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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

SciWhys: Why are we told always to finish a course of antibiotics?

Most of us have at one time or another been prescribed a course of antibiotics by our GP. But how many of us heed the instruction to finish the course; to continue taking the tablets or capsules until none remain? Very often, our strict adherence to the prescription fades in line with our symptoms.

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Cockroaches, who needs ’em?

In this article, Professor Jeff Lockwood answers a query regarding the possibility of exterminating all cockroaches. He replies: ‘A world without cockroaches would pretty much keep on doing what it’s doing now. Probably. At least if by ‘all cockroaches’ you mean the species that share our homes.’

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What are those terrifying centipede-like things?

What are those super-fast, reddish, fuzzy-looking, centipede-like things? It would sure help hapless entomologists if people would provide just a teensy bit more information when asking, ‘What is it?’ sorts of questions. Helpful clues include things like: where you live, where you saw it, etc.

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What the bejeebers are cave crickets?

Professor Jeff Lockwood answers a reader’s question regarding Cave Crickets: ‘The cave crickets belong to the Family Rhaphidophoridae. Technically they’re not ‘true’ crickets (like field crickets), but they’re close enough. In fact, they’re truer crickets than beasts like the Mormon cricket.’

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In appreciation of bats

By John D. Altringham
2011-12 is the International Year of the Bat sponsored by the United Nations Environment Programme. Yes, that’s right – we are devoting a whole year to these neglected and largely misunderstood creatures. Perhaps if I give you a few bat facts and figures you might begin to see why.

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Memo from Manhattan: Eye of the storm

By Sharon Zukin
Everyone knows by now that Tropical Storm Irene, which blew through the East Coast last weekend, flooded the beaches, suburbs and some inland towns but did little lasting damage in New York City. I have seldom felt so lucky to live on a high floor with no river view and on a street with very few trees.

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SciWhys: What’s the difference between bacteria and viruses?

This is the latest post in our regular OUPblog column SciWhys. Every month OUP editor and author Jonathan Crowe will be answering your science questions. Got a burning question about science that you’d like answered? Just email it to us, and Jonathan will answer what he can. Today: what’s the difference between bacteria and viruses?

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The skinny on fat cats

By Bianca Haase
Cats are among the most common household pets and they share the same environment with humans and thus many of the risk factors. Obesity is a growing problem for feline health for the same reasons as it is in humans and has become a serious veterinary problem. Multiple diseases, such as type II diabetes mellitus and dermatosis, are associated with excess body weight and obesity in cats and may result in a lowered quality of life and potentially lead to an early death. Appleton et al. demonstrated that about 44% of cats developed impaired

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For some orcas, inbreeding is a whale of a problem

It’s being called “a whale of a problem,” and not just by me. According to research published in the Journal of Heredity, endangered Southern Resident orcas are mating within their family groups. This “genetic bottleneck” means the whales could be more susceptible to diseases, early mortality or failure to produce calves.

The study’s lead author is Michael J. Ford, a scientist with the Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Seattle.

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Raining sand

By Michael Welland
It was a double-dose of adrenalin: watching a violently growing volcanic eruption while retaining a firm grip on my twelve-year old daughter to prevent her sliding off the rolling boat and plummeting into the turbulent waters of the Sunda Strait. The boat was a rickety old tub, the Sumatran helmsman grinning cheerfully. The volcano was Anak Krakatoa.

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SciWhys: How does the immune system work?

By Jonathan Crowe
Each day of our lives is a battle for survival against an army of invaders so vast in size that it outnumbers the human population hugely. Yet, despite its vastness, this army is an invisible threat, each individual so small that it cannot be seen with the naked eye. These are the microbes – among them the bacteria and viruses – that surround us every day, and could in one way or another kill us were it not for our immune system, an ingenious defence mechanism that protects us from these invisible foes.

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Lead pollution and industrial opportunism in China

By Tee L. Guidotti

Mengxi Village, in Zhejiang province, in eastern coastal China, is an obscure rural hamlet not far geographically but far removed socially from the beauty, history, and glory of Hangzhou, the capital. Now it is the unlikely center of a an environmental health awakening in which citizens took direct action by storming the gates of a lead battery recycling plant that has caused lead poisoning among both children and adults in the village.

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SciWhys: How does an organism evolve?

By Jonathan Crowe
The world around us has been in a state of constant change for millions of years: mountains have been thrust skywards as the plates that make up the Earth’s surface crash against each other; huge glaciers have sculpted valleys into the landscape; arid deserts have replaced fertile grasslands as rain patterns have changed. But the living organisms that populate this world are just as dynamic: as environments have changed, so too has the plethora of creatures inhabiting them. But how do creatures change to keep step with the world in which they live? The answer lies in the process of evolution.

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A passionate “green” Calvinism

By Belden C. Lane

Who would think to find a green theology, celebrating the earth’s startling beauty, in somber, Calvinist Geneva? Who would expect lusty commentaries on the Song of Songs, delighting in sex and natural beauty, in the austere meeting houses of Puritan New England? Who would imagine a vibrant nature mysticism in the writings of Jonathan Edwards, author

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