June 5th, 2012
02:26 PM ET

The 18-year-old who built a nuclear reactor

Editor's note: Taylor Wilson is the subject of CNN's "The Next List" on Sunday at 2 p.m. ET.

By The Next List Staff, CNN

(CNN) - At 18, Taylor Wilson has probably accomplished more than most people will in a lifetime.

He is the youngest person in the world to build a nuclear fusion reactor. And he won national acclaim for a counter terror device that sniffs out nuclear material in cargo containers. If that’s not enough, he built a prototype for a device that generates medical isotopes - a feat that could make diagnosing and treating cancer cheaper and more widely accessible to patients.

Wilson has won a dozen awards at the prestigious Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF), the Super Bowl of science fairs, over the course of his high school career. Not to mention tens of thousands of dollars in prize money.

“Some people wonder if he’s for real,” said Bill Brinsmead, one of Wilson's mentors, and a Senior Technician in the Physics Department at the University of Nevada, Reno. Brinsmead and others who know him are sure that he is. The director of The Davidson Academy, Wilson's high school, calls him “larger than life.”

It would be easy to conclude that what sets Taylor apart is his rare intellect, something only a tiny fraction of the world possesses.

But ask Wilson why he’s successful and the answer might surprise you.

“I think it’s mainly passion. We all have a similar intellectual capacity within reason but the people who really change the world, the Steve Jobs of the world, have always had that passion, that drive," he said. "They have that unique image of how the world should be and I have that. And I think that’s what sets me apart. You know my brain does work differently, but it’s the passion that really makes me successful."

And where passion is concerned, it seems Wilson has a nearly inexhaustible supply.

That and, as his father, Kenneth Wilson, points out: “He never takes no for an answer.”

Wilson started building the nuclear fusion reactor in his garage but finished it at the University of Nevada, Reno. He did it initially because he was amazed by the power contained within the atom and obsessed with making things radioactive.

Here's what he had to say on that subject:

"I had this obsession with radioactivity, and short of contaminating something, to make something radioactive, you had to have a source of neutrons. And I don’t have weapons-grade plutonium around the house, or at least not at that time. But anyway, to make things radioactive, I would need a neutron source, so I decided to build this fusion reactor, but kind of with that came this interest in fusion."

Subsequently, he used his reactor as a basis for the devices he invented.

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soundoff (393 Responses)
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    • Grisleny

      larry,I'm with Boyd and Patton on this one. A poor plan executed iamdeimtely will be better than a perfect plan 50 years hence.After we get one working lots of people will be looking to make $$$ with improvements.And yes. The cost in pork will at least double the price. Probably more like a factor of 10X. Given that the slow plan was 10 years and probably $2 bn total a fast plan of 3 years and $20 bn is not out of the question. Given that replacing all the world's power generators is worth $5 trillion a year that is still not a bad return.One also has to consider the morale boost. Civilization need not fear running out of energy.And it will make space accessible. Another morale boost.

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  13. YUp

    Glad he is on our side.

    June 25, 2012 at 7:54 pm | Reply
  14. Pthieber

    Most good scientists have some degree of modesty. They do their research, publish the results and let others judge the importance of their success. They also give appropriate credit to previous work and to the support they receive. In the case of Taylor I am confident all that will improve with maturity, experience and further education.

    June 20, 2012 at 5:05 pm | Reply
  15. Pthieber

    This type of device isn’t normally called a nuclear reactor or a fusion reactor. It is usually called a neutron generator. There are much smaller and cheaper commercial neutron generators, also based on fusion, such as the ones used for oil prospecting:
    It remains to be seen if any of these devices can be scaled up to produce a sufficiently large neutron flux for practical radio-isotope production at hospitals. That would be a real breakthrough.

    June 13, 2012 at 8:16 pm | Reply
  16. Pthieber

    This type of device isn’t normally called a nuclear reactor or a fusion reactor. It is usually called a neutron generator. There are much smaller and cheaper commercial neutron generators, also based on fusion, such as the ones used for oil prospecting:


    It remains to be seen if any of these devices can be scaled up to produce a sufficiently large neutron flux for practical radio-isotope production at hospitals. That would be a real breakthrough.

    June 13, 2012 at 8:12 pm | Reply
  17. Wow Wonder

    Wow is he jimmy neutron made real. I believe he is a genius who is kinda over hyped. SOMEONE PLS CALL 911 . I've got a bomb in my garage

    June 13, 2012 at 5:47 pm | Reply
  18. Pthieber

    This young man is obviously very intelligent, very talented and extremely motivated. He may actually become a very good scientist. It seems to me that at this early stage in his career some humility would be beneficial.

    June 10, 2012 at 11:08 pm | Reply
    • Greg Rister

      You may be right, but humility is largely a cosmetic touch. I understand that "humility" was not one of Steven Jobs' strong suits when he was young (or even when he was old), but it didn't prove to be an impediment to achieving his ultimate goals. Early on, he probably didn't get invited to many birthday parties. . .

      June 15, 2012 at 8:33 pm | Reply
  19. axonlogic

    I met this kid at the White House Science Fair. Before I talked to him I was extremely skeptical, and I was sure that his parents were the real scientists. As soon as I talked to him, it took about 5 minutes to realize that this kid was for real. Simply brilliant!

