Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

Robot rats are the future of recycling

I just watched WALL-E for the first time in five years or so. It’s the story of a plucky little robot tasked with cleaning up the world by compacting rubbish into blocks and building structures out of the blocks to minimize the amount of land they take up. Of course, he falls in love and saves the […]

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From the farm to rocket road: one engineer’s story

Retired engineer Henry Pohl can vividly recall his first encounter with a rocket. During the early 1950s, the Army drafted him and shipped him from Texas to the Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama. “That dadgum thing looked pretty simple,” he says of the rocket engine. It didn’t look much bigger than the tractor engine back […]

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The Cambridge Philosophical Society

In 2019, the Cambridge Philosophical Society celebrates its 200th anniversary. When it was set up in 1819, Cambridge was not a place to do any kind of serious science. There were a few professors in scientific subjects but almost no proper laboratories or facilities. Students rarely attended lectures, and degrees were not awarded in the […]

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Theranos and the cult of personality in science and tech

Elizabeth Holmes was a chemical engineering student who dropped out of Stanford to found Theranos: a silicon-valley start-up company that, at one point, was valued at US$9 billion. Her plan was to be another Steve Jobs. Today, she is facing fraud and other criminal charges.

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The birth of exoplanetary science

The hunt for exoplanets was inspired by advances in understanding of the formation of stars: it was becoming clear that the gases that were contracting to form new stars were somehow shedding the bulk of their energy of rotation, while new observations were revealing disks full of gas and dust, spinning around such forming stars, and containing a lot of energy of rotation.

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There are no aliens… at least officially

“There are no aliens, officially, at least….” Elon Musk, writing on his Twitter account, is one of a number of smart technopreneurs who considers that if there is extraterrestrial life, it would most likely already be observing us, and, it will be technological. Artist and singer David Bowie came to a similar conclusion years ago, […]

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National Day of Listening [podcast]

In 2008, StoryCorps created World Listening Day for citizens of all beliefs and backgrounds to record, preserve, and share the stories of their lives. This year, we invite you to celebrate by listening to our podcast, The Oxford Comment.

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Learning from nature to save the planet

Our planet is out of balance as the result of our technologies. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warns that global temperatures could reach a frightening plus +3° by the end of the century, our ocean ecosystems risk being overwhelmed by non-degrading plastic waste, open rubbish tips scar the landscape and pollute our water supplies […]

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How digital artists are questioning artificial intelligence

Steve Goodman is best known for his work DJing as Kode9 and running the Hyperdub record label, one of the pioneering forces of UK bass culture and dubstep since 2004. Through releases by Kode9 & The Spaceape, and Burial, Hyperdub captured a sound that embodied the high-pressure claustrophobia and hyper-surveillance of urban environments in the 21st Century.

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Technology, privacy, and politics [podcast]

All eyes are on the U.S. political landscape heading into the 2018 Midterm Elections in November. With all 435 seats of the House of Representatives and about one-third of Senate spots up for grabs, the next decade of politics lies in the hands of voters.

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Dilemmas of the Age of Innovation

We live in the age of scientific optimism. Tomorrow’s new knowledge will vastly expand our understanding of ourselves and our mastery of the world. The flip side of scientific optimism, however, is that today’s knowledge is fraught with gaps and errors of which we are not yet aware. Furthermore, knowledge and understanding do not always grow gradually like the rings of a tree.

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The history of manned space flight [infographic]

The Soviet Union launched the first man-made satellite, Sputnik, into space in October 1957, initiating the scientific rivalry between the USSR and the United States at the height of the Cold War. In the subsequent decades, the Soviet and American space programs traded milestones as they each embarked upon manned space flight and the exploration of space.

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Science, where are we going? From intellectual passion to a market-driven system

With over 10 million active researchers, more than 2 million scientific articles published each year, and an uncontrolled spread of bibliometric indicators, contemporary science is undergoing a profound change that is modifying consolidated procedures, ethical principles that were deemed inalienable and traditional mechanisms for the validation of scientific outputs that have worked successfully for the last century.

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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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How ‘the future’ connects across subjects

‘Today’s world is complex and unreliable. Tomorrow is expected to be more so.’ – Jennifer M. Gidley, The Future: A Very Short Introduction From the beginning of time, humanity has been driven by a paradox: fearing the unknown but with a constant curiosity to know. Over time, science and technology have developed, meaning that we […]

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