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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

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Place of the Year nominee spotlight: Dwarf planet Pluto

This July, a NASA space probe completed our set of images of the planets, at least as I knew them growing up. New Horizons, a probe that launched back in 2006, arrived at Pluto and its moons, and over a very brief encounter, started to send back thousands of images of this hitherto barely known place.

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Do mountains matter?

Do mountains matter? Today, 11 December, is International Mountain Day, celebrated worldwide since 2003. The fact that the UN General Assembly has designated such a day would suggest a simple answer. Yes – and particularly for the 915 million people who live in the mountain areas that cover 22 percent of the land area of our planet.

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9780190263553 - Atlas of the World 22nd edition (22e)

The Oxford Place of the Year 2015 is… Nepal

With the ballots cast and the year winding down, we recognize Nepal as Oxford’s Place of the Year 2015. The country came into the global spotlight back in April, when a devastating earthquake took over 9,000 lives and left hundreds of thousands of people homeless. Months later, critics point at the slow-moving recovery process that has still a far way to go before Nepal can resume normal operations.

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9780190263553 - Atlas of the World 22nd edition (22e)

Place of the Year 2015: behind the longlist

You don’t need to follow the news too closely to know that 2015 has been a roller coaster of a year. Last week we announced our longlist for Place of the Year 2015, but since then some of you have been asking, “why is x included?”, or “why is y worth our attention?”

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On the unstoppable rise of vineyard geology

The relationship between wine and the vineyard earth has long been held as very special, especially in Europe. Tradition has it that back in the Middle Ages the Burgundian monks tasted the soils in order to gauge which ones would give the best tasting wine, and over the centuries this kind of thinking was to become entrenched. The vines were manifestly taking up water from the soil.

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Urban heat islands – What are they and why are they a big deal?

The recent brutal heat waves on the Indian subcontinent, in western North America, and in western Europe are instructive reminders of an often forgotten challenge for an urbanizing human population in a warming world: alleviating urban heat stress. Cities are durable and costly to change, so what we do now to reduce risk in a future with more numerous and more dangerous heat waves that will directly affect future generations.

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OxBibs in African Studies

Cecil the lion’s death is part of a much larger problem

Effective wildlife conservation is a challenge worldwide. Only a small percentage of the earth’s surface is park, reserve, or related areas designated for the protection of wild animals, marine life, and plants. Virtually all protected areas are smaller than what conservationists believe is needed to ensure species’ survival, and many of these areas suffer from a shortage of

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Look away now: The prophecies of Nostradamus

If you like your prophecies pin sharp then look away now. The 16th century celebrity seer Nostradamus excelled at the exact opposite, couching his predictions in terms so vague as to be largely meaningless. This has not, however, prevented his soothsayings attracting enormous and unending interest, and his book – Les Propheties – has rarely been out of print since it was first published 460 years ago. Uniquely, for a renaissance augur, the writings of Nostradamus are perhaps as popular today as they were four and a half centuries ago.

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Constitutional shock and awe

Scotland has of course dominated the television and newsprint headlines over the last year, and has now emerged as the Oxford Atlas Place of the Year for 2014. This accolade is a fair reflection of the immense volume of recent discussion about Scotland’s constitutional future, and that of the United Kingdom.

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Magical Scotland: the Orkneys

The light in the Orkneys is so clear, so bright, so lucid, it feels like you are on top of the world looking though thin clouds into heaven. It doesn’t even feel part of the UK: when you sail off the edge of Scotland by the Scrabster to Stromness ferry, you feel you are departing the real world to land in a magical realm.

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9780199394722 - Atlas of the World

Holiday traditions from around the world

Here at Oxford University Press, we’re getting ready for the holiday season, and we were inspired by the new, twenty-first edition of the Atlas of the World to explore holiday traditions from around the world, including our 2014 Place of the Year, Scotland. Take a look at the map below to learn and see a little bit about the food, decorations, and other traditions of holiday celebrations taking place around the world at this time of year.

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The lake ecosystems of the Antarctic

Antarctica is a polar desert almost entirely covered by a vast ice sheet up to 4 km in thickness. The great white continent is a very apt description. The ice free areas, often referred to as oases, carry obvious life in lakes and occasional small patches of lichen and mosses where there is sufficient seasonal melt water to support them.

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Implications of the past for Scotland’s future

What are the implications of the past for Scotland’s future? First, Scots retain a deeply embedded sense of history, albeit a selective one. Like others in the Anglo-Saxon world, they understandably seek identity, empathy, and meaning for their private present by researching family or local history and they want to know about wars and history’s celebrities.

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