    June 7, 2012 at 5:20 pm | Reply
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  21. Douglas

    A net-energy-gain fusion reactor is already around the corner.

    June 7, 2012 at 2:39 pm | Reply
    • Douglas


      November 25, 2013 at 7:29 am | Reply
  22. Mark

    The biggest issue with this story is the person who wrote it and the CNN editor who didn't bother to do much editing. Directed at a general audience, it should have gone into a bit of detail explaining the difference between fusion and fission and how the fusion reaction discussed differs from what the general reader understands (e.g., a thermonuclear reaction or h-bomb), "cold fusion" or the holy grail of fusion like what is being worked on at the national ignition facility.

    June 6, 2012 at 6:09 pm | Reply
  23. funk

    gotta love usa, read posts below most people HATE anyone better, smarter, or more successful then them. if you cant look up to anything you can only go one way DOWN. when did we become a country of jealous losers

    June 6, 2012 at 5:35 pm | Reply
  24. Bryan Herbert

    Wasn't this an episode of Barney Miller?

    June 6, 2012 at 5:02 pm | Reply
  25. Jon G

    For those comments making fun of him, one of which says his intellect won't be able to find him a girl: Sorry, but he won't have to try. I work in the computer tech field and could I be called a Geek? Sure. More and more women are looking for intellect, security, and a safe, respectable house to live in...especially in an economically trying time. That being said, women have been flocking toward me for years. I'm married to a well-proportioned, extremely hot woman, who has dinner ready when I get home. So, from one Geek to this "Geek" kid....do well my friend....go get you a hottie too! ^5

    June 6, 2012 at 4:34 pm | Reply
    • Runnerduck12

      Re "....who has dinner ready when I get home". Wow – Geek or no geek, I think that says a lot....

      June 7, 2012 at 4:04 am | Reply
  26. Archie Bunker III

    Right now the most nuclear threat the world has to destroy humanity is fukushima.radiation is spreading across the pacific east and west.And no one is doing anything about it!

    June 6, 2012 at 3:21 pm | Reply
  27. Great

    Great, now all the terrorists groups can build one in their caves too.

    June 6, 2012 at 2:16 pm | Reply
    • bob

      Did you even read article or maybe not understand what he made ?

      June 6, 2012 at 5:38 pm | Reply
  28. Smash Han Chinese Racism

    I have no doubt some racist Han Chinese, Hindu or Sikh will put down this kid because he's white.

    June 6, 2012 at 1:11 pm | Reply
    • Smash Ludicrous Unsibstantiated Bigotry and Racism

      Excuse me? What does color, race or religion have to do with anything? First of all, if you knew what you were talking about, Hinduism and Sikhism are religions, that have nothing whatsoever to do with color.

      Second, neither religion advocates racism or differentiating people because they are of a different race, religion OR color.

      Third, it is ignorant fools like you who make the wonderful accomplishments of others about horrible and unnecessary distinctions and bigotry. Based on what exactly do you make the ridiculous assumption that this scientist's color would have any effect on Han Chinese, Sikhs or Hindus? Why not add Muslims or Arabs to the mix too? Maybe the Jews? Why not start being a huge racist fool to everyone and about everyone, except the tiny fraction of a percentage of ignorant, blind-sighted fools like yourself who believe in your ridiculous bigoted ideas?

      And by the way, I'm white, in case you made this post about color as well. I just felt the need to reply to your ludicrous post.

      June 8, 2012 at 4:34 am | Reply
    • Neel

      erm... you have no idea what you are talking about do you

      June 20, 2012 at 2:13 pm | Reply
  29. Why Are So Many People So Ignorant?

    For those who are climbing all over this kid claiming he could not have built a fusion reactor, etc, it really is possible and he probably did. It just isn't the kind of fusion reactor you are thinking of. Just because you don't understand there are different kinds of fusion reactors and reactions does not mean he could not have done it. With the quality of the reviewers and mentors, I'm sure he did. Some of you really should have paid more attention in your physics class because you should be a bit ashamed that a kid is so much more intelligent than you are.

    June 6, 2012 at 8:18 am | Reply
    • MarkinFL

      Its like watching young children comment on national politics. They've heard all the words but have no real notion of their meaning.

      June 6, 2012 at 8:21 am | Reply
      • Postal

        Yup. I'd never bothered to look at it before in this way, but over the last hour I have discovered how to build a fusion reactor for under $3,000 using electronics store and automotive shop parts. Kind of interesting, really. When I was 14 years old it would have taken months (at least) to track down the information I needed, even though it's been out there for decades.

        June 6, 2012 at 8:38 am |
  30. topconservative

    And other American parents are making their kids study middle eastern religions!

    June 6, 2012 at 8:14 am | Reply
  31. Starman

    I would like someone with a better grasp of the facts in this story to weigh in. I don't doubt this kids rare intellect and drive, but fusion reactors require immense power. As far as I am aware, the net result from "current" fusion reactors is a net loss. Fission versus fusion is the difference between street ball and the pros.

    June 6, 2012 at 8:00 am | Reply
    • Postal

      http://www.fusor.net/ ...enough said?

