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Archive of Opinion

<< 2014 Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec 2016 >>

Discovered: stone tools that go back beyond earliest humans

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Matt Pope

Archaeologists have discovered stone artefacts in Kenya dating back to 3.3m years ago – making them the oldest stone tools yet discovered. The finding pushes back the record of stone tools by 700,000 years. While the tools predate the earliest known representative of our own genus, Homo, it is not yet possible to pin down exactly which species created the tools, writes Dr Matt Pope (UCL Institute of Archaeology) in The Conversation.

Plagiarism is a mortal sin and last taboo – or is it?

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Jo Wolff

JD Salinger, at the start of his short story Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters, quotes an ancient Chinese tale about the search for a superlative new horse for Duke Mu of Chin. Chiu-fang Kao is commissioned for the job and recommends a wonderful black stallion, but describes it as a dun mare. Naturally, the duke questions his expertise, but Chiu-fang Kao’s patron replies “Has he really got as far as that? … In making sure of the essentials he forgets the homely details", writes Professor Jonathan Wolff (UCL Philosophy) in the Guardian.

Where will nuclear power plants of the future be built?

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Paul Dorfman

Nuclear power has had a makeover. What was once seen as a futuristic source of limitless energy has been reframed as a response to global warming, an ideal solution for countries looking for a continuous source of low-carbon power. But who are these countries, asks Dr Paul Dorfman (UCL Energy Institute) in The Conversation.

Why our ancestors were more gender equal than us

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quad

It is often believed that hierarchical and sometimes oppressive social structures like the patriarchy are somehow natural – a reflection of the law of the jungle. But the social structure of today’s hunter gatherers suggests that our ancestors were in fact highly egalitarian, even when it came to gender. Their secret? Not living with many relatives, say Dr Lucio Vinicius and Dr Andrea Migliano (both UCL Anthropology) in The Conversation.

What rats in a maze can teach us about our sense of direction

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quad

London’s taxi drivers have to pass an exam in which they are asked to name the shortest route between any two places within six miles of Charing Cross – an area with more than 60,000 roads. We know from brain scans that learning “the knowledge” – as the drivers call it - increases the size of their hippocampi, the part of the brain crucial to spatial memory, write Francis Carpenter and Dr Caswell Barry (both UCL Cell & Developmental Biology) in The Conversation.

Prince Charles’s letters reveal the extent of his lobbying for dangerous ‘alternative medicine’

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Prof-David-Colquhoun

The age of enlightenment was a beautiful thing. People cast aside dogma and authority. They started to think for themselves. Natural science flourished. Understanding of the natural world increased. The hegemony of religion slowly declined. Eventually real universities were created and real democracy developed. The modern world was born, writes Professor David Colquhoun (UCL Neuroscience, Physiology & Pharmacology) in the Spectator.

Bad marks for Sweden’s muddled teacher training in OECD report on school system

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Sweden has experienced a dramatic decline in the international ranking of its schools. Swedish 15-year-olds' performance on the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development-led Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) has declined from near the average in 2000 to significantly below average in 2012, writes Dr Susanne Wiborg (UCL Institute of Education) in The Conversation.

This British bill of rights could end the UK

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Philippe Sands

David Cameron has given Michael Gove the task of scrapping the Human Rights Act and curtailing the role of the European court of human rights. Gove, the new justice secretary, is probably unaware of how poisonous are the contents of the chalice passed into his hands. And Cameron wants a draft bill within the first 100 days of his new government, writes Professor Philippe Sands (UCL Laws) in the Guardian.

The problem with fragmented insurgencies

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United Nations Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura recently announced that his schedule for the U.N.-backed “peace consultations” in Geneva includes over 40 one-on-one meetings representing an array of external states, non-jihadist armed factions, opposition groups and civil society actors with a stake in the Syrian conflict, writes Dr Kristin Bakke (UCL Political Science) in the Washington Post.

Bangladesh blogger killings have roots in independence struggle

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Ashraf Hoque

Ananta Bijoy Das, who was murdered in a brutal roadside machete attack in north-east Bangladesh, is the third secularist blogger to be killed by Islamist extremists since February 2015. But this is a less recent development than it seems. Militant attacks on so-called “atheists” have been accelerated in Bangladesh since 2013, writes Dr Ashraf Hoque (UCL Anthropology) in The Conversation.

<< 2014 Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec 2016 >>