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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

  • Science & Medicine

Defining moments in cardiology

In 1967, Christiaan Barnard carried out the first ever human-to-human heart transplant at Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town, South Africa. The patient and recipient of a new heart was 53-year-old Lewis Washkansky, and the success of the operation took centre-stage in the world’s media as hourly bulletins followed his recovery.

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Pain relief and palliative care around the world

Around the world access to pain relief and to palliative care services is emerging as a growing public health issue. In many countries getting appropriate pain relieving drugs for those with advanced disease is constrained by overly-zealous laws and procedures. Likewise the provision of palliative care education, research and delivery, although making some headway and achieving policy recognition in places, is still extremely limited, often where the need is greatest.

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Using evolutionary history to save pangolins from extinction

Pangolins, or scale-bodied anteaters, are a unique lineage of mammals exclusively feeding on ants and termites. Eight species are distributed across Africa and Asia. They all show extraordinary adaptation to myrmecophagy (specialized diet of ants and termites), including a scaled armor covering the body and tail that protects them from bites (both from bugs and large predators!)

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Illustrating Streptococcus pneumoniae

According to the WHO, Streptococcus pneumoniae (also known as pneumococcus) is the fourth most frequent microbial cause of fatal infection. These bacteria commonly colonize the upper respiratory tract and are the most common cause of bacterial pneumonia and meningitis. Although much is known about pneumococcal biology and the diseases it causes, there are still many questions about the molecular biology and cellular processes of the bacterium.

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How much do you know about cheetahs? [Quiz]

Today, 4 December, is International Cheetah Day! Cheetahs are easily distinguished from other cats due to their distinctive black “tear stain” markings that create two lines from eye to mouth, their black spots on tawny fur, and black rings at the end of their long tails. Cheetahs also stand apart from other large cats due to their loose and rangy frame, small head, high‐set eyes, and slightly flattened ears.

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Major medical incidents [timeline]

Major incidents are defined as any incident ‘that requires the mobilisation and use of extraordinary resources’; with the NHS further expanding the definition of such events as ‘any incident where the location, number, severity, or type of live casualties requires extraordinary resources’. There have been many major incidents throughout history that have required an ‘extraordinary’ response by emergency services, medical personnel, and government bodies.

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POTY 2017 nominee Spotlight: the sun [excerpt]

How big is the Moon in the sky? What is its angular size? Extend your arm upward and as far from your body as possible. Using your index finger and thumb, imagine that you are trying to pluck the Moon out of the sky ever so carefully, squeezing down until you are just barely touching the top and bottom of the Moon, trapping it between your fingers. How big is it?

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A neurocognitive view on the dimensions of Schadenfreude and envy

We usually think highly about ourselves, tending to believe that our prosocial nature prioritizes positive emotions about others. Yet, as highlighted by Hardin’s Tragedy of the Commons, this is not always true. Empathy (that is, the ability to become attuned with others’ feelings) is the basis of cooperation and one of the core links holding human groups together.

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A brief history of HIV [excerpt]

The first of December is World AIDS Day: a day to show support for those living with HIV, to commemorate those we have lost, and ultimately unite in the fight against HIV. To combat this pandemic though, we need to understand how the virus – and the wider virus group – reacts with the human body. In the following excerpt from Virus Hunt, Dorothy H. Crawford discusses the discovery and history of HIV and the retrovirus family.

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Holding a duality: ambiguity and parenting a child with special needs

In a 2013 interview on NPR celebrating the publication of her memoir, The Still Point of the Turning World, author Emily Rapp made two surprisingly different statements. In her book and on-the-air, Rapp said that she treasured every moment she’d had with her son Ronin, whose short life with Tay-Sachs Disease was the subject of her memoir. Indeed, her telling of Ronin’s story is vibrant, and her joy in sharing that story shines through her work.

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Curcumin: common dietary supplement turned anti-cancer compound?

Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is one of the most aggressive malignancies in the world. It is currently the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States and is projected to become the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths as early as 2030. Although recent advancements in cancer treatments have improved the overall outcome […]

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Citizen scientists can document the natural world

At the start of the 21st century, it may come as a surprise that we still have not catalogued the detailed anatomy or traits of most plants, animals and microbes whether they are living or fossil species. That we lack much of this basic information – how species’ cells are constructed, what their physiology is like, the details of their bones, muscles or leaves – may be remarkable given that the study of comparative “morphology” (sometimes called “phenomics”) has been underway for centuries.

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Modernizing classical physics: an oxymoron?

Open most textbooks titled “Modern Physics” and you will see chapters on all the usual suspects: special relativity, quantum mechanics, atomic physics, nuclear physics, solid state physics, particle physics and astrophysics. This is the established canon of modern physics.

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What’s wrong with electric cars?

Recently, we’ve heard that Volvo are abandoning the internal combustion engine, and that both the United Kingdom and France will ban petrol and diesel cars from 2040. Other countries like China are said to be considering similar mandates.

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Where is scientific publishing heading?

As researchers, we are unlikely to spend much time reflecting on one of the often-forgotten pillars of science: scientific publishing. Naturally, our focus leans more towards traditional academic activities including teaching, mentoring graduate students and post docs, and the next exciting experiment that will allow us to advance our understanding.

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The building blocks of ornithology

Museum collections are dominated by vat collections of natural history specimens—pinned insects in glass-topped drawers, shells, plants pressed on herbarium sheets, and so on. Most of these collections were never intended for display, but did work in terms of understanding the variety and distribution of nature.

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