      June 6, 2012 at 8:06 am | Reply
  32. ir0c

    No one said it? ... iron man

    June 6, 2012 at 7:56 am | Reply
    • MarkinFL

      Yep someone already commented that this has little resemblance to the "Iron Man" system.

      June 6, 2012 at 8:19 am | Reply
  33. Thenextstep

    This kid has some " MOXY ". I gotta say, No, this kid didn't do this on his own, or build it from scratch...... But I will give him credit for the tonacity to want to learn and not staying buried into facebook. If the kid has a true scientific mind, he'll do many things on his own,, later in life.

    June 6, 2012 at 7:53 am | Reply
    • Postal

      You are correct. He spent years researching in forums that were dedicated to this subject, and that where the same design had been built and tested in the past. It shows something about his drive, but everyone that says "Oh, yea? What were you doing when YOU were 14 years old?" needs to realize, when I was 14 years old there was no such thing as the Internet in the form we see today, there was no access to such information, planning, research, and so forth. I can learn more about the world and what goes on out there in a day now than I could in a year of library and university visits back then. The kid's invention is more impressive than the fact that he built a small reactor.

      June 6, 2012 at 8:00 am | Reply
  34. Shan

    FYI, the Davidson Acdaemy isn't just any high school. It was founded by billionaires and is for the "profoundly" gifted.

    June 6, 2012 at 7:53 am | Reply
    • Shan


      June 6, 2012 at 7:53 am | Reply
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  35. J0nx

    Fusion reactor? Really?? Seeing as how that technology doesn't exist yet and is and has been the holy grail of power technology for the past 50 years then I highly doubt an 18 year old kid built one. Who writes this drivel...

    June 6, 2012 at 7:44 am | Reply
    • MarkinFL

      Clearly, you are not the audience since your reading comprehension is less than a third grader. This is not a POWER generator, it is a neutron generator. The technology is not new, this implementation is new and the fact that a teenager is the architect.

      June 6, 2012 at 7:47 am | Reply
      • TheNPP

        @MarkinFL: Obviously, the person you responded to has a higher education than your third grade level. "FUSION" nuclear generators DO NOT exist it. Partical recombinates, maybe, but NOT fusion. But given that this is CNN, I guess you play to your audience's wants not what is real.

        June 6, 2012 at 8:10 am |
      • Teabagger?

        TheNPP is just as ignorant as J0nx – but even more belligerent in parading it.

        June 6, 2012 at 8:12 am |
    • Teabagger?

      J0nx, who writes this drivel? You write drivel. As Markin points out, they never said fusion power reactor. It is just a simple fusion reactor that can be made out of not that hard to get materials. Certain isotopes spontaneously emit neutrons and other elements, exposed to those neutrons, will pick one up (that's the fusion part) and become a different kind of atom – either the same element but heavier, or it may undergo another reaction and turn into some other element. But nice of you to attempt playing. You should learn that you don't know everything and that when you come out ridiculing something when you yourself are ignorant, you look the fool.

      June 6, 2012 at 8:10 am | Reply
    • Scott

      Building a fusion reactor is (relatively) easy. It's getting a power in/out ratio greater than 1 that's eluded us (as I recall, the best we've done is .6 or so). As Markin stated, this was not a power generator, but a reactor designed to produce neutrons.

      June 6, 2012 at 8:17 am | Reply
  36. sanych

    The kid is a good salesman and a fake. All these Intel/Westinghouse awards projects are frauds – there is a significant parents' involvement that is not disclosed. In this particular project, someone has explained to him how to do it, had built it for him, and uses him as a front. His accomplishment is understanding how it works and claiming credit.

    June 6, 2012 at 7:43 am | Reply
    • MarkinFL

      Your sources please? What? You have none? Oh, its just your inability to accept that there are people whose intellect is so far beyond yours that you cannot even imagine a few minutes inside is brain.

      June 6, 2012 at 7:45 am | Reply
      • Scott in AFG

        Can you reply to anything without tearing down the person you are reply to / disputing? Why does the crux of every reply have to be to insult the person you took issue with? Your replies have no credibility as long as you argument is always essentially ‘you’re too stupid to respond’.

        June 6, 2012 at 8:25 am |
      • MarkinFL

        Because I am responding in kind to that type of post. I guess I find it irritating to read posts that try to make the poster sound superior while actually having nothing intelligent to say in the first place. Its like watching children throw sticks at the big kid they are afraid of. The only way they can feel good about themselves is to tear down anyone perceived to be greater than themselves.
        Really, there is nothing wrong with checking something out before making a post. Half these people read a Newsweek article about fusion power 5 years ago and feel qualified to judge what this kid is doing. As others have noted, his work is being reviewed by experts in the field and they seem to approve. I'm certainly not going to gainsay them.

        June 6, 2012 at 9:26 am |
  37. nolongerarepublican

    Everyone in America has thousands of inventions in thier mind, the differnce is that this kid was given the opportunity to build and promote his inventions unlike the majority of Americans.
    Our patent process is slow and expensive (to promote lawyer fees), and our public schools and Universities discourage new ideas and thinking outside of the box.
    He didn't invent the reactor, he just built one from existing plans.
    Not that impressed with this "wonder boy".

