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Teen goes nuclear
November 21, 2006 5:14 PM   Subscribe

Teen goes nuclear (but in a good way).
Thiago's mom, Natalice Olson, initially was leery of the project, even though the only real danger from the fusion machine is the high voltage and small amount of X-rays emitted through a glass window in the vacuum chamber -- through which Olson videotapes the fusion in action.
posted by spock (31 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
Fascinating, spock!

Now all he needs to do is get the thing to run continuously off its own energy output so he can unplug it from the wall, and he can save the world as we know it.

Which is basically what a whole lot of incredibly smart scientists are trying to do right now, create a sustained fusion reaction that "bootstraps" itself with no external input energy after the initial ignition.

It's likely their chances are as good at Thiago's.
posted by zoogleplex at 5:32 PM on November 21, 2006


Oh, don't forget to read the comments under the article. They're priceless.
posted by zoogleplex at 5:34 PM on November 21, 2006


Ha! And they were worried about IRAN!
I think the CIA just found a "Nuclear Enrichment Program".
posted by tehloki at 5:35 PM on November 21, 2006


It's likely their chances are as good at Thiago's.

Well...one of the major constraints is simply size. They believe they need to build a really really big fusion reactor before they can achieve something that's self-sustaining. ITER project.
posted by Jimbob at 6:01 PM on November 21, 2006


"Originally, he wanted to build a hyperbaric chamber," she said, adding that she promptly said no. But, when he came asking about the nuclear fusion machine, she relented.

What am I missing here?
posted by niles at 6:01 PM on November 21, 2006 [1 favorite]


Good for him. For another teen going nuclear (in a bad way), check out David Hahn, the Radioactive Boy Scout.
posted by Iridic at 6:09 PM on November 21, 2006


"Well...one of the major constraints is simply size. They believe they need to build a really really big fusion reactor before they can achieve something that's self-sustaining."

I'm still pretty skeptical, but those guys are extremely smart and I'm willing to let them keep working. Hopefully they won't find out that by "really really big," they actually mean "star-sized." It's going to be extremely difficult to set up a self-powering, self-sustaining environment for a fusion plasma.

(Yes I know they're going after deuterium-tritium with ITER.)
posted by zoogleplex at 6:14 PM on November 21, 2006


Kids today with their texting camera phones and fusion reactors.

Reminds me of this kid.
posted by Terminal Verbosity at 6:14 PM on November 21, 2006 [1 favorite]


on www.fusor.net, the Stoney Creek senior is ranked as the 18th amateur in the world to create nuclear fusion.

Amateur fusion is more interesting then the pros, they get paid too much anyway.
posted by stbalbach at 6:16 PM on November 21, 2006 [1 favorite]


Iridic: Good for him. For another teen going nuclear (in a bad way), check out David Hahn, the Radioactive ...

grumble grumble
posted by Terminal Verbosity at 6:16 PM on November 21, 2006


What's freaky is that he's only 20 miles away from where Hahn built his fission reactor. His mother's (former) house was still an EPA Superfund site until last year.
posted by dhartung at 6:23 PM on November 21, 2006


Thiago is a magnificent name. That's going at the top of my list, just ahead of Butterworth and Pronto.
posted by Powerful Religious Baby at 6:26 PM on November 21, 2006


I think the way the next part goes is he uses it to power a hyperdrive he invented, and he installs it in an old train car he found out back, and he makes a spacesuit out of a wetsuit his friend's older brother outgrew, and he and his two best pals blast off to the moon and defeat the Nazis there. Right?

Damn, do I love these stories.
posted by booksandlibretti at 6:45 PM on November 21, 2006 [1 favorite]


When I first saw this article today at around 5pm the paragraph read, I kid you not:

"Originally, he wanted to build a hyperbolic chamber," she said, adding that she promptly said no. But, when he came asking about the nuclear fusion machine, she relented.


Which prompted me (and probably three hundred other smartasses) to e-mail the author of the piece:

Miss Damron -

In your recent article "TEEN GOES NUCLEAR: He creates fusion in his Oakland Township home" for the Detroit Free Press you refer to Olson's initial wishes to create a "hyperbolic chamber". I hope you meant a hyperbaric chamber, where oxygen is pressurized to greater than atmospheric pressure for medicinal purposes, but if it was a
hyperbolic chamber I'm sure Olson would've invented the very greatest, most absolutely powerful, most profitable and altruistic creation in the known universe IN ALL OF ETERNITY!!!

