Weekly round-up: nuclear fusion, clever people, discovering America, cat apps

some things we noticed this week which may be significant

Fusion, fusion We’ve said it before here, but one sure way out of our current energy problems will be the ability to harness the power of nuclear fusion; that bringing together of hydrogen atoms to make them into helium, thus replicating the processes of the Sun. Progress has been indifferent for many decades but two recent developments suggest that things may be looking up

First Anthony Cuthbertson for the Irish Independent showcases a South Korean team who have achieved 30 seconds’ run time at temperatures far hotter than the Sun. No one’s quite got this far before.


In research, trying to do things a bit differently sometimes helps. Up to now much fusion research has centred on tokamaks. Now team at Germany’s prestigious Max Planck Institute is trying out something called a “stellarator.” It’s early days yet, but this Insitute’s track record on anything is truly formidable. One to watch:

We thank Mr Gary Herbert for this lead


More wrangling over genes We are at LSS are always suspicious about a single genetic explanation for anything, from homosexuality to the disappearance of Neanderthal Persons in the late Paleolithic. Yet genes must do something, or why else would we have them? Which is why it’s worth a good look at this one from Nature, which puts down our own (self-proclaimed) superiority to a gene called TKTL-1

Researchers have pinpointed a fateful genetic mutation that might have contributed to a cognitive advantage for modern humans over Neanderthals. Tests in the laboratory suggest that a single change in the gene TKTL1 ultimately causes the brain to develop more neurons. The Neanderthal version of TKTL1 still exists in some modern humans, although it’s very rare and it’s unknown whether it causes any disease or cognitive differences.Nature | 4 min read
Reference: Science paper

Looking for America Given that the two American continents are so very big, it always seemed odd to us that everybody missed them before Colombus. Turns out they didn’t-at least seven other lots got there before the intrepid Italian. None of it could have been plain sailing, but we are in particular awe of the Polynesians who crossed the truly vast Pacific in tiny canoes. Nicolas Longrich expounds for the Conversation:


Time for a cat app Everyone thinks they know how to communicate with a feline friend. But can IT help clarify the conversations? Claire Cohen checks out the pros and cons of the latest apps which may help humans and cats understand each other more clearly. We don’t think there’s much to know beyond “I WANT MY DINNER” and “LET ME IN/OUT.”


May you and all your pets of whatever species have a good weekend

#nuclear fusion #max planck institute #tktl-1 #neanderthal #settlement of America #cats

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