    June 6, 2012 at 7:35 am | Reply
    • MarkinFL

      Sour grapes much?
      Its so easy that he is one of about 32 people to have built one and his is uniquely suited to be a source of inexpensive medical radiation. Nah, not much of an accomplishment for a teenager.
      You should wish to be 1/100 as valuable to our society as this kid already has been. His future potential makes your life look pathetic by comparison. Be happy with who you are and grateful that there are people like him to advance our society to new heights.

      June 6, 2012 at 7:43 am | Reply
    • md

      Oh yea man, 17 year old kid figures out how to build a nuclear reactor, but it's nothing special - he is different from us only because somebody gave him money to work on it. Good ideas are nothing if not acted upon. I'll bet you had a great idea once, and could have been rich and famous for it, but you had another beer instead. A jump to conclusions mat is not a good idea and you're probably fat, lazy, and just trying to knock this kid down because you never made anything of yourself.

      June 6, 2012 at 7:47 am | Reply
    • Jerz5

      Yea, the patent process is clearly the reason we don't see more inventions (I hope you sense my sarcasm). If you actually put your self-implied intelligence to work, you would realize that in today's world, patents do very little to protect you.

      June 6, 2012 at 7:51 am | Reply
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      September 24, 2012 at 4:28 am | Reply
  38. chris

    Jaw on the floor. So the kid just woke up one day and said I think I'll work on building a nuclear reactor today. This is a testament that the majority of us just don't imagine, are not creative. An ordinary existence gets in the way of creativity.

    June 6, 2012 at 7:14 am | Reply
    • Postal

      No, the kid spent years in forums dedicated to the subject and followed precise plans, then tweaked them a little bit. He did not "wake up one morning" and decide to do it. Go to http://www.fusor.net/ and you can build one, too.

      June 6, 2012 at 8:05 am | Reply
      • Scott

        Maybe he did. The key thing that he did was to use that to design a new radiation detector. If I'm right, I think there was an earlier story about this kid where he took a homemade Geiger counter, and found radioactive materials had been used in the construction of the Nuclear Regulatory HQ or something like that.

        tl;dr Even if he started from available plans, he used those as stepping stones to true innovation worthy of a lot of praise. He's going places.

        June 6, 2012 at 8:21 am |
    • Will

      FROM CAROL HERMANSomeday, people will talk about Olmert as a poaicitiln who "thinks outside of the box."True,some people hate Labor. But in Israel Amir Peretz' labor party got more votes than Likud. Bibi didn't have enough votes to claim anything.And, to make his government, I think Olmert surprised everybody! Because he seemed to choose a weak team; pushing some of his own stronger Kadima members, aside.Yes, it's true. Tzipi Livni went nowhere on the diplomatic trail. But I wouldn't write of Amir Peretz so fast. He seems to have a talent for surviving. And, he even bested Shimon Peres, when Amir tackled him, and won Labor's leadership. That's when Shimon Peres sailed away to Kadima. A party without a "central committee" ... so Olmert holds all the cards.Even Arik Sharon had to form the Kadima party, because Likud's Central Committee gave him so much aggavation.And, when things topple, you just can't stick them back up, again.Plus, if politics is just a pendulum swinging; Labor gets more traction than Likud. And, that' pretty obvious, now.That Amir Peretz wanted Defense to control "purchases." Of course, this is true, enough. ALL POLITICIANS ARE IN IT FOR THE POWER AND THE MONEY. They get nowhere if they can't bring the public round. I don't see Amir Peretz bungling this. Even though he doesn't speak English; which does crimp how far he can go.On the other hand, from the beginning, Olmert chose a team he wanted. After he saw what happened to Arik Sharon, as some mighty big players tried to ram their fists up his behind. And, get Arik to be a puppet.To learn about politics in Israel one has to know how to count to 61. And, how to keep people in their seats; instead of doing foolish things. Which has tired out the public. Olmert is the beneficiary of that tiredness. New elections on the horizon?And, if so? What if new parties emerge. And Olmert still controls putting another government together?I don't assume he's lost. I think the MSM has an agenda. And, the Likud party has one, as well.The biggest boo-boo was Halutz selling his stock portfolio. While he didn't want to worry about his money; he didn't mind handing all other public stock holders the shaft.While Mazuz goes after poaicitilns using his spit patrol. (This goes on for years, ya know? It will be Mazuz' career, eventually. But until then, Katzav stays as President; while Haim Ramon is hung out to dry.) This is entertainment? Ths is politics gone awry.

      July 18, 2012 at 6:04 pm | Reply
  39. Overnights are boring

    This is pretty awesome. i wish i was this driven and intelligent.

    June 6, 2012 at 7:06 am | Reply
    • funk

      stop wasting time on cnn then and do something

      June 6, 2012 at 5:37 pm | Reply
  40. Matt

    Impressive none the least. I'm just curious how this kid was able to build a nuclear fusion reactor in his garage yet Iran is being sanctions for building one thousands of miles away from us?

    June 6, 2012 at 6:44 am | Reply
    • mcp123

      The article says fusion reactor.... Irans reactor is a fission reactor... big difference. Fusion would be the cleaner limitless future energy source.

