Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

Notable female microbiologists you’ve never heard of

Female microbiologists many not have had professor or doctor in front of their names, instead listed as laboratory assistants or technicians, but in many cases their skills were critical for numerous notable discoveries. It is worth reminding ourselves who they are and how they changed the world for good.

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When a river is dammed, is it damned forever?

Since the dawn of advanced civilizations, humanity has sought to manage the flow of rivers. Protection from floods, water for drinking and irrigating crops, and extraction of resources like food and energy are among the most popular reasons for building dams.

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The growing role of citizen scientists in research

A movement is growing where science is no longer restricted to academics but instead it has become a pursuit for the public in general. Nature lovers have unwittingly been acting as data collectors, especially people that create lists of wildlife they see at home, in the park, or during a hike. Birdwatchers are known for […]

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How six elements came together to form life on Earth

How did life begin? We will never know with certainty what the Earth was like four billion years ago, or the kinds of reactions that led to the emergence of life at that time, but there is another way to pose the question. If we ask “how can life begin?” instead of “how did life begin,” that simple change of verbs offers hope.

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Animal spotlight: 7 facts about North American eagles

From Bald Eagle Appreciation Days in Wisconsin to soaring Golden Eagles as a tradition at Auburn University, North American eagles are viewed as stately and powerful creatures. However, these two resident eagles of North America have not survived without a struggle.

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A bull-session with bacteria

Arthur S. Reber’s new book argues that consciousness was present in the first living cells, and that even the simplest of organisms, the prokaryotes like bacteria, are sentient. In this piece, he imagines what it would be like to sit down with two bacteria and hear their opinions on consciousness, and how their sentience helps them keep alive despite the best efforts of humans.

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Who decides how much the world can warm up? [Video]

Over the past 20 years, scientists and governments around the world have wrestled with the challenge of climate change. The Kyoto Protocol, the Paris Agreement, and other international climate negotiations seek to limit warming to an average of two degrees Celsius (2°C). This objective is justified by scientists that have identified two degrees of warming as the point at which climate change becomes dangerous.

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The adventures of a nitrogen atom

You have more than six hundred muscles in your body. Pick one of those muscles at random—say one of the eight in your tongue. Its cells will contain protein fibers. These consist of long chains of amino acids, which in turn contain nitrogen atoms. Now pick, at random, one of those nitrogen atoms.

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Dynasties: tigers and their solitary homes

Tasked with closing BBC documentary Dynasties, tigers are very unlike any of the other species featured throughout the series. Find out more about this solitary big cat through our selection of facts about how tigers behave and interact with others.

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Let us now praise human population genetics

Exactly who are we anyway? Over the last generation, population genetics has emerged as a science that has made the discovery of human origins, relatedness, and diversity knowable in a way that is simple not possible from studying texts, genealogies, or archeological remains. Viewed as the successor to a race science that promoted the superiority of some human groups over others and that provided a basis for prejudice, forced sterilization, and even extermination, population genetics is framed as a discipline that is based on discovery using the amazing content of fully sequenced human genomes and novel computational methods.

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Dynasties: painted wolves on the prowl

The endangered painted wolves are unusual in the animal kingdom for their cooperative social system. In the penultimate episode of BBC’s Dynasties, Sir David Attenborough is educating us about painted wolves and we’ve gathered some facts for you to enjoy as an accompaniment to the show.

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Dynasties: lions with pride

Lions are arguably the most respected and feared creatures of the animal world. It is no surprise that their group structure has once more been examined in BBC’s Dynasties.

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On animal sight and behaviour

I have spent the last fifty years studying the eyes and vision of animals, including man.  During that time there have been many discoveries and ideas from vision research that have intrigued me, most of these are known to other scientists, but not more widely.

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Dynasties: emperor of all penguins

Of the seventeen species of penguin in existence, the emperor penguin is arguably the most well-known and heavily documented. In the second post of our Dynasties blog series, we’ll be exploring how emperor penguins build their dynasties.

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Dynasties: chimpanzees and their community

Sir David Attenborough returns to our screens tonight narrating a new nature documentary: Dynasties. We will be starting the series with one of our closest relatives in the animal kingdom, who we diverged from roughly six million years ago: chimpanzees.

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Life science documentaries

Did that moving episode of Blue Planet II pique your interest? Are you excited to discover the secrets of animal families in Dynasties? Delve deeper into key themes raised in these documentaries by exploring our existing blog series.

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