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Meet the 16-Year-Old 'Fusioneer' -- Youngest Ever to Build a Nuclear Fusion Reactor

"Sometimes I'll blow up something in the backyard that'll rattle all the windows..."

Taylor Wilson has met with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Taylor Wilson has a website called "Taylor's Nuke Site." Taylor Wilson is only 16 years old, and for at least six years -- since he built his first bomb out of a pill bottle at age 10 -- Wilson has been working with radioactive materials.

Last month, Mental Floss -- a magazine and blogsite for science junkies -- (via CNN) named Wilson its Mad Scientist of the Month and has the prodigy's amazing -- and at times slightly disturbing --story. Here are a few interesting snip-its about this "Fusioneer:"

  • Wilson was 14 when he became the youngest person in the world to build a nuclear fusion reactor. Getting his start on Fusor.net, Wilson joined the ranks of only 30 hobbyist 'Fusioneers' before him who were able to fuse two atoms together.
  • He began collecting radioactive material in relatively common items like smoke detectors and pottery he found in an antique store that an orange uranium glaze.
  • Wilson felt the 35 million cargo ships that enter the United States each year could pose a threat as potential smugglers of nuclear weapons. "If I were a terrorist, that's how I'd do it," he said according to Mental Floss. But with the most sensitive radiation detectors using Helium-3, a supply that is running out, Wilson came up with another idea. He created a similar detector using water, a chemical that emits light when it detects radioactive particles and a light sensor. His invention, which he has put in for a patent, works and costs only a few hundred dollars compared to thousands. Watch Wilson explain the device on this Fox News video:
  • Wilson tested his milk and spinach after the nuclear meltdown in Japan and found radioactive isotopes. When people got upset with him for speaking about his findings with the Associated Press he said,  "pop culture has instilled in Americans an irrational fear of radiation, when in fact the household chemicals under your sink are more dangerous. I also think it unsettles people because I'm so young. They associate age with experience. But that isn't always true."

According to Mental Floss, Wilson has visited with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Department of Energy. And he has been contact by Raytheon, one of the country's largest defense contractors.

And were his parents ever worried? Yes! Mental Floss has the details:

Wilson's growing obsession with all things radioactive "worried me a whole lot," admits Kenneth, who turned to pharmacists and professors he knew around town to ask if what his son was doing was safe.

"After they talked to Taylor, they'd tell me not to worry so much, because they said Taylor understands what he's doing," Kenneth says. He and his wife, Tiffany, tried to tell themselves that Wilson's "nuclear phase" would pass, just like his previous obsessions.

. . .

"It would scare my mom to know I'm in some hostile country, tracking down terrorists," Wilson admits. But if his parents have learned anything over the years, it's to trust their son and let go. "Sometimes I'll blow up something in the backyard that'll rattle all the windows in the house," Wilson says. "My mom will come out, shake her head, and then head back in."

And it hasn't passed yet. Though Wilson has a few vials of deadly powdered radium, which Mental Floss reports he doesn't open though he's been tempted, it may be comforting to note he does have fears: he's scared by roller coasters.

(Mental Floss via CNN)

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