More of this kind of thing!
Better than the year of code, the year of 'splode!
A British teenager has become the youngest person to build a nuclear fusion reactor. Jamie Edwards, a 13-year-old from Preston, persuaded his headmaster to let him build the reactor in a classroom. He was so persuasive that the head of Penwortham Priory Academy even handed over £3,000 worth of funding after Jamie reassured him …
Personally, I would not just congratulate the boy, but also the headmaster who was willing to give a kid the chance to do this. I know plenty who would have said "no" on the basis of perceived risk, but he did two things right:
1 - he trusted the kid (no doubt he did his own checking, but I like the fact that he expressed this trust in the press too)
2 - he helped with the project.
Could we please give one less OBE to someone for their ability to extract money from the population, and hand it to this guy? This is what teaching should be about.
Quite right. The student, the head and the school deserve recognition of this achievement. Not just for funding it, but also to tell the sceptics that before you succeed, you have to try.
And not least for waving a finger of contempt at the Health and Safety crew who would doubtless of stopped this on the grounds of anything this cool just has to be dangerous.
Big thumbs up.
I wish more schools undertook to teach kids the love of a subject instead of making them memorize exam questions; teaching them how to understand and explore, worry less about OFSTED leet tables and more about providing strong foundations for deep understanding of subjects at a later stage of their education or work.
I also wish for peace in the world.
Latter might just be easier to achieve then convincing people responsible for our childrens' education of the necessity of change in approach.
I whish more people stopped with the nonsense that schools must transform the kids in some kind of Einsteins or daVincis, As in any other job, there are directives to follow, and because of the bureaucracy that the Governments love to impose, less flexibility and time to be "creative". As a parent, it's ME who must encourage my kid to use the "tools" and knowledge that schools provide. But I guess that people think shows like x-factor, Big Brother,etc,etc, are more "creative" and better "models" for kids to follow.
P.S. try to be "creative" at work and see what your boss thinks about that.
P.S. try to be "creative" at work and see what your boss thinks about that.
He's perfectly fine with that. The one before him too, as well as several others before him. That's about projects needing to be done and problems needing to be solved, not drawing a moustache on some motivational poster or something. Ways of executing a physical system move so that an eventual rollback is as good as effortless, stuff like that. No one involved had thought of doing it that particular way, which in my book can be a defining aspect of creativity.
"I whish more people stopped with the nonsense that schools must transform the kids in some kind of Einsteins or daVincis, As in any other job, there are directives to follow, and because of the bureaucracy that the Governments love to impose, less flexibility and time to be "creative". "
Bad spelling and grammar, closed mind. Work in the Public Sector do we?
try to be "creative" at work and see what your boss thinks about that.
Actually, I go out of my way to find people who have their own opinion - they're actually hard to find exactly because of the argument you are giving. Sometimes it takes a while to coax the person back out.
It is also driven by good management. If you don't have the spine to let employees express their own opinion (which may not agree with yours) then you're not a manager, you're an administrator. I caveat here that we're talking about healthy, intelligent and civilised discourse, it's my job to ensure it stays that way.
This is definitely the teaching I want to see more of.
Nice to see there are still some educators who allow clever young minds a chance to escape the standardized mind control that underpins a lot of modern educational practice.
I would love to hear the headmaster's version of the story. He deserves a medal and a large heap of praise. There aren't many left who take chances in a world where risk-taking has become so unpopular.
Excellent article! It has renewed my faith in both humanity and the educational system. Many thumbs up!
There's no chance of that. We just don't have the extinct volcano cones that can be turned into secret bases for it. Geology is against us - and therefore we will lose potential-top-evil-genius talent like this to foreigners, who have.
And don't give me any of that rubbish about his genius being used for good. He's playing with noocular, so there was no chance of that, even before the irradiation.
I hope the headmaster spent some of that £3,000 on a white cat...
Seriously, you've got to love a headmaster willing to support this. And a kid willing to suggest it, then do it. Hooray for all involved.
I dread to think what his A Level experiments will be like. "Please Mr Headmaster, I only want to dig up the playground and surrounding main roads to build a small underground particle accelerator/collider."
You are absolutely correct. The kid is obviously a bright spark and just saved his parents huge money they would have spent on university tuition. He certainly deserves recognition.
But the headmaster is the hero here. A young person bucking the system isn't exactly a rare thing (most system bucking attempts aren't this elaborate of course :) But a fully decorated veteran of any governments educational system bucking that system is rare indeed.