      June 6, 2012 at 6:52 am | Reply
    • KG

      Iran is building a fission reactor, which is the same reactor type that all nuclear power plants use and splits atoms apart. Fusion is what stars do: Fuse atoms together to form heavier elements. Not sure how the kid did it since fusion is the pipe dream of creating cheap power without all the severly radioactive waste material. Amazing!

      June 6, 2012 at 6:59 am | Reply
      • Nobody N. Particular

        I'm starting to think the article is mistaken about the fusion reactor, I think the kid was building a fission reactor. The reason why I think this, is what the kid said about needing a neutron source, since fusion doesn't provide an adequate source of thermal neutrons, while fission reaction produce a plethora of thermal neutrons. Also his reference to using Plutonium in his reactor, unless your using a fission reaction to prime your fusion reactor, your wouldn't use a heavy element for fusion.

        June 6, 2012 at 7:29 am |
  41. mike

    pretty good accomplishment....too bad the world is going to end in 5 months

    June 6, 2012 at 6:35 am | Reply
  42. TOMG2

    Another American not paying his mortgage...what a farce.

    June 6, 2012 at 6:16 am | Reply
  43. unowhoitsme

    A nuclear reactor...very dangerous "project" for a youngster. So where did he get his plutonium and/or uranium? As a parent, I would have steered by child in another direction, a project that is safe and productive for society. Not a project that could ultimately destroy people. My parents died horrific deaths due to nuclear fallout. They suffered and became fully disabled until their deaths.

    But having said that, his enthusiasm and determination are very admirable. I just wish more US kids would put the video games down and start using their minds. America could actually be a smart country again. We now rank about 25 in the world...what a tragedy.

    June 6, 2012 at 6:01 am | Reply
    • CJ

      Uranium, Plutonium are not required in a nuclear FUSION reaction. You are thinking FISSION which is the splitting of atoms. Fusion entails the combining of atoms – AKA the hydrogen bomb and sun are examples of uncontrolled fusion. What this kid built is a cold plasma fusion reactor. Yes, it still produces neutrons from the reaction ( the telltale sign). But, it is not uncontrolled nor is self-sustaining. Cold plasma fusion reactors are used in nuclear medicine to produce neutrons and not power. This is no ARC reactor used to power Iron Man. Yes, I am a rocket scientist.

      June 6, 2012 at 6:26 am | Reply
    • Chris

      Nuclear energy is the only logical step in energy all other clean energies are a waste of time and money seeing as their othere down sides and space. Are you Russian because nuclear fallout is a very rare thing and never happened in America.We should be figuring out any way we can to build nuclear and get rid of coal.

      June 6, 2012 at 7:35 am | Reply
    • Really?


      June 6, 2012 at 7:36 am | Reply
  44. Bob B

    We need more kids like this in the world. Most kids these days just want to play with games on their toys.

    June 6, 2012 at 5:46 am | Reply
  45. Adam

    Brilliant Kid, although I wouldnt put him in a class the late Steve Jobs, hes in a class much higher!!

    June 6, 2012 at 5:37 am | Reply
  46. Tortfeasor

    awesome, a white kid! I was expecting to see Ching Chang Chong up there...

    June 6, 2012 at 5:29 am | Reply
    • White Supremacy


      June 6, 2012 at 5:51 am | Reply
    • Dilo

      Do not be fooled by chinas rise. They are like the other Asian countries they only copy or steal products. They do not invent they dwell on invented products. This child invented something.

      June 6, 2012 at 6:56 am | Reply
      • Nobody N. Particular

        Excuse me, but China invented more items that most other nations. Gunpowder, the mechanical clock, the printing press to name just a few. Don't allow your xenophobia shade your view of history, while the nation of China is a potential threat to the USA, the people of China are not to be underestimated; and should China ever embrace democracy then the world we see a true rise of China. Remember what Issac Newton said when he was being knighted, "behold I stand upon the shoulders of giants"; by that he meant, that his work would not have been possible without all the other works done before him.

        June 6, 2012 at 7:51 am |
    • Gg

      Patel Patel Patel would be better than slamming the Chinese

      June 6, 2012 at 7:28 am | Reply
  47. Tom

    I bet all his intellect will not be able to deduce how to get a girl. At least he should be rich by the time he's 25 so that will help him get some.

    June 6, 2012 at 5:02 am | Reply
    • WiscBadger

      When he wants a girl he will build one.

      June 6, 2012 at 6:47 am | Reply
      • F

        Best answer! hehe

        July 15, 2012 at 8:14 pm |
  48. DickPearson

    I, for one, am going to send this kid a bunch of Snicker bars and iTune gift cards. While now he may use his superior intellect for good it will not be long before he sets his sight on TOTAL WORLD DOMINATION and human subjugation and I will be able to remind him that I was the friendly guy who believed in him and his "vision" of the future.

    June 6, 2012 at 4:48 am | Reply
    • paratrooper1


      Or, after googling your name to see who you are and finding this comment, he will recognize that you're just another brown nose. and blast you to oblivion. haha

      June 6, 2012 at 5:07 am | Reply
  49. glen cook

    i wonder if the secret service wouldn't let him start the reactor because they were afraid it
    might produce alcohol.

    June 6, 2012 at 3:43 am | Reply
    • Joe

      What would the secret service have to do with that?