Very sincerely,
John

posted by inoculatedcities at 7:53 PM on November 21, 2006 [4 favorites]


inoculatedcities: Thank you for your service to grammar, diction, and spelling. However, I'm afraid you missed this gem:

and a worn, old book, titled "The Atomic Fingerprint: Neutron Activation Analysis" piled among others in the empty sink.

Not only has the kid managed to cause nuclear fusion to take place, he's created a sink which can contain objects and yet remain empty. Now that's smart.
posted by Clay201 at 8:34 PM on November 21, 2006 [2 favorites]


This is what he built. It's not very hard. Many have done it. It's used as a commercial neutron source. David Hahn actually accomplished something (he irradiated the neighborhood!).

This teen did it long before.
posted by phrontist at 8:41 PM on November 21, 2006


First it was teens with their be-bop,
then it was kids with their rock and roll,
then came the hippies with their drugs,
and then there were the punks with their safety pins,
now it's all texting and rap.

Tomorrow it will be who has the most blinged fusion reactor.

I'm old.
posted by quin at 9:21 PM on November 21, 2006


Actually, Thiago's chances are zero with a Farnsworth fusor.

The ITER fusion project on the other hand has a very good chance, if they can develop the materials to handle a sustained neutron bombardment. The physics of fusion reactions are steadily marching towards break even on what appears to be a predictable timeline. However, sustaining the reaction without destroying the reactor seems less predictable.

I think if they cannot develop the materials/material science, then they'll come up with some kind of removable panels so that the reactor can be quickly rebuilt either while running, or with a short shutdown period.

I'd like to see this guy's idea get some funding, but to judge its viability I'd need to know more physics.

I had a nutty idea once about drilling down to the core of the moon to get a gravity assisted fusion confinement, but obviously you dont get much bang for your buck on a project like that.
posted by BrotherCaine at 9:32 PM on November 21, 2006


Sorry, chances *of a sustainable fusion reaction *
posted by BrotherCaine at 9:33 PM on November 21, 2006


inoculatedcities: Apparently the mistake was left open for around two days, atleast that's what one comment on the article says. He blames the 'lamestream' media, a nice neologism that btw.

And there's another priceless comment which I'll quote here to speak for itself.
I have to say its great that this kid loves science and that he wants to learn and build useful items.....but its just sad that after all of the research and education, advancements degrees, he will have never discovered girls. Thats just sad.

posted by forwebsites at 10:02 PM on November 21, 2006


We had one of these in Chicago when I lived there — fission again, not fusion.

So it's kind of like, "Oh. 'Nother teenager built a reactor. Huh." It's awesome, the things we can get jaded about if we put our minds to it.
posted by nebulawindphone at 10:12 PM on November 21, 2006


I saw the hyperbolic chamber bit before, too. For some unknown reason, I notice typos instantly (so wnhe a snetecne is tpyde lkie htis my brian xepoldes!), and I quickly realized the problem. Later, someone pointed out the article from The Onion which quotes Popular Science as saying it was "FUCKING AWESOME!!! THE BALLS-OUT H.C. IS 40 TIMES BETTER THAN SEX... AND COUNTING!!!" ... directly on the front page.

I do like the idea that American teenagers are building reactors left and right, but the Iranians have to make a big international mess out of building one, regardless of the immense disparity in scale and complexity.
posted by Clamwacker at 12:30 AM on November 22, 2006


Amateur fusion is more interesting then the pros, they get paid too much anyway.

I'm waiting for the front-page post on gonzo fusion, myself.
posted by rokusan at 6:21 AM on November 22, 2006


It's great to hear that kids can still do cool experiments. I think we should support and promote this kind of thing as much as possible.
posted by edmo at 9:53 AM on November 22, 2006 [1 favorite]


To be fair, for Iran the whole point is the political ramifications, rather than the technology.
posted by dmd at 10:22 AM on November 22, 2006


Heh. Reminds me of this Charlie Stross short;
Dechlorinating the moderator
posted by Luddite at 10:23 AM on November 22, 2006


Makes you wonder what the American kids who are into diplomatic crises are gonna do for fun, though.
posted by nebulawindphone at 10:29 AM on November 22, 2006


Talking about nuclear fusion on the internet may be dangerous, but there's no need for all the whispering.

(how do you make small text?)
posted by tehloki at 7:42 PM on November 22, 2006


tehloki:

&lt small&gt words you want to make smaller &lt/small&gt
posted by quin at 7:53 PM on November 22, 2006


well crap.

< small> words you want to make smaller < / small>

(remove the spaces from the <> to make it work.
posted by quin at 7:54 PM on November 22, 2006


THANK YOU QU-

I mean, thank you quin.
posted by tehloki at 2:01 PM on November 23, 2006


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