It's great the school wasn't destroyed and all, but even though the risk of accident was extremely small that headmaster would've been fed to the wolves if something happened and his defense rested on the fact a 13 year old student told him the fusion reactor he was building was perfectly safe. That's the kind of thing you say to distract people and spring for the exit. Nobody would accept that defense.
It is the teachers in any society that have the biggest impact on what kids will grow up to be. If you throw a bunch of risk averse bookworms at kids you're going to get millions of risk averse children who are too afraid to even ask if they can build a fusion reactor for extra credit. The teacher that encouraged and ran interference for the kid deserves a raise and a really nice gift from every parent who doesn't want their children to be processed and made stupider by their education system.
"There's no chance of that. We just don't have the extinct volcano cones that can be turned into secret bases for it. "
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I see you never bothered to read the article.
The teen said he had been inspired by Taylor Wilson, who became the youngest fusioneer in 2008 when he built a small nuclear reactor in Nevada at the tender age of 14.
Just in case your ignorance extends beyond the ability to read an article, Nevada is in the USA.
Yes but every good conspirationist knows this part of the US is well known for its UFO crashes, top secret experimental government sites, missing gangsters and multiple sightings of Elvis Presley.
A Nevada teenager building a nuclear reactor probably wouldn't even make the evening news.
UFO's? What are you talking about? Those 'aliens' you're talking about travel in crowded vans, not UFO's and are more appropriately known as 'Mexicans'. Although they certainly have some level of effect on local unskilled labor opportunities, it's a bit much to accuse them of edging into the DIY experimental nuclear physics sector isn't it? Just because the kid who built the reactor is a gringo it simply isn't right to tear down his accomplishments just to big up another group. Any group.
I've always found Nevada to be a fairly welcoming place. I'm super cool, so the heat doesn't bother me, and the armament proving grounds are suitably rich in the types of heavy metals that make them perfect for unsanctioned weapons testing. We have a series of [REDACTED] scheduled for [REDACTED] and I will be most displeased if petty attitudes like yours have taken root there. Most displeased indeed.
Shoot, he doesn't even need that... just eat a poptart into a gun shape, or point your finger and say "bang" and you get suspended and/or go to jail.
The school suspended him. He was not arrested. He was not prosecuted. He did not break any law. He has no criminal record.
The appeal you are talking about is to get the record of his suspension from school expunged. It has nothing to do with the law. It is a civil matter.
Schools can and do have their own rules, regulations and standards of behaviour.
Electrostatic inertial confinement fusion is one of the great maybe / almost stories of nuclear fusion. It works - well enough so it is used in neutron particle beam generators (useful for say detecting concealed nuclear weapons in a cargo container), but nobody has ever quite figured out how to extract power from it.
The problem is it leaks too much energy - as the particles violently change direction, upon approaching one of the electrodes, or actually strike the electrodes, they emit high energy photons - x-rays and suchlike - which very efficiently carry energy out of the system. So you have to keep topping up the energy in the plasma, to keep it hot enough for nuclear fusion to occur, with far more energy than the nuclear fusion process actually generates.
Having said that, Robert Bussard, one of the giants of 20th century nuclear physics, claimed he had found a way to overcome this issue, and was attempting to raise finance for a full scale test device, until his unfortunate death from cancer. If he was right, the world came very close to a viable nuclear fusion system.
Maybe Jamie will take up Bussard's work, and find the final key to the puzzle - will discover the secret of limitless zero carbon energy.
Well people did carry on his work, Eric Lerner, the EMC2 coorporation, navy funding, USA recovery funding, lots of interesting results, larger test machines. Has all gone quiet lately though which either signifies one thing or the other depending on your choice of tin foil hat.
Either way talk-polywell.org has much of the info.
Bussard's work isn't dead. The Navy resumed funding for it in 2009, and much of Bussard's original team are working on it one way or another. They built a WB-7, progressing from WB-6 that Bussard worked on until he died. They seem to be close enough that the next step (WB-8) would be almost production scale, which means a budget of $200m+ rather than the $5-7m they've been clearing in funding cycles thus far.
It's always been a bit low profile because it was funded primarily by the US Navy, so was under NDA. When the Navy dropped funding they could talk, but there aren't that many details available at the moment now they're back under the military paymasters.
One might hope that such technology will still find it's way into civilian markets (even if it means the likes of young Jamie independently developing it in parallel) and won't be restricted to sitting in a handful of Yank subs and carriers.
Well, it's not like the tech has been classified. Because goals were attached to the funding, they have to make regular reports on the progress of the thing. As for whether or not the tech makes it to commercial applications, I think the rub will be the eventual power/size ratio of the finished product should it succeed. Even the Navy would have a minimum goal profile (likely stated in a nutshell as no bigger than their existing fission tech).
