Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

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Preparing for ASEH 2014 in San Francisco

By Elyse Turr
San Francisco, here we come. Oxford is excited for the upcoming annual conference of the American Society for Environmental History in San Francisco this week: 12-16 March 2014. The theme of the conference is “Crossing Divides,” reflecting the mixed history of the discipline and California itself.

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Neanderthals may have helped East Asians adapting to sunlight

Hominins and their closest living relative, chimpanzees, diverged approximately 6.5 million years ago on the African continent. Fossil evidence suggests hominins have migrated away from Africa at least twice since then. Crania of the first wave of migrants, such as Neanderthals in Europe and Peking Man in East Asia, show distinct morphological features that are different from contemporary humans (also known as Homo sapiens sapiens).

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Conservation physiology of plants

By Mark van Kleunen
Conservation physiology was first identified as an emerging discipline in a landmark paper by Wikelski and Cooke, published in Trends in Ecology and Evolution in 2006. They defined it as “the study of physiological responses of organisms to human alteration of the environment that might cause or contribute to population decline”.

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Proving Polybius wrong about elephants

By Adam L. Brandt and Alfred L. Roca
Do conservation genetics and ancient Greek history ever cross paths? Recently, a genetic study of a remnant population of elephants in Eritrea has also addressed an ancient mystery surrounding a battle in the Hellenistic world.

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Predicting who will publish or perish as career academics

By Bill Laurance, Carolina Useche, Corey Bradshaw, and Susan Laurance
It doesn’t matter whether or not you think it’s fair: if you’re an academic, your publishing record will have a crucial impact on your career. It can profoundly affect your prospects for employment, for winning research grants, for climbing the academic ladder, for having a teaching load that doesn’t absorb all your time, for winning academic prizes and fellowships, and for gaining the respect of your peers.

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How we all kill whales

By Michael Moore
My first job after veterinary school in 1983 was for the International Whaling Commission examining the efficacy of explosive harpoons for killing fin whales on an Icelandic whaling vessel. Later, I encountered a very different way of killing whales.

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Evolutionary psychology: an affront to feminism?

By Anne Campbell
Getting ready for work the other morning, I was diverted from pouring my coffee by the television news. A comet was about to pass near the sun and might, if it survived, become visible on earth. The professor of astrophysics who had been brought on to explain the details was engaging, enthusiastic and clear. She was a woman. I wondered how many school girls had heard her and been inspired. Fifty years ago, the idea of a woman gaining recognition in such an arcane area of science would have been astounding.

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Second childhood

By Jamie Davies
Embryologists who study the beginning of life, and gerontologists who study its end, interact rather little. This is hardly surprising: the former work with growth, construction and preparation for the long life ahead, while the latter work with loss, decline, and the inevitable journey to oblivion.

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Celebrating Charles Darwin’s birthday

February 12th has been coined Darwin Day because it marks the anniversary of the birthday of Charles Darwin. One could come up with several creative ways to celebrate the life of such an influential and revered scientist—baking a cake with 73 candles in honor of Darwin’s 73 years of life, or taking a walk through a local park or nature reserve in an attempt to make observations about wild animals, to name a few.

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De-extinction: could technology save nature?

By Gregory E. Kaebnick
This past November, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature declared the western black rhinoceros of Africa, last seen in 2006, officially extinct. It also concluded that most other rhino species are in danger, even “teetering.” Yet at the same time, over the past year, some scientists and others have been declaring that the woolly rhino – last seen, oh, 10,000 years or so ago – could soon NOT be extinct.

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What the ovaries of dinosaurs can tell us

By Dr. Jingmai O’Connor
Understanding the internal organs of extinct animals over 100 million years old used to belong in the realm of impossibility. However, during recent decades exceptional discoveries from all over the world have revealed elusive details such as fossilized feathers, skin, and muscle.

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How meaningful are public attitudes towards stem cell research?

By Nick Dragojlovic
When scientists in Scotland announced the successful cloning of Dolly the Sheep in 1997, it triggered a frenzy of speculation in the global media about the possibility of human cloning, and elevated ethical questions to the fore of public discussions about biotechnology. This debate had far-reaching consequences, with citizens’ perceived moral objections to human cloning contributing to the imposition of restrictive policies on stem cell research that involves the cloning of embryos.

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Fractal shapes and the natural world

By Kenneth Falconer
Fractal shapes, as visualizations of mathematical equations, are astounding to look at. But fractals look even more amazing in their natural element—and that happens to be in more places than you might think.

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Catch statistics are fishy

By Dalal Al-Abdulrazzak
Despite their wide usage, global fisheries catch data compiled by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) are questionable.

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