Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

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

Read More

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.

Read More

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.

Read More

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.

Read More

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.

Read More

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.

Read More

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.

Read More

The evolution of human memory

Like all biological traits, human memory reflects a long evolutionary history, most of it shared with other animals. Yet, with rare exceptions, evolution has either been overlooked in discussions of memory or treated in an outdated way. As a result, a simple idea about the cerebral cortex has reigned for more than a century: that its various areas specialize in functions characterized as memory, perception, the control of movement, or executive control (mainly decision-making).

Read More

The complex world of climate change governance: new actors; new arrangements

Climate change governance dramatically challenges traditional International Relations (IR) notions of decision-making. The greatest challenge involves understanding the many ‘actors and the arrangements’ that describe this critical global governance issue. The field is made up of much more than the traditional intergovernmental and international organizations and their actions in a critical global issue.

Read More

High-fructose honey and the diet of urban bees

The story of New York’s red honey struck a chord with those already concerned about honey bee health. Bees have been hit hard by a host of challenges ranging from parasitic mites to neonicotenoid pesticides—but could red honey be another sign of bee decline? Could artificial flavors and chemicals in human foods be toxic to bees? Could we be at risk if we eat “local honey”?

Read More

Space travel to improve health on earth

World Space Week has been celebrated for the last 17 years, with events taking place all over the world, making it one of the biggest public events in the world. Highlighting the research conducted and achievements reached, milestones are celebrated in this week. The focus isn’t solely on finding the ‘Final Frontier’ but also on how the research conducted can be used to help humans living on Earth.

Read More

Why peer review is so important

As part of Peer Review Week, running from 19-25 September 2016, we are celebrating the essential role that peer review plays in maintaining scientific quality. We asked some of our journal’s editorial teams to tell us why peer review is so important to them and their journals.

Read More

A Flame as a Moth: How I began chronicling the life of Harrison G. Dyar, Jr., Part 2

I joined the staff in the Smithsonian’s Department of Entomology, National Museum of Natural History in 1992, at the time Pam Henson and I published “Digging for Dyar: The Man Behind the Myth”. Having stayed in Washington, DC long enough to complete the article, my job at the Museum would give me roughly a dozen years to accumulate information on Dyar, while performing other duties.

Read More

Remembering John Muir on the centennial of the National Park Service

This year, Americans celebrate the centennial of the National Park Service. On August 25, 1916, President Woodrow Wilson signed the National Park Service Organic Act. The bill culminated decades of effort by a remarkable generation of dedicated men and women who fought to protect the nation’s natural wonders for the democratic enjoyment of the people.

Read More

A flame as a moth: how I began chronicling the life of Harrison G. Dyar, Jr., Part 1

I first became acquainted with Dyar’s work on the moth family Limacodidae, my chosen entomology dissertation topic, in 1983 at the University of Minnesota. It was in the Hodson Hall library on the St. Paul campus where I noted how Dyar’s authorship dominated the Journal of the New York Entomological Society in the middle to late 1890s. Particularly notable was his running series from 1895-1899

Read More