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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

  • Science & Medicine

The first humans

The discovery in Jebel Irhoud, Morocco of human fossils with modern facial features, similar to ours, has been a wonderful surprise, even outside the world of anthropology. The discoveries have been published in the journal Nature by Jean-Jacques Hublin and collaborators. The fossils are associated with tools from the Middle Stone Age, the technique immediately preceding the Upper Pleistocene.

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The traveler’s challenge: overcoming vacation blues

After months of working 40+ hour weeks, running the kids from one activity to the next, and managing a household, the time has arrived: vacation. You’ve carefully planned a week-long getaway at a seaside resort, and can think of nothing better than basking in the sun, reading a novel, and sipping a cocktail. You arrive with eager anticipation. The beach is perfect, the resort restful and luxurious.

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How to overcome the forces that glass-ceiling health

These are divided times. In Washington, a new administration has deepened the polarization of an already gridlocked political process. In the media, our disagreements are expressed, and often amplified, by a host of competing voices. The questions they address include: how should the Constitution be interpreted? Should we embrace free trade or focus on rebuilding our industrial base?

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Living in a material world

The singer Madonna had a worldwide hit record in the 1980s (‘Material Girl’) in which she described herself as ‘the material girl living in a material world’. This is a prescient phrase for the world of today some 30 years after the release of this record. Although Madonna may have been referring to wealth and ‘cold hard cash’ in her song, the rapid development of goods for professional and consumer use really do put us at the mercy of all things material.

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Embedded librarianship: the future of libraries

With the rise of the internet and electronic research resources, it is not uncommon for a librarian to hear that libraries are no longer necessary. “You can find anything on the internet” is an often heard phrase. What most of those people do not realize is how integrated librarians (and information scientists) are in organizing and providing information to the public.

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BioScience cover

Society is ready for a new kind of science—is academia?

In her 1998 essay in Science, Jane Lubchenco called for a “Social Contract for Science,” one that would acknowledge the scale of environmental problems and have “scientists devote their energies and talents to the most pressing problems of the day.” We were entering a new millennium, and Lubchenco was worried that the scientific enterprise was unprepared to address challenges related to climate change, pollution, health, and technology.

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Planetary astronomy in ancient Greece

As eclipse 2017 quickly approaches, Americans—from astronomers to photographers to space enthusiasts—are preparing to witness the celestial wonder that is totality. Phenomenon found within planetary science has long driven us to observe and study space. Through a shared desire to dismantle and reconstruct the theories behind our solar system, ancient Greek philosophers and scientists built the foundation of planetary astronomy.

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Could you survive a snake bite?

With increased numbers of people travelling to exotic places, there is also an increasing awareness of tropical diseases. However, there are a number of tropical diseases, such as snake bite, which are often overlooked as major issues. Snake bite is an on-going global problem, and is often neglected as an important public health concern. Many are unprepared and uninformed when it comes to snake bites, which can have fatal consequences for humans.

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Does pregnancy affect how food tastes?

Thus, we set out to review the existing studies of human pregnancy and taste to catalog the trends occurring across pregnancy, to see how we may leverage what we are beginning to understand about taste modulation from human and non-human research. This may help to generate hypotheses for future investigations to ultimately question the long held assumption that these changes in taste are solely driven by hormone fluctuations.

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Anniversary of Goodall at Gombe Stream [reading list]

Tomorrow, 14 July, is the anniversary of when Jane Goodall first arrived on the shores of Gombe Stream Chimpanzee Reserve in western Tanzania in 1960. Jane Goodall is a famous primatologist and ethologist, and has dedicated her life to researching and understanding primate behavior. During her time at Gombe Stream, Goodall observed chimpanzees making and using tools, the first observations of any wild animal to do so.

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Five reasons police think you should turn on ‘Ghost mode’ in Snapchat

Snapchat, an app which allows users to share photos and videos which delete themselves after a few seconds, is used by 166 million people worldwide. The latest Snapchat release has seen police issuing hasty warnings to users of the app, with the new ‘Snap Map’ feature raising a range of questions relating to privacy. What five issues might police have with this seemingly fun app update?

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Radio telescopes to detect gravitational waves

Sensationally detected for the first time by the LIGO instrument in 2015, gravitational waves are ripples in space-time – the continuum of the universe – that propagate outward from astrophysical systems. The question is: can we find more of these gravitational waves and do it regularly? Some years ago we have devised a method of finding far more of them, and from weaker sources, than is possible with present techniques with the help of radio telescopes and natural astrophysical masers.

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Who needs quantum key distribution?

Chinese scientists have recently announced the use of a satellite to transfer quantum entangled light particles between two ground stations over 1,000 kilometres apart. This has been heralded as the dawn of a new secure internet. Should we be impressed? Yes – scientific breakthroughs are great things. Does this revolutionise the future of cyber security? No – sadly, almost certainly not.

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The human microbiome and endangered bacteria

Each and every part of us harbours its own microbial ecosystem. This ecosystem carries some 100 billion cells, known as the microbiota. They started inhabiting our bodies 200,000 years ago, and since then we have evolved side by side to configure a balanced system in which microbes can survive in perfect harmony, provided no perturbations occur.

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Why ‘tropical disease’ is a global problem

In 2015, the United Nations agreed upon Sustainable Development Goals which set seventeen ambitious targets for the next two decades focusing on tackling poverty, reducing disease, protecting the environment, and driving forward an international community based on sustained commitments to – and improvements in – education, health, human rights, and equity.

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How to measure social pain

Against the grain of much twentieth-century research on the nature and function of pain in humans, which tended to focus on injury and the bodily mechanics of pain signalling, recent neuroscientific research has opened a new front in the study of social and emotional pain.

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