Author Archives: Dr Laurence White

Tiny elephants in the room: attitudes to microplastics and the environment

Humans have been drastically altering our environments for millennia. The bare, bleak hills of Dartmoor in the southwest of England were heavily forested ten thousand years ago, before Stone Age inhabitants started clearing trees to boost hunting and farming. Worldwide … Continue reading

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Learning to love robots: First impressions count

Think of a robot and you will probably picture something that looks a bit like us. From faithful companions like C-3P0 and Wall-E to the rather less friendly Cybermen, most robotic creations of popular culture have some recognisable human features. … Continue reading

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Of flops and teraflops: In search of the perfect poker player

I’ve just taken a beating at poker. When the chips were counted after one hundred hands of Texas hold ‘em against the former European champion, I was down by almost 10,000. The beating, although inevitable, wasn’t unrelenting. I’d successfully slow-played … Continue reading

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Clever forever?

Albert Einstein comes near the top of any list of famously clever people, even 60 years after his death. His face is likewise instantly recognisable: the unruly white hair and grey moustache have adorned countless t-shirts, posters and popular science … Continue reading

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Can emotional intelligence lead you astray?

Some personality traits seem obviously desirable. Who would not want to have above-average humour, intelligence or self- confidence? So it is surprising that high emotional intelligence is associated with so-called “delinquent” behaviour – from school truancy and smoking cannabis to … Continue reading

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What is it like to wake up during surgery?

The benefits of anaesthesia are enormous. Being prepped for surgery two hundred years ago, you might be offered a few numbing swigs from a brandy bottle. Occasionally, the surgeon would attempt to spare your agony by punching you unconscious. Most … Continue reading

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Fear, prejudice and pharmaceuticals

Taboos against giving offence to people from other social groups and cultures are very widespread. Indeed, showing kindness and generosity to strangers could be regarded as an important marker of human civilization. Social codes that are sometimes bracketed under the … Continue reading

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