Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

  • Author: Jennifer Coopersmith

Margaret Thatcher, Lego, and the Principle of Least Action

Imagine a toy city, seen from afar. Now imagine that some of the buildings have Lego-shaped castellations, others have Lego-shaped holes in the walls, and there are a few loose Lego bricks lying around. All this evidence leads us to guess that the whole toy city is made up of Lego bricks. When we get up close, we see that our guess is correct. By a similar blend of evidence and theorizing, John Dalton, around 1800, came up with the Atomic Theory

Read More

Climate change – a very difficult, very simple idea

Planet Earth doesn’t have ‘a temperature’, one figure that says it all. There are oceans, landmasses, ice, the atmosphere, day and night, and seasons. Also, the temperature of Earth never gets to equilibrium: just as it’s starting to warm up on the sunny-side, the sun gets ‘turned off’; and just as it’s starting to cool down on the night-side, the sun gets ‘turned on’.

Read More

Cars – are they a species?

The Edwardian seer and futurologist, H. G. Wells, wondered whether aircrafts would ever be used commercially. He did the calculations and found that, yes, an airplane could be built and, yes, it would fly, but he proclaimed this would never be commercial.

Read More