      June 6, 2012 at 4:54 am | Reply
  50. chefjeff

    The vast majority of those commenting here in a negative manner represent themselves as nothing but a band of intellectually punch-drunk trolls. Bravo to a young mind, irregardless of the color of his skin. TROLLS, back under the bridge!

    June 6, 2012 at 3:38 am | Reply
    • Steve Cohen

      Worse! The ones that have negative views are the real losers! None of them went to the Whitehouse and visited with the President. It is easy to play quarterback after the game.

      June 6, 2012 at 5:11 am | Reply
  51. Logan

    Shut the hell up and enjoy the article. Why people make everything into a debate is stupid. Let him have his time to shine and dont bash him. Now somebody reply to my comment and pick a fight.

    June 6, 2012 at 3:38 am | Reply
    • paratrooper1

      Mine is bigger than yours.

      June 6, 2012 at 5:22 am | Reply
    • VaaLee

      I'm so glad he was around when they aeocunnnd the funding decision!I too am very interested in helping with this project or at least the IEC fusion concept. I am a physics graduate student in CO and my wife is actually from Santa Fe. I am currently involved with the NIF effort at LLNL and I am trying to get in with the guys at LANL working on POPS. Most of all though, I would very much like to speak with Dr. Nebel about this effort and see if there might be some chance for involvement. Have you had contact with Dr. Nebel such that you might be able to put me in touch with him?

      August 22, 2012 at 2:28 am | Reply
  52. duckmanbill

    "We all have a similar intellectual capacity within reason" Sorry, that is complete Bee Ess – typical drivel of a high school principle. There is an IQ bell curve for a reason- half of you sorry people are dumb as sh1t.

    June 6, 2012 at 3:26 am | Reply
    • Loops

      Principal, at least use the spell check.

      June 6, 2012 at 5:46 am | Reply
    • Flake

      Principle or Principal doesn't matter...it was the HS kid talking here not an adult. Read a little closer.

      June 6, 2012 at 6:21 am | Reply
    • MarkinFL

      Reading comprehension AND grammar fail all in one.... I guess his point is proven.

      June 6, 2012 at 7:31 am | Reply
  53. Robbie - Reno

    Leave it to a Republican to take a story and make it about Obama! Everything is subterfuge for Obama! Get real. This story is about a smart kid who is doing fantastic things. He built a reactor at EIGHTEEN. How old was Farnsworth? Who cares if Farnworth built one first.Tthis kid built one at EIGHTEEN! What did you do at eighteen? My guess picking noses was a top priority. I think this kid should be very proud along with his parents.

    June 6, 2012 at 1:58 am | Reply
    • Jason

      Im reading through the whole thread and Nobody
      Said anything about Obama. Keep your comments on point.

      June 6, 2012 at 2:05 am | Reply
      • Hank

        Read Tizwiky comment June 6, 2012 at 1:10 am

        June 6, 2012 at 2:21 am |
  54. Aardie

    This sounds kind of dangerous to have in your house. I'm glad I don't live next door to them.

    June 6, 2012 at 1:58 am | Reply
  55. Steve

    Notice you never see highly scientific minds spotlighted in the news that are hispanic or black....wonder why that is?

    June 6, 2012 at 1:51 am | Reply
    • Seth

      It's because you have not read anything outside of the cherry picked mainstream media "news". Just sayin....

      June 6, 2012 at 2:14 am | Reply
    • Hank

      Only a moron would come up with a lame racist comment after reading this article... I can only assume you are either a moron or wish you were Black or Hispanic...

      June 6, 2012 at 2:16 am | Reply
    • Just me

      Oh Steve,

      He may not be an ethnic minority, but he's probably a minority by your standards. : )

      June 6, 2012 at 2:17 am | Reply
    • danielwalldammit

      The're never white supremacists either. Wonder why that is.

      June 6, 2012 at 2:20 am | Reply
    • chris

      Well i am betting they didn't build a freaking nuclear reactor at age 18 did they.

      June 6, 2012 at 2:36 am | Reply
      • Bouti

        Or some sort of roll cage .I had an idea of a sort of cover for those. It might be hard to explain. But maybe you had a scohol where classrooms or gyms or maybe even a conference room with a divider that folded up against one wall. I had an idea for a sort of cover that could be rolled out but doesn't go completely flat. It ends up looking like /\/\/\/\ over the spent fuel pool. Evaporating water could condense on the cover and drip back into the pool at the bottom of the \/ parts. It wouldn't be air tight, it could vent, but it would result in a lot of the water that evaporates being recycled back into the pool in an emergency and would allow the water to last longer.

        August 19, 2012 at 7:26 am |
    • Qwimby

      They don't invent anything newsworthy. The PC police are scratching their collective pin heads trying to think of something, just ONE thing and come up empty.

      June 6, 2012 at 3:10 am | Reply
    • duckmanbill

      Neil deGrasse Tyson.

      June 6, 2012 at 3:28 am | Reply
  56. Babaloo10

    What kind of life does this young man have? I'm sure he is not the sort to go listen to music or sit and watch TV. That life would be too slow. But I wonder if smart genius kids are really very well socialized? Or do they spend too much time with their own inventions, in a world all their own? I wonder.

