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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

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The healthiest body mass index isn’t as simple as you think

The body mass index (BMI) is a crude but useful measure of how heavy someone is for their weight. It consists of your weight in kilograms, divided by the square of your height in metres. Guidelines suggest that a BMI between 18.5 and 25 is healthy for most people. You are classed as overweight if it is 25-30 and obese if it is more than 30.

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What are the critical brain networks for creativity?

The concept of creativity is imbued with two contradictory notions. The first notion usually considers that a creative production is the result of high-level control functions such as inhibition, mental manipulation, or planning. These functions are known to depend on the anterior part of the brain: the prefrontal cortex.

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World Cancer Day 2018: Is prevention worth more than cure?

World Cancer Day is on the 4th of February. The purpose is to increase global awareness and get as many people talking about the disease as possible. Essentially, unite people from all around the world in the fight against cancer—and with worldwide incidence set to increase to 21.7 million by 2030, the fight is now. 2018 is the last in the three year ‘We Can. I can.’ campaign

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Dr. William H. Harris reflects on his career advancing orthopedic surgery

To mark the release of Vanishing Bone, in Part One of our Q&A with Dr. William H. Harris we discussed the fascinating story of how he came to identify, and later cure, the severe bone destruction affecting individuals who had undergone total hip replacement surgery. In this second interview, Dr. Harris reflects on his remarkable career; including what inspired him to pursue orthopaedic surgery, how he balances his two roles as a surgeon and clinician-scientist, and his advice for aspiring surgeons.

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Seven key skills for managing science [video]

“Management” is a word we often associate with commerce and the business community, but the act of managing is common to most human activity, including academia. While there is a myriad of tools available for learning how to manage business, there are few resources out there which discuss the skills needed to manage academic scientific research.

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Oxford Medicine Online

The Death Cafe: A medium latte and a chat about dying

In early 2011, Jon Underwood decided to develop a series of projects about death – one of which was to focus on talking about death. Jon read about the work of Bernard Crettaz, the pioneer of Cafes Mortéls which were themselves inspired by the cafes and coffeehouses of the European Enlightenment. Motivated by Bernard’s work, Jon immediately decided to use a similar model for his own project, and Death Cafe was born.

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Animal of the Month: 13 nutty squirrel species [slideshow]

Most of these critters belong to the Sciurus genus which is from the ancient Greek, “skia” meaning shadow or shade, and “oura” for tail. Despite the variation within these different members of the same family, the evolutionary record shows that squirrels have actually changed very little over millions of years. If it ain’t broke…

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Let’s talk about death: an opinions blog

Death and dying surrounds us, yet many of us see it as an uncomfortable taboo subject. As part of a series of articles on encouraging an open dialogue around death and dying, we asked various healthcare professionals, academics, and members of the public who have experienced palliative care the following question: How important is it that we as a society are open to discussing death and dying?

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Are the gods indifferent?

It’s an old question, at least as old as Prometheus. Are the gods indifferent or is there something in the scheme of things that cares? The ancient tale of Prometheus neatly parses its reply – yes and no. Zeus is indifferent to humanity; we are small change. But not Prometheus. His concern for our plight leads him to give us fire, which as Aeschylus explains is more than the warming flames of the hearth.

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Biofilms: advantage for bacteria, threat for medical devices

It has been known for centuries that bacteria tend to adhere to solid surfaces, forming a slimy and slippery layer known as biofilm. Bacterial biofilms are complex microbial communities protected by an extracellular matrix composed of polysaccharides, proteins, and nucleic acids. The extracellular matrix improves biofilm cohesion and its adhesion to surfaces.

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Alan Turing and evil Artificial Intelligence

In November 2017, the Future of Life Institute in California—which focuses on ‘keeping artificial intelligence beneficial’—released a slick, violent video depicting ‘slaughterbots’ [some viewers may find this video distressing]. It went viral. The tiny (fictional) drones in the video used facial recognition systems to target and destroy civilians.

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Unravelling bone destruction in total hip replacements with William H. Harris

When orthopaedic surgeon, Dr. William H Harris discovered massive bone destruction around a total hip replacement that he had implanted, he was startled and dismayed. In fact, he had identified a new condition, “periprosthetic osteolysis”, which came to be the leading factor in failure of total hip replacement (THR) surgery. While THR surgery dramatically reversed severe arthritis of the hip, the same operation simultaneously created a relentless “particle generator” in the body.

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First person pronouns and the passive voice in scientific writing

Imagine you are explaining your research to a friend. You might say “I tested this factor” or “We examined that effect”. But when you later prepare a written version for a scientific journal, you would probably eliminate the “I” and “we” in favour of the passive voice, which, unfortunately, can sometimes present a challenge.

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Advance care planning: an illusion of choice?

Over the last decade or so, patients have been encouraged to think ahead, and make clear their wishes and plans for a time when illness may render them unable to makes decisions about their care for themselves. This process we know as Advance Care Planning (ACP). Intuitively, as a hospice physician trained in Palliative Medicine, ACP seems to me like a good thing to do, with those patients who are willing to do it.

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The changing nature of retirement

Whether you are approaching retirement, or are a few years or decades away from thinking about leaving the workforce, it is likely that you will be affected by the changing nature of retirement. Maybe it’s not your own retirement that is on the forefront of your mind, but your spouse or partner’s. Perhaps your parent or another family member is trying to navigate the complexities of their pension, all the while trying to decide whether and how to retire.

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New NHS treatments: a real breakthrough for breast cancer?

In November last year, after much debate over cost, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) approved two new drugs for treatment of breast cancer for use on the NHS. Although first approval happened some time ago, this decision to make palbociclib and ribociclib available on the NHS, gives thousands more people access.

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