Online Presents

Ghost of Christmas Present. Image from Oxford Text Archive

Ghost of Christmas Present.
Image from Oxford Text Archive

Season’s greetings.

The University Strategic Plan (USP) says we should develop Oxford’s online presence. We prefer online presents.

In our Open Advent Calendar this year IT Services will showcase the many lovely things we give users.

Many of our resources are published with Creative Commons licences so you can download them, keep them, enjoy them, share them and use them in your own teaching or research.  Each day of December until the 24th, we will post  a link to a resource for you to enjoy. These will include images, podcasts, software, agentbased models, ebooks and videos.

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Dec 24

Christmas Scientists

dancingFor Christmas what could be better than the annual Oxford University Christmas Science Lectures, where world renowned scientists aim to entertain and inspire the next generation with their (often explosive) insights into science?

This year’s lectures are made available for you to enjoy, share and re-use.

Can Machines Think? How can we test computers for intelligence? Edward Grefenstette delivers a lively presentation about artificial intelligence.

Prime Numbers Dr Richard Earl of the Mathematical Institute, Oxford presents a talk about prime numbers. What they are and their role in internet security.

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Dec 23

Do we have enough food?

dancingHave you done your shopping? Do you have enough supplies for the holidays? Will you eat two Christmas dinners on Christmas day just to keep your family happy?

This lecture: Where will Tomorrow’s Food Come From – and What will be the Consequences? explores the topic of food security, focusing in particular on sustainability, supply and demand, and aid and trade. How will science, ecology and consumers have an impact on how food is produced and distributed?

More Oxford lectures on the theme of food

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Dec 22

 Starry, Starry,  Night

dancingFireworks consultant, author and former Oxford chemist Dr Tom Smith explains the basic chemistry and construction of fireworks, and their use in modern fireworks displays.

Fireworks Displays: The chemistry of explosive entertainment

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Dec 21

Exit pursued by a bear

dancingHow we can make sense of a play that veers from tragedy to comedy and stretches credulity in its conclusion? And what is going on with that most famous of stage directions, ‘exit pursued by a bear’?

One of Shakespeare’s last plays, The Winter’s Tale (1611) splices tragedy and comedy to audacious effect: in this lecture Emma Smith tries to think about why, and to what effect.  Using the sources to clarify Shakespeare’s technique, this lecture argues that the play is an experiment, which has had some very successful recent stage revivals.

Have you ever wondered why should we study Shakespeare? This unique mini-series of podcasts  created this year as part of the  ‘Great Writers Inspire’ project aims to challenge the literary canon by posing the thorny question ‘why should we study…?’ to experts at the University of Oxford.

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Dec 20

Anatomy of a Kiss and Connecting Religiosity

dancingPosters are gaining importance as a form of outreach, and so it’s not surprising that the Poster Creation Workshop is fast becoming one of the most popular courses offered by the IT Learning Programme.

The winners of the IT Services’ OxTALENT poster competition this year  both drew on striking themes to draw attention  and engage interest in  their research.

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Dec 19

Hoping to work on some documents over Christmas?

dancingWon’t have access to your desktop? Rightly prefer not to put confidential documents in the ‘cloud’?

For Christmas (and not just for Christmas) we recommend your own personal Nexus SharePoint site (otherwise known as a MySite). And you no longer have to ask for it. In time for Christmas we have enabled a MySite for all members of the University, staff and students.

A Nexus MySite gives you pretty much everything SharePoint has to offer, just for you: document libraries; lists of all sorts; an internal blog; and a personal profile to share with your colleagues. You can even present a SharePoint document library as a folder on your desktop (via Webdav).

Your MySite comes with 2GB of quota for working documents, a basic profile, a document library for documents private to yourself, and a library for digital stuff you want to share with everyone else. You can, of course, create additional document libraries or lists and manage access to them as you see fit. We have more information at or simply get started by visiting

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Dec 18

German Markets

dancingFor Christmas 1914, Ernst Hünnebeck sent a bouquet of flowers to his wife and children. He was deployed on the Balkan front in Montenegro, and perhaps he picked the flowers there himself. That the gift was treasured cannot be doubted as the the bouquet is still preserved, nearly a hundred years later.

Read the original post (in German) and see more pictures at on the Europeana 1914-1918 site

Story and pictures contributed by Ekkehard Piclum CC BY-SA.

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Dec 17

Star of Wonder

dancing This Christmas try some stargazing in the clear winter night skies.

Find out more about our night sky, from new planets to far-off galaxies and the vastness of the Universe.

Learn about the different shapes of galaxies using a plate of fruit and a telescope.

Learn about the reclassification of Pluto to a Dwarf planet and the history of its discovery.

Discover the the history of the Universe in 12 minutes.

A series of short talks and presentations for the general public from leading astronomy researchers at the Oxford University Physics department .

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Dec 16

Avoid Christmas trees and other children

dancingThis is an agent-based model where each child has a stocking with a matching colour. But it’s not so easy for them to get there. They need to avoid Christmas trees and other children. And they aren’t very bright. But when they do reach their stocking they get a nice surprise (most of the time).

Run it live as a Java applet in your browser.

This model   is made available to you as part of the modelling4all project which creates open models for re-use.

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Dec 15

Reindeer Games

dancingThis is an agent-based model where Santa’s reindeer haven’t quite grasped how to follow Santa.

Visit: Reindeer Games Running model

Can you train Santa’s helpers to run together by changing the sliders “personal space” and “local interaction” ?

Choose “load this model” you can see the building blocks and change them i.e. left click on “leave trails” and select ‘activate’ … then run model again.

This model is based on a paper in Nature about fish swarming and  is made available to you as part of the modelling4all project which creates open models for re-use.

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