Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

Dystopia: an update

True aficionados of the earthly apocalypse cannot fail to have noted the deepening pessimism in discourses on what is often euphemistically referred to as “climate change”, but what should be designated “environmental catastrophe”. The Paris Agreement of 2015 conceded the need to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, albeit without binding nations to either achieve this specific target or impose specific binding targets in turn on the worst offenders, namely the fossil fuel industries.

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Pros and cons of GMO crop farming [infographic]

In the agricultural industry, recombinant DNA technology allows for DNA to be transferred from one organism to another, creating Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). Four crops constitute the vast majority of the GM crop production: maize, canola, soybean, and cotton. Since 1995, GM crops have been grown commercially and the global area sown to these crops has expanded over 100-fold over the past two decades.  

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Bioremediation: using microorganisms to clean up the environment

Microorganisms are known for their ability to adapt to any environment. We can find them in the most hazardous places on Earth. Their invisible work has led to visible results ― terraforming the planet billions of years ago and converting it into the viable green world that is today. Their ability to utilize and adapt to any available substrate in order to gain energy kept the balance in the ecosystem until humans become dominant species.

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What are environmental laws?

“Environmental law ensures that collective action in relation to environmental problems is authoritative and consistent with the rule of law and other principles of legitimate action.” – Elizabeth Fisher, Environmental Law: A Very Short Introduction

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A quarter century into the exoplanet revolution

In 1969, half a century ago, astronauts first landed on Earth’s sole moon. The first successful robotic landers touched down on the much more distant Venus and Mars in 1970 and 1976, respectively, and in the same decade spacecraft flybys provided the first, fleeting close-ups of Jupiter and Saturn. It was not until two decades […]

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Science, where are we going? From intellectual passion to a market-driven system

With over 10 million active researchers, more than 2 million scientific articles published each year, and an uncontrolled spread of bibliometric indicators, contemporary science is undergoing a profound change that is modifying consolidated procedures, ethical principles that were deemed inalienable and traditional mechanisms for the validation of scientific outputs that have worked successfully for the last century.

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Animal of the month: 8 facts about rabbits

Popular as pets, considered lucky by some, and widely recognised as agricultural nuisances, rabbits are commonplace all over the world. Their cute, fluffy exterior hides the more ingenious characteristics of this burrowing herbivore, including specially-adapted hind legs, extra incisors, and prolific breeding capabilities. Whilst rabbits thrive in most areas, certain species face the common struggle of their specialist habitats being destroyed, and myxomatosis has devastated rabbit populations in the past, at one point destroying 99% of the rabbit population of the United Kingdom.

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The dilemma of ‘progress’ in science

Most practicing scientists scarcely harbor any doubts that science makes progress. For, what they see is that despite the many false alleys into which science has strayed across the centuries, despite the waxing and waning of theories and beliefs, the history of science, at least since the ‘early modern period’ (the 16th and 17th centuries) is one of steady accumulation of scientific knowledge. For most scientists this growth of knowledge is progress. Indeed, to deny either the possibility or actuality of progress in science is to deny its raison d’être. 

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Animal of the month: the pride [interactive guide]

Pride is one of the most widely-recognised animal collectives in the world. We often picture lions among their family unit, whether they be standing proudly together or hunting down a doomed antelope. These famous social groups are usually formed of between three and ten adult females, two or three males, and the pride’s latest litters of cubs, and they live together (most of the time) across Africa and in the Gir Forest Sanctuary.

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Animal of the month: 10 facts about lions

Lions have enchanted humans since early Antiquity, and were even represented in European cave paintings from 35,000 years ago. They are regularly the main characters in folklore and allegory, appearing everywhere from African folktales to the Bible. It is not hard to see why lions are so ubiquitously revered. Their fearsome yet stunning appearance, combined with their endearing hunting tactics and formidable roar, answers any questions as to why early societies named the lion ‘King of the Beasts’, and indeed explains why this name is still used today.

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Innovation: in and out of the Budongo

In 2014, PLOS Biology published an article about a cousin of ours, a member of the Sono Community of wild chimpanzees in the Budongo Forest in northwestern Uganda. In a video shared in relation to the study, an alpha male, NK, gathers moss from a tree trunk just within his reach, a prize he will use to lap up water in a nearby pool.

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Animal of the Month: 4 figures behind orca captivation beyond Blackfish

“You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupery, The Little Prince (1943). The 2013 release of the documentary Blackfish revolutionized the way the world has since focused on orcas. Yet orca captivity in the United States and Canada predates the documentary by almost five decades. So who was behind the plight of these orcas? Using Jason M. Colby’s Orca: How We Came to Know and Love the World’s Greatest Predator,  we compiled a list of figures behind the half century of orca captivity beyond Blackfish.

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Shark Week 2018

With their huge, sharp teeth and menacing demeanor, it’s no wonder this ocean predator has long struck fear into the hearts of many. Thanks to films like Jaws and Sharknado, sharks have gained a reputation for killing and eating humans, yet there are under 100 unprovoked shark attacks each year, and even fewer fatalities—you’re more likely to be killed by lightning or a bee sting than you are by a shark!

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