    June 6, 2012 at 1:49 am | Reply
    • Matt

      I wonder if people who are jealous of others' mental abilities and exceptional accomplishments try to compensate by stating some way they think they are superior to those they are jealous of, I wonder. Go back to teaching high school students Babaloo10, stop the thinly veiled petty comments.

      June 6, 2012 at 2:54 am | Reply
    • Qwimby

      The kid needs to get into violent video games and some recreational drugs like the rest of us. 🙂

      June 6, 2012 at 3:11 am | Reply
    • paratrooper1

      Your time would be better spent wondering about the universe

      June 6, 2012 at 5:19 am | Reply
    • Frank

      Whether you like it or not, these thoughts of yours stem from jealousy and inferiority. A lot of these whiz kids go on to be fully socially functioning members of society with significant others, families, and intelligent children. Mental health issues are prevalent among the ENTIRE the population - heck, even moreso in the "average joe" class of individuals who don't have much to offer to the world. You may just see "mad scientist" or "socially awkward" or "overachiever" stereotypes perpetuated because these people are generally the subject of ridicule by the average joes for their vastly superior ability.

      Haters gonna hate, whawhatttt

      June 6, 2012 at 6:03 am | Reply
    • Jay

      I think this article should speak for itself if he is as profound and interesting as this article would indicate why question his socialization? In a whole everyone has to find something wrong with someone regardless of all the positives that person can provide. In the end this young man will be our next generation of scientist. I look forward to his further expansion into the scientific world. This young kid could be the next Einstein or Ross Granville Harrison I personally am excited to see where he goes and what he accomplishes. We should relish these American and Wordly gains.

      June 6, 2012 at 6:51 am | Reply
    • MarkinFL

      It is no great accomplishment to be "well socialized". Ants are well socialized. Frankly, we have no idea what this kid does for relaxation. Probably reads a book. Also, believe it or not there are some pretty hot chicks drawn to science. I remember more than a few head turners in college.

      June 6, 2012 at 7:36 am | Reply
  57. Hugo

    Michael, he didn't build the reactor to make less energy. He built the reactor to get a source of neutrons. With that source of neutrons, he made an anti-terror device and a medical isotype device that apparently can produce medical isotopes less expensively than current technology.

    June 6, 2012 at 1:48 am | Reply
    • Qwimby

      It probably wouldn't be too hard for the kid to figure out how to weaponize it.

      June 6, 2012 at 3:12 am | Reply
      • Nitrogen

        Oh please. Anyone with rudimentary physics knowledge could build a nuclear weapon. Maybe they wouldn't fully understand it, but building a nuke is an engineering problem. This kid is the least of your worries.

        June 6, 2012 at 3:27 am |
  58. bob

    I I believe this is a nuclear FISSION reactor. Nuclear fusion produces helium as a byproduct, not radioactivity. No nuclear fusion devices has been produced as of this date.

    June 6, 2012 at 1:35 am | Reply
    • mike the physicist

      false. fusion is very easily achieved only it takes more power to react than we can harvest from it. once we can get more power from it than we put into it, there will be a new energy revolution and we will no longer have to worry about fossil fuels.

      June 6, 2012 at 1:43 am | Reply
    • Alex

      if they find out a way to manage the nuclear fusion that will be the day for science.

      June 6, 2012 at 1:44 am | Reply
    • Bob is Dumb as a BRICK

      Fusion has been achieved. The problem is the amount of heat it generates. Containing it with current technology isn't possible.


      You may want to do your research before saying something stupid again. And, uh, read the whole article. There's a nice little photo that shows what fusion looks like.

      June 6, 2012 at 2:02 am | Reply
    • Hugo

      Uh Bob, if the reactor fuses hydrogen-2 with hydrogen-3 and makes helium-4, it will release a neutron because 2+3 is 5 and 5 is larger than 4.

      June 6, 2012 at 2:06 am | Reply
  59. Keksi

    Israel bombing this kids house in 3,2,1....

    June 6, 2012 at 1:18 am | Reply
  60. Sarah Copeland

    I hope Taylor reads this! You've been the topic of conversation between my husband and I before, ( I read a Popular Mechanics article about you a few years ago I believe) your type of intellect is a rare breed, and I give both you , your parents AND your brother credit for helping you to achieve your goals. Don't let the naysayers get to you! Keep your mind as free as you can in the next ten years and we hope life doesn't get the better of you! Keep doing amazing things, and don't forget to give your family some credit too! (God bless your parents, they remind me of my own)

    Keep pushing the boundaries, and if it CAN happen, it WILL.

    June 6, 2012 at 1:13 am | Reply
  61. tizwicky

    Very bright young man indeed... However, the The Farnsworth–Hirsch fusor has already been invented quite some time ago. It's even been duplicated by another high school student (see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fusor). Someone needs to address the thoroughness of fact checkers who let this slip by. Or could this story have been a thinly veiled attempt to make a little political hay on education and print a picture of the current POTUS in what promises to be a very tough election year? COLOR ME A SKEPTICAL CYNIC .....

    June 6, 2012 at 1:10 am | Reply
    • Degrin

      U mad bro?

