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After the Black Death

The Black Death: how did the world’s deadliest pandemic change society?

COVID-19 has ignited global interest in past pandemics, and the Black Death of 1346-53 is the worst in recorded history. Recent research has transformed our understanding of this lethal disease, which coincided with environmental stress and rapid climate change. But in the long term it proved a watershed in human history, triggering a range of institutional, economic, and social changes that opened up the route to liberal modernity.

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Open Access – Episode 58 – The Oxford Comment [podcast]

Should academic research be available to everyone? How should such a flow of information be regulated? Why would the accessibility of information ever be controversial? Our topic today is Open Access (OA), the movement defined in the early 2000s to ensure the free access to and reuse of academic research on the Internet.

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Representation in Cognitive Science

What is “representation” in the human brain and AI systems?

Neuroscience is beginning to make sense of what’s going on inside the human brain—a seemingly inscrutable organ of even great complexity. We can now see what some patterns of activity are, and we have an inkling of what they are doing, of how they track the environment, and subserve behaviour.

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Global Environmental Politics: Understanding the Governance of the Earth

COVID-19 and pollution: double standards, quadruple bias

The difference between policy responses to COVID-19 and to environmental crises is striking. When faced with the pandemic, governments around the world (with a few notable exceptions) adopted draconian measures to limit the disaster. These measures are not inconsequential: it will take years to reduce unemployment and the public debt. Yet, they were sacrifices considered necessary to protect public health.

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Genome Biology and Evolution

Good news for honey bees from 150-year-old museum specimens

The past several decades have been hard on Apis mellifera, the Western honey bee. Originally native to Europe, Africa, and the Middle East, Western honey bees have spread worldwide thanks to the nutritional and medicinal value of their honey, pollen, beeswax, and other hive products.

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Posthuman Bliss? The Failed Promise of Transhumanism

Playing to lose: transhumanism, autonomy, and liberal democracy [long read]

[long read] Transhumanists insist that their vision of the “radical” bioenhancement of human capacities is light-years removed from prior eugenics, which was state managed. This reassuring, empowering picture is undercut by transhumanists’ own arguments, which offer incompatible pictures of personal autonomy in relation to decisions about the use of bioenhancement technologies.

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The Changing Energy Mix

The economic and environmental case for electric vehicles

Electricity generation comes from many energy sources, including fossil fuels such as natural gas and coal, nuclear energy, and a variety of renewable sources such as wind, solar, hydroelectric, and biomass. For the transportation sector, however, energy comes primarily from crude oil.

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What Everyone Needs to Know

What everyone needs to know about 2020

Across the globe, 2020 has proved to be one of the most tumultuous years in recent memory. From COVID-19 to the US Election, gain insight into some of the many events of 2020 with our curated reading list from the What Everyone Needs to Know® series.

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Genome Biology and Evolution

Unique adaptations allow owls to rule the night

As the only birds with a nocturnal, predatory lifestyle, owls occupy a unique niche in the avian realm. Hunting prey in the dark comes with a number of challenges, and owls have evolved several features that leave them well-suited to this task.

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OUP Libraries

The changing role of medical librarians in a COVID-19 world

“Health librarians really need to have a broad picture of the health environment to have an impact and connect all the dots ”, says Gemma Siemensma, Library Manager at Ballarat Health Services (BHS), Australia. Librarians “need to continue to excel in reference consultations and literature searching to advanced forms of evidence synthesis and critical appraisal,” she adds.

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MNRAS

Modifying gravity to save cosmology

The unexpectedly rapid local expansion of the Universe could be due to us residing in a large void. However, a void wide and deep enough to explain this discrepancy—often called the “Hubble tension”—is not possible in standard cosmology, which is built on Einstein’s theory of gravity, General Relativity.

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