Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

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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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8 марта 1979: Women’s Day in the Soviet Union

By Marjorie Senechal
“March 8 is Women’s Day, a legal holiday,” I wrote to my mother from Moscow. “This is one of the many cute cards that is on sale now, all with flowers somewhere on them. We hope March 8 finds you well and happy, and enjoying an early spring! Alas, here it is -30° C again.”

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A record-breaking lunar impact

On 11 September 2013, an unusually long and bright impact flash was observed on the Moon. Its peak luminosity was equivalent to a stellar magnitude of around 2.9. What happened? A meteorite with a mass of around 400 kg hit the lunar surface at a speed of over 61,000 kilometres per hour.

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Frank Close on the Higgs boson

In 2013, the Nobel Prize for Physics was awarded jointly to François Englert and Peter W. Higgs for their work on what is now commonly known as the Higgs field and the Higgs boson. The existence of this fundamental particle, responsible for the creation of mass, was confirmed by the ATLAS and CMS experiments at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider in 2012.

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Peak shopping and the decline of traditional retail

By David M. Levinson
Shopping trips now comprise fewer than 9% of all trips, down from 12.5% in 2000, according to our analysis of the Twin Cities Travel Behavior Inventories. This is consistent with other results from the American Time Use Survey. They are down by about one-third in a decade.

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A brief and incomplete history of astronomy

By Ayana Young and Georgia Mierswa


NASA posted an update in the last week of December that the international space station would be visible from the New York City area—and therefore the Oxford New York office—on the night of 28 December 2013. While there were certainly a vast number of NASA super fans rushed outside that particularly clear night (this writer included), it’s difficult for recent generations to recall a time when space observations and achievements like this contributed significantly to the cultural zeitgeist.

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Is science inconsistent?

By Peter Vickers
An important part of life is judging when to be sceptical about scientific claims, and when to trust in those claims and take actions accordingly. Often this comes down to the task of weighing up evidence. But we might think that when the science in question is internally inconsistent, or self-contradictory, we have an easy decision.

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Coherence in photosynthesis

By Jessica M. Anna, Gregory D. Scholes, and Rienk van Grondelle
Photosynthesis is responsible for life on our planet, from supplying the oxygen we breathe to the food that we eat. The process of photosynthesis is complex, involving many protein complexes and enzymes that work together in a concerted effort to convert solar energy to chemical bonds.

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The Crab Nebula

By Professor Sir Francis Graham-Smith
The Crab Nebula and the pulsar at its centre are endlessly fascinating. The pulsar is a neutron star, with the same mass as our Sun but only the size of a city.

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Tale of two laboratories

By Istvan Hargittai
The Los Alamos National Laboratory came to life in 1943 as the concluding segment of the Manhattan Project to produce the atomic bombs for the US Army. In August 1945, these bombs were dropped over Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

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The Milky Way’s tilted dark matter halo

The gravity of the Milky Way Galaxy is tearing the Sagittarius Dwarf Galaxy apart. Stars ripped out of the tiny galaxy have ended up in a stream, which wraps around our own much heavier galaxy.

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From the Higgs to dark matter

By Gianfranco Bertone
A quiet turmoil agitates the international scientific community, as cosmology and particle physics discretely inch toward a pivotal paradigm shift.
The giant detectors that have allowed the much celebrated discovery of the Higgs boson, for which the 2013 Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded this October, now sit quietly in the depths of CERN’s Large Hadron Collider tunnel — barely fitting in their underground hall, like the green apple in Magritte’s painting The Listening Room —

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And the Nobel Prize goes to… Higgs and Englert!

By Jim Baggott
Earlier today the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announced the award of the 2013 Nobel Prize in Physics to English theorist Peter Higgs and Belgian François Englert, for their work on the ‘mechanism that contributes to our understanding of the origin of mass of subatomic particles’. This work first appeared in a series of research papers published in 1964.

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The first ray gun

By Stephen R. Wilk
When reporting on the origin of that science fiction cliché, the ray gun or death ray, most histories cite H.G. Wells’ classic story The War of the Worlds, which first appeared in Pearson’s Magazine between April and December of 1897. Wells was undoubtedly one of the founders of science fiction, striving to create original situations and ideas.

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