Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

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Coherence in photosynthesis

By Jessica M. Anna, Gregory D. Scholes, and Rienk van Grondelle
Photosynthesis is responsible for life on our planet, from supplying the oxygen we breathe to the food that we eat. The process of photosynthesis is complex, involving many protein complexes and enzymes that work together in a concerted effort to convert solar energy to chemical bonds.

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HIV/AIDS: How to stop the unstoppable?

By Dorothy H. Crawford
It is over 100 years since HIV, the AIDS virus, began spreading in humans. It all started in West Central Africa where, scientists calculate, HIV jumped from chimpanzees to humans around 1900. Then in 1964 the virus made its first trans-continental flight. In one move it leaped from Kinshasa, capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, to the Caribbean island of Hispaniola. Here it established a foot-hold in Haiti before travelling on to the US in 1969. So began a journey that took HIV to virtually every country in the world, eventually infecting 65 million people, a figure that is rising by around three million annually.

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Detective’s Casebook: Unearthing the Piltdown Man

By Ellie Gregory
It is regarded as one of the most baffling scientific hoaxes of the past few hundred years. The mystery of the Piltdown Man, a skull believed to be an ancient ‘missing link’ in human evolution, blindsided the expert eyes of some of the greatest scientists of the 20th century.

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Violet-blue chrysanthemums

By Naonobu Noda and Yoshikazu Tanaka
Chrysanthemums (Chrysanthemum morifolium) are the second best-selling flowers after roses in worldwide. In Japan they are by far the most popular and the 16 petal chrysanthemum with sixteen tips is the imperial crest. Cultivated chrysanthemums have been generated by hybridization breeding of many wild species for hundreds or possibly thousands of years.

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In the footsteps of Alfred Russel Wallace with Bill Bailey

By George and Jan Beccaloni
On Sunday 29 July 2013, we headed off to Wallacea for three weeks to assist comedian Bill Bailey with a documentary he is presenting about Alfred Russel Wallace. George, the Natural History Museum’s Curator of Orthopteroid Insects, acted as the Historical Consultant.

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On (re-)discovering Alfred Russel Wallace

By George Beccaloni
Two of my greatest passions in life are cockroaches and Alfred Russel Wallace, so I am fortunate to not only be the curator of the London Natural History Museum’s collection of orthopteroid insects, but also the director of the Wallace Correspondence Project.

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Astrobiology: pouring cold asteroid water on Aristotle

By David C. Catling
Over 2,300 years ago, in his book De Caelo (On the Heavens), Aristotle asked if other Earth-like worlds exist and dismissed the idea. But now, remarkably, the question is on the verge of being answered scientifically. NASA’s Kepler space telescope, launched in 2009, has collected data on the statistical occurrence of small planets that orbit stars at a distance where it’s the right temperature for liquid water and conceivably life.

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Confronting habitat loss in the 21st Century

According to the Convention on Biological Diversity, ‘habitat’ means the place or type of site where an organism or population naturally occurs. Tomorrow is World Habitat Day. The obvious question is, why do we need a day devoted just to habitat? The short answer is that loss of habitat is now the foremost conservation concern of the 21st century.

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The precarious future of ocean megafauna

By Justin Gregg
Being an enormous, hulking beast has long been an effective defense mechanism. The plains and forests of North America were once teeming with colossal creatures like giant ground sloths and woolly mammoths, behemoths that plodded along safe in the knowledge that few predators would dare challenge them.

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The thylacine

On the 7th of September each year, Australia observes National Threatened Species Day, so we thought this would be a good time to look at a species we couldn’t save. The following is an extract from the Encyclopedia of Mammals on the extinct thylacine (or Tasmanian tiger).

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The dawn of a new era in American energy

From global climate change to “fracking,” energy-related issues have comprised a source of heated debate for American policymakers. Needless to say, assessing the economic and environmental consequences of certain developmental shifts is often fraught with difficulty, particularly when considering existing national and international frameworks.

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Crawling leaves: photosynthesis in sacoglossan sea slugs

By Sónia Cruz
“Crawling leaves” or “solar-powered sea slugs” are common terms used to name some species of sacoglossan sea slugs capable of performing photosynthesis, a process usually associated with plants. These sea slugs ingest macroalgal tissue and retain undigested functional chloroplasts in special cells of their gut (kleptoplasty). The “stolen” chloroplasts (kleptoplasts) continue to photosynthesize, in some cases up to one year.

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