Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

9780190620295

Deconstructing pseudoscience

Can magicians (illusionists) really levitate themselves and others or bend spoons using only the power of their mind? No. Emphatically no. But they surely make it seem as if they can. Enjoy being fooled? Then you’ll love watching really good magic shows that allow people the opportunity to suspend their disbelief momentarily. But don’t let this suspension become permanent.

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9780190679637

Is the universe made of fields or particles?

A few ancient Greek philosophers seriously considered this question and concluded that everything is made of tiny particles moving in empty space. The key 17th-century scientist Isaac Newton agreed, but a century later, Thomas Young’s experiments convinced him and others that light, at least, was a wave, and Michael Faraday and James Maxwell showed that light and other radiations such as infrared and radio are waves in a universal “electromagnetic field.”

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9780199571314

What’s in a name?

In September 2015, the UK Met Office and Met Éireann (the Irish meteorological service) announced a project to give names to potentially damaging storms. The basis for naming any particular storm was the expectation that there would be major impacts on conditions over the British Isles and, in particular, of very high winds. The first storm, Abigail, brought high winds to northern Scotland and the Outer Hebrides.

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13652966

Heavy-metal subdwarf

An international team of astronomers led by Professor Simon Jeffery at the Armagh Observatory in Northern Ireland has discovered a small, very blue helium-rich, and hot star called UVO 0825+15, which has a surface extremely rich in lead and other heavy metals and varies in brightness by up to 1% every eleven hours. Only the fourth “heavy-metal subdwarf” discovered, and the second to be variable, the new star raises major questions about how these stars form and work.

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9780199671595

John Glenn was a hero; was he a pioneer?

John Herschel Glenn passed away recently at age 95. He was the first American to orbit the Earth, on board Friendship 7 in February 1962, and before that, a much decorated war veteran, serving as a fighter pilot in both World War II and in Korea, finally retiring as a colonel in 1965. As if that wasn’t enough, after leaving NASA, he won a US Senate seat, representing his home state of Ohio, and served for 25 years.

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Telescopes: A Very Short Introduction

Looking at the stars

The ancient Greek philosophers believed that the Sun, Moon, planets, and stars were mathematically perfect orbs, made from unearthly materials. These bodies were believed to move on perfectly symmetric celestial spheres, through which a backdrop of fixed stars could be seen, rotating majestically every 24 hours. At the centre was the motionless Earth. For the Greeks, the power of reason was more important than observation.

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9780198769873

Spectacular science in the shadows of New York

New York is a world center of commerce and finance, media and transportation, and many other facets of modern life. It is also a great hub of science, but this seldom transpires when New York is mentioned. Yet science, especially when including technology, inventions

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MRAS

Dark matter, black holes, and dwarf spheroidal galaxies

Our current understanding of the Universe suggests that it is composed of an invisible component called “dark matter”. This mysterious type of matter represents more than 25% of the entire matter and energy of which the Universe is made. The matter that we are used to “seeing” in our everyday life and that represents the building blocks for both our bodies and stars that shine in the sky, represents only 5% of the Universe.

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9780190232993-1

A new philosophy of science? Surely that’s been outlawed

The main thing that drew me to the history and philosophy of science was the simple desire to understand the nature of science. I was introduced to the exciting ideas of Popper, Kuhn, Lakatos and Feyerabend, but it soon became clear that there were serious problems with each of these views and that those heydays were long gone. Professionals in the field would no longer presume to generalize as boldly as the famous quartet had done.

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9780198785491_450

A question of public influence: the case of Einstein

Einstein’s scientific achievements are well known even if not widely understood by non-scientists. He bestrode the twentieth century like a colossus and physicists are still working through his legacy. Besides, the theory of relativity penetrated far beyond science into many areas of literature and the arts. If hard to measure, evidence of his cultural influence is unmistakable.

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Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Religion

Are God and chance compatible?

It has long been the unquestioned assumption of many religious believers that the God who created the world also acts in it. Until recent scientific discoveries, few challenged the idea of how exactly God interacts with the world. With the introduction of Newtonian science and quantum theory, we now know much more about how the world works, and the mode of God’s action has become a serious question for believers.

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Space travel to improve health on earth

World Space Week has been celebrated for the last 17 years, with events taking place all over the world, making it one of the biggest public events in the world. Highlighting the research conducted and achievements reached, milestones are celebrated in this week. The focus isn’t solely on finding the ‘Final Frontier’ but also on how the research conducted can be used to help humans living on Earth.

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9780198779568

Measuring up

My first degree was in mathematics, where I specialised in mathematical physics. That meant studying notions of mass, weight, length, time, and so on. After that, I took a master’s and a PhD in statistics. Those eventually led to me spending 11 years working at the Institute of Psychiatry in London, where the central disciplines were medicine and psychology. Like physics, both medicine and psychology are based on measurements.

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9780198754053

100 years of the X-ray powder diffraction method

X-ray diffraction by crystalline powders is one of the most powerful and most widely used methods for analyzing matter. It was discovered just one hundred years ago, independently, by Paul Scherrer and Peter Debye in Göttingen, Germany, and by Albert Hull at the General Electric Laboratories, Schenectady, USA.

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9780198742999

Quantum mechanics – a new lease of life

“It’s not quantum mechanics” may often be heard, a remark informing the listener that whatever they are concerned about is nowhere near as difficult, as abstruse, as complicated as quantum mechanics. Indeed to non-physicists or non-mathematicians quantum mechanics must seem virtually impossible to appreciate – pages of incomprehensible algebra buttressed by obscure or frankly paradoxical “explanations”.

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9780198719052

The importance of smell

The captivating scent of cakes and the compelling aroma of freshly brewed coffee attract you to a bakery in the morning. A male moth is flittering around, frenetically following the scent plume released by her female. What do these two phenomena have in common? Much more than we suspect, when we look at the molecular level. Imagine if we had a very powerful microscope enabling us to detect details

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