Micro Files


Lockheed Martin develops groundbreaking reactor

Lockheed Martin has announced that they have created a compact fusion reactor, developed by Skunk Works, an experimental technology division from the same company, <em>Gizmodo</em> reported.

The new reactor is the size of a jet engine and it can power airplanes, spaceships, and cities. Skunk Works claims it will be fully operational within the next 10 years. One of the main improvements of this new reactor is that instead of using the same design that everyone else is using &mdash; the Soviet-derived tokamak, a torus in which magnetic fields confine the fusion reaction with a huge energy cost and thus little energy production capabilities &mdash;&nbsp; Skunk Works has developed its own.

Skunk Works&rsquo; compact fusion reactor took a radically different approach compared to the Soviet tokamak. One significant difference of this new reactor is its tube-like design which allows the reactor to bypass one of the limitations of classic fusion reactor designs, which are limited in the amount of plasma they can hold, making them unnecessarily big in size.

The new architecture of the reactor allows it to be 10 times smaller at the same power output of the, which is expected to generate 500 MW in the 2020s. Skunk Works is convinced that their reactor will be able to power everything from spaceships to airplanes to vessels and even whole cities in the near future.


<strong>Chimps have a favourite tool to hunt ants</strong>

New research conducted and published by the University of Cambridge shows that chimpanzees search for specific tools from a key plant species when they are preparing to hunt ants.

This tool allows them to eat the ants without getting bitten. The plant chimps use provides them with with two different types of tools, a thicker shoot for digging and a more slender tool for dipping.

This technique, commonly referred&nbsp; to as ant dipping, was previously believed to be a last resort for the hungry apes, only exploited when the animal&rsquo;s preferred food of fruit couldn&rsquo;t be found. But the latest study, based on over 10 years of data, shows that army ants are a staple in the chimpanzee diet.


<strong>Scientists manage to manipulate memories with light</strong>

Neuroscience researchers at the University of California Davis Center have used light to erase specific memories in mice, proving a basic theory of how different parts of the brain work together to retrieve episodic memories, <em>Science Daily</em> reports.

This new technique of brain manipulation is called optogenetics and&nbsp; was pioneered by Karl Diesseroth at Stanford University. This technique focuses on manipulating and studying nerve cells using light. The techniques of optogenetics are rapidly becoming the standard method for investigating brain function.

Kasumaza Tanaka and Brian Wiltgen used genetically modified mice so that when nerve cells are activated, they both fluoresce green and express a protein that allows the cells to be switched off by light.

They were therefore able both to follow exactly which nerve cells in the cortex and hippocampus were activated in learning and memory retrieval, and switch them off with light directed through a fiber-optic cable.