Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

9780190620295

Deconstructing pseudoscience

Can magicians (illusionists) really levitate themselves and others or bend spoons using only the power of their mind? No. Emphatically no. But they surely make it seem as if they can. Enjoy being fooled? Then you’ll love watching really good magic shows that allow people the opportunity to suspend their disbelief momentarily. But don’t let this suspension become permanent.

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9780199687756

Man’s best friend: the pig

Cute and heartwarming videos of dogs fill the internet. My favourite is the bacon dog tease, but others catch my attention because they reveal extraordinary animal behaviours. For example, there are many of dogs helping other animals, like opening the back door to let in a friend. Dogs are our best animal friends, but there is a new contender. The pig might not be agile enough for Frisbees, or into making ‘guilty faces’, but like dogs, might save your life in the future.

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How a comet crash on Jupiter may lead us to mine asteroids near Earth

This past December, millions of people around the world gazed in wonder at the rising of the so-called “super moon.” The moon looks super when it turns full on its closest approach to Earth, and variations in its orbit brought it nearer to us than it has been in almost 70 years. Yet even this extra super moon was scarcely bigger than a regular full moon, and few would have noticed the difference without breathless media reports that encouraged them to see it.

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Studying invasion biology with next-generation sequencing

Deciphering the genome (the complete genetic code) of any species can lead to a wealth of knowledge. By analyzing an invasive species’ DNA, an invasion geneticist may untangle, among other things, its origin, its invasion history, and any potential hybridization with native species. These all provide vital tools when informing management efforts tackling biological invasions.

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9780190223076

What is the role of the Environmental Protection Agency?

During his first official week in office, United States President Donald Trump is moving quickly on his to-do list for his first 100 days in office, proving that he plans on sticking to the promises that he made as a candidate. Earlier this week, the Trump administration ordered a media blackout at the Environmental Protection Agency and has instructed staff to temporarily suspend all new contracts and grant awards.

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9780190262952

What happens if we ignore climate change?

What are the arguments for ignoring climate change? The simplest is to deny such a thing exists. President Trump’s tweets on the topic, for instance, mostly run along the lines of “It’s record cold all over the country and world – where the hell is global warming, we need some fast!” But this is plainly at odds with the evidence, given what we know now about rising temperatures and accumulation of heat in the oceans.

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9780199571314

What’s in a name?

In September 2015, the UK Met Office and Met Éireann (the Irish meteorological service) announced a project to give names to potentially damaging storms. The basis for naming any particular storm was the expectation that there would be major impacts on conditions over the British Isles and, in particular, of very high winds. The first storm, Abigail, brought high winds to northern Scotland and the Outer Hebrides.

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9780199333929

The life and work of J.B.S. Haldane

John Burdon Sanderson (JBS) Haldane (1892-1964) was a leading science popularizer of the twentieth century. Sir Arthur C. Clarke described him as the most brilliant scientific popularizer of his generation. Haldane was a great scientist and polymath who contributed significantly to several sciences although he did not possess an academic degree in any branch of science.

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Pathogens and Disease journal cover

Bugs in space! Using microgravity to understand how bacteria can cause disease

Space may be the final frontier, but it’s not beyond the reach of today’s biologists. Scientists in all areas of biology, from tissue engineering to infectious diseases, have been using the extreme environment of space to investigate phenomena not seen on Earth. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has conducted research in the life sciences for almost 50 years.

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Aldo Leopold at 130

The eleventh of January marks the 130th anniversary of the birth of conservationist, ecologist, and writer Aldo Leopold. As one of Leopold’s biographers, I have become accustomed over the years to marking these milepost dates. They tend to bring forth a strong pulse of articles, commentaries, and editorials. Some are celebratory, perhaps built around a choice bit of Leopold prose

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A. R. Wallace on progress and its discontents

Celebrated for his co-discovery of the principle of natural selection and other major contributions to evolutionary biology, Alfred Russel Wallace (1823-1913) also wrote widely on the social, political, and environmental aspects of scientific and technological advance. These latter, if far less familiar, ideas constitute an astute critique of the Victorian concept of progress.

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Telescopes: A Very Short Introduction

Looking at the stars

The ancient Greek philosophers believed that the Sun, Moon, planets, and stars were mathematically perfect orbs, made from unearthly materials. These bodies were believed to move on perfectly symmetric celestial spheres, through which a backdrop of fixed stars could be seen, rotating majestically every 24 hours. At the centre was the motionless Earth. For the Greeks, the power of reason was more important than observation.

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9780198785682_450

Dystopian times: that sinking feeling

Notwithstanding a few near misses (the Austrian presidential election), many more liberally-minded readers will probably reflect back on 2016 as a year of loss and anxiety. Two significant shocks—Brexit and the election as US President of a reality TV star billionaire with neither political experience or knowledge—have severely dented our sense of the logical progression of our times.

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MRAS

Dark matter, black holes, and dwarf spheroidal galaxies

Our current understanding of the Universe suggests that it is composed of an invisible component called “dark matter”. This mysterious type of matter represents more than 25% of the entire matter and energy of which the Universe is made. The matter that we are used to “seeing” in our everyday life and that represents the building blocks for both our bodies and stars that shine in the sky, represents only 5% of the Universe.

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JNCI

Animals and transmissible cancers

How often is cancer transmitted between animals? In the past few years researchers have discovered more transmissible cancers in nature. Initially thought to be contained within a respective host species, new research shows that sometimes even cross-species cancer transmission can occur. With transmissible cancer, instead of remaining in the singular organism or host, the cancer transfers between animals.

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9780190460679

Were farmers America’s first high tech information workers?

Settlers in North America during the 1600s and 1700s grew and raised all their own food, with tiny exceptions, such as importing tea. In the nineteenth century, well over 80 percent of the American public either lived at one time on a farm or made their living farming. Today, just over 1 percent does that in the United States, even though there is a surge going on in small organic family farming.

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