Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

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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How can we save the pollinators?

An often-cited estimate is that one-third of the food you eat comes from insect pollinators. Many of the fruits and vegetables that you enjoy develop their fruit and seed primarily through insect pollination services. Other sometimes overlooked benefits of pollinators are the ecological services that they provide. For example, insects pollinate many plants that provide erosion control, keeping our waterways clean.

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The biological ironies of transgender debates

Transgender issues have made significant headlines in the United States. Not long ago, North Carolina struggled to repeal a 2016 law that required people to use only public restrooms that matched the sex on their birth certificate, not their lived gender identity. Only weeks earlier, the US Supreme Court declined to hear a case from a Virginia student on the same issue.

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Climate change: are you an expert? [Quiz]

Climate change is one of the most significant and far-reaching problems of the twenty-first century and it is a frequent topic of discussion everywhere from scientific journals to the Senate floor. Because climate change is often the subject of heated debate, it’s easy to mistake political stands for scientific facts. Inspired by The Death of Expertise, in which Tom Nichols explores the dangers of the public rejection of expertise, we’ve created a series of quizzes to test your knowledge.

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How does climate change impact global peace and security?

Climate change is one of the most pervasive global threats to peace and security in the 21st century. But how many people would list this as a key factor in international relations and domestic welfare? In reality, climate change touches all areas of security, peace building, and development. The impacts of climate change are already adversely affecting vulnerable communities, as well as stretching the capacities of societies and governments.

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10 facts about the animal kingdom

How many species of animals are there? What is the largest animal, and how are we related to rats? Peter Holland, the author of The Animal Kingdom: A Very Short Introduction, tells us 10 things everyone should know about the animal kingdom, and how we humans fit in.

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Our oceans, our future [reading list]

The eight of June is World Oceans Day. Celebrated globally, this day is a chance to appreciate the ocean and learn about conservation efforts that help protect it. This year’s theme is “Our Oceans, Our Future”. In the spirit of moving towards a healthier future for our marine environment, we’ve put together a reading list of our favorite books about the ocean and marine conservation.

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Saving old forests

Research shows that boreal forests, like those across much of Northern Europe and Canada, have higher levels of variability in their structure and dynamics when unmanaged, improving their biodiversity and the stability of their ecosystems. These unmanaged forests also have a higher proportion of older trees than those used in industrial forest rotation – around 70-100 years in Canadian boreal forests.

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Plant vs predator

Some plants are capable of warding off attack by slugs and snails, but many of our favourite garden flowers and vegetables seemingly cannot get their act together. Should we even attempt to grow Hostas, for example?

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Protecting half: a plan to save life on Earth

Recently, a number of the world’s leading scientists, indigenous leaders, and advocates have been engaged in something bold: asking exactly what is required to stop the mass extinction of life on Earth and save a living planet. And the answer, after numerous reviews of the evidence for what it would take to achieve comprehensive biodiversity conservation, has become clear: fully protect half the Earth (or more) in an interconnected way.

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Why are giant pandas black and white?

Most people in the western world learn that the giant panda has striking black and white colouration at kindergarten; but are never told why! The question is problematic because there are virtually no other mammals with this sort of colouration pattern, making analogies difficult. At UC Davis and CSU Long Beach, we instead decided to break up the external appearance of giant pandas into different regions

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Godzilla of the Galápagos and other speciation stories

Yet despite their brutish appearance, marine iguanas are extremely placid herbivores, posing a threat only to the algae upon which they feed. We now know that these creatures represent one of the oldest living lineages of the archipelago and as such, their evolution is deeply intertwined with the history of the islands themselves, a discovery foreshadowed by Darwin‘s observation that “They assuredly well become the land they inhabit”.

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Can green entrepreneurs save our planet?

Less than a year after the governments of the world came together to sign the Paris Agreement on climate change, the United States has inaugurated a new president, Donald Trump, who denounces the whole idea as a Chinese hoax. How did we get here?

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FEMS Microbiology Letters

100 years of E. coli strain Nissle 1917

Escherichia coli (E. coli) is a common bacteria found in the the lower intestine of warm-blooded animals, including humans. Whilst most strains are harmless, some can cause serious gastroenteritis, or food poisoning. However, one special strain, E. coli strain Nissle 1917 (EcN), is specifically used to prevent digestive disruption. Since its discovery 100 years ago, EcN is probably the most intensely investigated bacterial strain today.

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Resisting change: understanding obstacles to social progress

The People’s Climate Movement, made up of dozens of organizations working to fight the climate crisis, held their first march in September 2014. On Saturday, 29 April, activists will once again march to demand climate action. As they protest the Trump administration’s drastic approach to climate change, the People’s Climate Movement will aim to “show the world and our leaders that we will resist attacks on our people, our communities and our planet.”

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Earth Day 2017: reading for environmental & climate literacy

Earth Day is celebrated globally on 22 April in support of environmental protection. The theme for 2017’s Earth Day is “Environmental & Climate Literacy” – and we couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate knowledge of the environment and climate than with a reading list. These books, chapters, and articles can add to your understanding of Earth through topics such as climate change, natural phenomena, and what practical steps are being taken to help protect our planet.

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