Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

The ethics of the climate emergency

During the last few days of February we experienced the warmest Winter day since records began, with a high of 20.6 degrees (Celsius) at Trawscoed in mid-Wales. As if that was not enough, the record was broken again the next day with 21.2 degrees at Kew Gardens.

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150 Years of the Periodic Table

2019 marks the 150th anniversary of the creation of the periodic table, and it has been declared the International Year of the Periodic by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

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How Trump beat Ada’s big data

The Democratic Party’s 2008 presidential primary was supposed to be the coronation of Hillary Clinton. She was the most well-known candidate, had the most support from the party establishment, and had, by far, the most financial resources.

The coronation went off script. Barack Obama, a black man with an unhelpful name, won the Democratic nomination and, then, the presidential election against Republican John McCain because the Obama campaign had a lot more going for it than Obama’s eloquence and charisma.

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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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Laudable mathematics – The Fields Medal

Kicking off the International Congress of Mathematicians 2018 in Rio de Janeiro was this year’s Fields Medal awards ceremony, celebrating the brightest young minds in mathematics. The prize is awarded every four years to up to four mathematicians under the age of 40, and is viewed as one of the highest honours a mathematician can receive.

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Celebrating the Fields Medal [infographic]

This year, 2018, sees the world’s mathematics community come together once more at the International Congress of Mathematicians, hosted for the first time in South America in Rio de Janeiro. A highlight at every ICM is the announcement of the recipients of the Fields Medal, an award that honours up to four mathematicians under the age of 40, and is viewed as one of the highest honours a mathematician can receive. Here we honour past Fields Medal winners who we are proud to name as our authors. Hover over each name to learn a little more about who they are and what their contributions have been.

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The scientist as historian

Why should a trained scientist be seriously interested in science past? After all, science looks to the future. Moreover, as Nobel laureate immunologist Sir Peter Medawar once put it: “A great many highly creative scientists…take it for granted, though they are usually too polite or too ashamed to say so, that an interest in the history of science is a sign of failing or unawakened powers.”

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What is a mathematical model?

As a mathematician who focuses his attention on a field called dynamics, I am often asked when queried about my area of specialty, exactly what is a dynamical system? I usually answer something like: “I study the mathematics underlying what is means to model something mathematically.” And this seems to work as most people have a basic understanding that mathematics is used in science and engineering to model either a physical or an abstract process and to mine it for information.

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The final piece of the puzzle

When a group of people collectively solve a jigsaw puzzle, who gets the credit? The person who puts the final piece in the puzzle? The person who sorted out the edge pieces at the beginning? The person who realised what the picture was of? The person who found the puzzle pieces and suggested trying to put them together? The person who managed the project and kept everyone on track? The whole group?

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On serendipity, metals, and networks

“What connects archaeology and statistical physics?”, we asked ourselves one evening in The Marquis Cornwallis, a local Bloomsbury pub in London back in 2014, while catching up after more than a decade since our paths crossed last time. While bringing back the memories of that time we first met when we were both 16, it hit us that our enthusiasm for research we did as teenagers had not faded away

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Mathematical reasoning and the human mind [excerpt]

Mathematics is more than the memorization and application of various rules. Although the language of mathematics can be intimidating, the concepts themselves are built into everyday life. In the following excerpt from A Brief History of Mathematical Thought, Luke Heaton examines the concepts behind mathematics and the language we use to describe them.

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Who needs quantum key distribution?

Chinese scientists have recently announced the use of a satellite to transfer quantum entangled light particles between two ground stations over 1,000 kilometres apart. This has been heralded as the dawn of a new secure internet. Should we be impressed? Yes – scientific breakthroughs are great things. Does this revolutionise the future of cyber security? No – sadly, almost certainly not.

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The life and work of Alan Turing

Alan Turing was one of England’s most influential scientists of the twentieth century. He is best remembered as having cracked the codes used in the Enigma machines, enabling the Allies to defeat the Nazis in many important battles, particularly in the Atlantic Ocean. While this achievement which arguably helped to bring the Second World War to a quicker end has been brought to the fore through popular histories

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