Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

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Why is the Higgs boson called the ‘god particle’?

By Jim Baggott
The Higgs field was invented to explain how otherwise massless force particles could acquire mass, and was used by Weinberg and Salam to develop a theory of the combined ‘electro-weak’ force and predict the masses of the W and Z bosons. However, it soon became apparent that something very similar is responsible for the masses of the matter particles, too.

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What is the Higgs boson?

By Jim Baggott
We know that the physical universe is constructed from elementary matter particles (such as electrons and quarks) and the particles that transmit forces between them (such as photons). Matter particles have physical characteristics that we classify as fermions. Force particles are bosons.

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Did you know that we’re all made of stars?

By Andrew King
What are you made of? You may never have thought about it before, but every atom in your body was once part of a star, even several stars in succession. And almost all the elements that make up your body – carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, and so on – would not exist at all without the stars.

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Edinburgh International Book Festival: Frank Close and Peter Higgs

By Frank Close
When I interviewed Peter Higgs at the Borders Book Festival in Melrose in June, he had been waiting 48 years to see if his eponymous boson exists. On July 4 CERN announced the discovery of what looks very much like the real thing. On August 13 I am sharing the stage with Peter again, this time in Edinburgh. We shall be discussing his boson and my book The Infinity Puzzle, which relates the marathon quest to find it. How has his life changed?

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How exactly did Mendeleev discover his periodic table of 1869?

The usual version of how Mendeleev arrived at his discovery goes something like this. While in the process of writing his textbook, ‘The Principles of Chemistry’, Mendeleev completed the book by dealing with only eight of the then known sixty-three elements. He ended the book with the halogens.

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Putting the Higgs particle in perspective

By Jim Baggott
On 4 July scientists at CERN in Geneva declared that they had discovered a new particle ‘consistent’ with the long-sought Higgs boson, also known as the ‘God particle’. Although further research is required to characterize the new particle fully, there can be no doubt that an important milestone in our understanding of the material world and of the evolution of the early universe has just been reached.

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How radioactivity helps scientists uncover the past

By Claudio Tuniz
Neanderthal was once the only human in Europe. By 40,000 years ago, after surviving through several ice ages, his days (or, at least, his millennia) were numbered. The environment of the Pleistocene epoch was slightly radioactive, the same way it is today, but this was not Neanderthal’s problem. The straw that broke the camel’s back was the arrival of a new human

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Rosalind Franklin: the not-so-dark lady of DNA

By Jenifer Glynn
If Rosalind Franklin had lived, she would have been 92 today. But she died at 37, five years after the discovery of the structure of DNA had been announced by Watson and Crick. As Crick confessed later (but never confessed to her), “the data which really helped us to obtain the structure was mainly obtained by Rosalind Franklin”.

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Frank Close reflects on the new boson find

By Frank Close
Now that the boson has been found (yes, I know we physicists have to use science-speak to be cautious, but it’s real), I can stop hedging and answer the question that many have been asking me for months: how do six people who had an idea share a Nobel Prize that is limited to three? The answer is: they don’t. To paraphrase George Orwell: All may appear equal, but some are more equal than others.

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Do we really need magnets?

By Stephen Blundell
Do you own any magnets?  Most people, when asked this question, say no.  Then they remember the plastic letters sticking to their refrigerator door, or the holiday souvenir that keeps takeaway menus pinned to a steel surface in their kitchen.  Maybe I do own a few, they say.

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5 questions about Quantum Theory

By Bruce Rosenblum
In trying to understand the atom, physicists built quantum mechanics, the most successful theory in science. And then the trouble started. Experimental quantum facts and the quantum theory explaining them are undisputed. Interpreting what it all means, however, is heatedly controversial.

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SciWhys: How do cells age?

By Jonathan Crowe
We’ve all been there: the car that finally became too expensive to keep on the road as more and more parts needed to be replaced, or the computer that started to run so slowly you gave up even bothering to open your web browser. These and other everyday experiences show how there’s an increased risk of things breaking as they get older. And our own bodies aren’t immune: the hair at my temples (and on other parts of my head, I fear) is on a resolute march towards greyness, and my eyesight isn’t as sharp as it once was. In short, our cells are just as susceptible to breaking down as they age as anything else.

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Scientists propose Big Bang Theory

This Day in World History
Poet T.S. Eliot might still be right—the world might end with a whimper. But on April 1, 1948, physicists George Gamow and Ralph Alpher first proposed the now prevailing idea of how the universe began—with a big bang.

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When we walked on the Moon

At 5:14 am GMT on March 20th the sun will cross the celestial equator going from south to north, signalling the beginning of spring in the planet’s northern hemisphere and autumn in the southern. We’re celebrating this astronomical event with Ian Ridpath and newly released NASA photos of the Moon.

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