the discovery of primordial gravitational waves, through their signature in the cosmic microwave background. If verified, this will be a clear indication that the very young Universe underwent a period of acceleration, known as cosmic inflation.

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Minority women chemists yesterday and today

By Jeannette Brown
As far as we know, the first African American woman PhD was Dr. Marie Daly in 1947. I am still searching for an earlier one. Women chemists, especially minority women chemists, have always been the underdogs in science and chemistry.

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