      June 6, 2012 at 1:15 am | Reply
    • Quincunx

      Hmm. An angry loser (who uses Wikipedia as a source of research). How about that.

      June 6, 2012 at 1:25 am | Reply
    • Chuck in Jasper, Ga.

      The article does not claim he invented it. It clearly states he "built" his own reactor at age 18. You have reading comprehension difficulties apparently. That and a deeply seated desire to bring politics into any subject just to get attention and irritate people. Much like a mosquito, and just as insignificant.

      June 6, 2012 at 1:39 am | Reply
      • wait_A_minute

        Unless it carries a disease, Chuck!!!

        ...this one might, so watch out...

        June 6, 2012 at 2:02 am |
  62. Easy E

    Uh, the kid basically built a Farnsworth Fusor aka a polywell electrostatic fusion "reactor". There's nothing new about it, and it's actually not that hard to make. I'm far more impressed with his other work than this, really, but his useful scientific work isn't as glitzy, so it isn't explored by the nincomputoot reporter.

    June 6, 2012 at 1:05 am | Reply
    • Chuck in Jasper, Ga.

      You made your's when? If you haven't built one, there is no possible way for you to make a valid claim that "they are not that difficult to build". Some of you people sure are legends.......in your own minds.

      June 6, 2012 at 1:41 am | Reply
    • Easy E

      Oh my word. I don't need to spend 8-10k of my own money replicating something that has been done to death by literally dozens of folks. I've made plenty of high vacuum systems for ion implantation and PECVD as part of work as a research assistant, so I do know what I'm talking about. All you need for a Farnsworth fusor is a 6 way cross, a decent roughing pump, a HV feedthrough, a 20kV or above power supply, and a lecture cylinder of Deuterium. Hell the GSA auctions sell just about everything you need every other week, and if YOU knew a damned thing about physics, you'd realize that and stop hyperventilating.

      My larger point, fool, was that what this kid is doing today is far more interesting and valuable than his little Farnsworth machine. The experiment in the background was an exploding foil...with application to Inertial confinement...but I doubt you even know what that is, whinerheimer.

      June 6, 2012 at 3:30 am | Reply
    • Nitrogen

      I have to agree with Easy E. If I had $6000 laying around, I could build one in about two weeks. The kid is definitely a genius, I definitely didn't have the drive for this sort of thing at 18. It's just that he's also a genius with rich parents.

      June 6, 2012 at 3:30 am | Reply
  63. Michael

    This is ridiculous. It's not amazing to take a certain amount of energy and turn it into LESS energy. It's wasteful. And for being supposedly so intelligent, he sure sucks at being modest. Way to go, parents. Yes. He is the next Hitler. Unless Romney beats hime to it.

    June 6, 2012 at 1:03 am | Reply
    • Jimmy Joe Jim Bob

      Modesty is for those unable to accomplish things. Don't try to present it as a requirement for those with ten times the grey matter you have.

      June 6, 2012 at 1:09 am | Reply
      • Quincunx


        June 6, 2012 at 1:26 am |
      • Irritated

        Quincunx: Re: Grey / Gray. Both are right.

        June 6, 2012 at 2:03 am |
    • Irritated

      Comments like this make one the futility of freedom of speech. If one inflicts pain by exercising his freedom of speech, in retaliation why the other should not indulge in violence to protect himself by the use his freedom of self defense? Where it will all end? When any 'freedom' is not preceded by the word 'reasonable', it means only anarchy which is punished by civil society.

      June 6, 2012 at 2:00 am | Reply
  64. jfc1

    a fusion reactor is easy to build
    they've only been building them since the early 20th century

    try building one that is energy-positive

    June 6, 2012 at 12:54 am | Reply
    • Hugo

      How about reading the entire article before commenting? He didn't build the fusion reactor to build a fusion reactor. He built it so he could have a neutron source which allowed him to do research.

      June 6, 2012 at 1:59 am | Reply
    • Thor

      Fusion reactors continue without shutdown. Fusion reactors produce more than a million degrees Kelvin at their core: therefore they cannot be contained by anything that exists in the current Universe. All manners of plasma fields, magnetic fields, temperature gradient wall generators, et cetera, have been used to attempt to contain fusion reactors. Nothing has made that possible. This photo opportunity with Obama and a secret service guy in the background is of a simple stainless steel Erlenmeyer type flask with an electrode and a wire! Nothing more than a fancy coffe urn! THIS IS NOT A FUSION REACTOR ! And, in all of his ignorance and non-science knowledge, to those of us who operate nuclear reactors, know that this is the very reason that Presidents should not try to look smart.... in the future, please follow Abraham Lincolns' mantra..... "Better to be silent and people think you are stupid, rather than open your mouth and remove all doubt." In this case Mr Obama..... better for people to think you are stupid than to laud a farce and remove all doubt!

      June 6, 2012 at 6:21 am | Reply
  65. HarryZ

    I think we have our very own Tony Stark on our hands. He'll probably be the one to give us fusion 🙂

    June 6, 2012 at 12:48 am | Reply
  66. Hadenuffyet

    yup , agree , passion makes a huge difference between a job and a career....just don't let 'em snow you kiddo , you got something they want , soak 'em...

    June 6, 2012 at 12:47 am | Reply
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