Though caused by microscopic agents, infectious diseases have played an outsized role in human history. They have shaped societies, lent us words and metaphors, and turned the tide of wars. Humans have eliminated some diseases, but others continue to plague us. In this quiz, find out if confusion is contagious or if you’re immune to the challenge.
Atheism is the absence of belief that God, and other deities, exist. How much do you know about this belief system? Julian Baggini, author of Atheism: A Very Short Introduction, tells us the ten things we never knew about atheism.
In a British Council report Martin Rose argues that the way STEM subjects are taught reinforces the development of a mind-set receptive to violent extremism. Well taught social sciences, on the other hand, are a potentially powerful intellectual defence against it. Whilst his primary focus was MENA (Middle East and North Africa) he draws implications for education in the West.
Why make New Year’s Resolutions you don’t want to keep? This year the Very Short Introductions team have decided to fill the gaps in their knowledge by picking a VSI to read in 2016. Which VSIs will you be reading in 2016? Let us know in the comment section below or via the Very Short Introductions Facebook page.
Though the winter season in the northern hemisphere doesn’t officially begin until Monday, 21 December, many of us anticipate the joyful holidays and the not-so-joyful cold weather with bated breath. To get you prepped with some trivia arsenal for holiday parties, we’ve pulled some interesting facts about winter from our Very Short Introductions Online resource.
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.
In the last two hundred years, the concept of human rights has gained prevalence in society. We can define our rights in terms of freedom of speech, privacy, and to be treated humanely, but where did these ideas come from? Do you think you know your human rights?
Albert Einstein’s greatest achievement, the general theory of relativity, was announced by him exactly a century ago, in a series of four papers read to the Prussian Academy of Sciences in Berlin in November 1915, during the turmoil of the First World War. For many years, hardly any physicist—let alone any other type of scientist—could understand it.
What is all around us, terrifies a lot of people, but adds enormously to the quality of life? Answer: chemistry. Almost everything that happens in the world, in transport, throughout agriculture and industry, to the flexing of a muscle and the framing of a thought involves chemical reactions in which one substance changes into another.
The October Revolution was probably the determining event of the twentieth century in Europe, and indeed in much of the world. The Communist ideology and the Communist paradigm of governance aroused messianic hopes and apocalyptic fears almost everywhere.
It’s that time of year when pumpkin sales go soaring, horror specials sell out at the cinema, and everyone is seemingly dressed up as a vampire or a zombie. To mark the spookiest time of year, we wanted to give you a Very Short Introduction to some of our favourite Halloween themes with free chapters from VSI Online.
A recent meme circulating on the internet mocked a US government programme (ObamaCare) saying that its introduction cost $360 million when there were only 317 million people in the entire country. It then posed the rhetorical question: “Why not just give everyone a million dollars instead?”
I approach myth from the standpoint of theories of myth, or generalizations about the origin, the function, and the subject matter of myth. There are hundreds of theories. They hail from anthropology, sociology, psychology, politics, literature, philosophy, and religious studies.
The discovery of water on Mars has been claimed so often that I’d forgive anyone for being skeptical about the latest announcement. Frozen water, ice, has been proven on Mars in many places, there are lots of ancient canyons hundreds of kilometres long that must have been carved by rivers, and much smaller gullies that are evidently much younger.
Two other major and largely unsolved problems in evolution, at the opposite extremes of the history of life, are the origin of the basic features of living cells and the origin of human consciousness. In contrast to the questions we have just been discussing, these are unique events in the history of life.
Damien Keown, author of Buddhism: A Very Short Introduction, tells us ten things we need to know about buddhism. From the Sangha to reincarnation, discover fascinating facts about Buddhism below.