I honestly wish that things such as power/weight ratios and other such engineering focused attributes of scientific research figured highly into their commercial viability. While those things are certainly figured in, they're quite a way down the list that begins with boring things like addressable market, early liquidity financial models, taxation inclusion/exclusion, regulatory requirements and the location of raw materials to make (thing) go.
When I was at ORNL, and now with our clients around the globe, lots of interesting proposals first saw the light of day in the finance department and were smothered to death there as well. It's not that I don't recognize the need for commercial viability, but so much research gets marginalized because of perceived financial weakness, and that's the wrong way round and we all get screwed because of it.
What actually happens far too often is the projects with the best looking financial forecasts get funding and once the funding starts it is really, really hard to stop it. People say 'we've already invested so much it would be a waste if we stopped now'. There's some logic there, but about 98% of the time the costs have far exceeded not only the initially forecast ceiling, but the worst case financials of the unfunded project. If it wasn't nearly guaranteed to work that way it would be one thing, but that's rarely the case no matter the country, government or field of research. It's quite sad really.
"Indeed. When will we have nuclear powered aircraft and buses, like in that documentary series I used to watch. What was it called again? Ah yes, Tomorrow's World^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H Thunderbirds."
Well, "Back to the future II" was set in 2015, so I wanna know......
Where's my bloody hoverboard?
It wasn't £3k for a fusion reactor. The Headteacher found £3k from school funds for him (cue complaints that he won't fund other pupil's projects!) but the lad had sponsorship from a local electrical firm for various bits of HV switchgear, a bod an Manchester Uni lent him the neutron detector, another commercial firm supplied thermographic gear and he thanks the denizens of a fusor forum for helping him source gear. Those "bits" probably amount to mid 5-figure sums if you want to buy them outright for a back-yard reactor.
Same with the American lad Taylor - he made friends with physicists from local universities who hooked him up with various bits of equipment that are either hard to acquire or rather expensive.
And as for going off-grid, just building it bigger doesn't mean you go net-positive and start producing power, or else the power companies would be doing it rather than buying coal and gas!
Fusion isn't terribly difficult to achieve (a 13 year old did it, with help), and we've been able to do it in bomb form for decades. Pour lots and lots of energy into the system and sooner or later something gets hot enough to fuse. Tuning your system sufficiently well to go net-positive (without producing a simultaneous mushroom cloud) is another matter.
MUH NUCLEAR FUSION!!!111!
So, can have the diagrams of:
1) Helium production
2) Neutron emission
pretty pretty please.
Also, where did the get the tritium and deuterium wrong. That shit doesn't grow on trees you know, and if you want to do pure proton-proton fusion, you better hire Gandalf first otherwise you are in for a LONG wait.
Electrostatic Inertial Confinement fusion is not tokamak and it has different requirements. Basically he's knocked up a Farnsworth Fusor or close relative (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fusor) and they run happily on D-D reactions. No tritium necessary. D2 is quite easy to get and about £350 for a 25L bottle.
Slightly suprising that the Reg didn't think to mention Farnsworth or the fact that's who the professor in Futurama is named after. He also pretty much invented the (previously) modern TV.
I know nothing about the Farnsworth Fusor. But Farnsworth Image Dissector camera was inherently doomed. Farnsworth invented "a" TV system. but like Baird's it wasn't actually original nor part of modern TV development (starting 1926 and EMI & RCA success in 1935). Farnsworth's and Baird's was a dead end. Though ironically DLP is mechanical TV, albeit using nanotechnology. The RCA and EMI electron gin cameras and today's chip cameras work due to charge storage per frame rather than only sensing light level at scanning instant (Farnsworth's Electronic Image Dissector and Baird's disc then mirrors) thus about 10,000 more sensitive for SDTV and over 30,000 times more for HDTV.
"I know nothing about the Farnsworth Fusor. But Farnsworth Image Dissector camera was inherently doomed. Farnsworth invented "a" TV system. but like Baird's it wasn't actually original nor part of modern TV development (starting 1926 and EMI & RCA success in 1935). Farnsworth's and Baird's was a dead end. Though ironically DLP is mechanical TV, albeit using nanotechnology. The RCA and EMI electron gin cameras and today's chip cameras work due to charge storage per frame rather than only sensing light level at scanning instant (Farnsworth's Electronic Image Dissector and Baird's disc then mirrors) thus about 10,000 more sensitive for SDTV and over 30,000 times more for HDTV."
Farnsworth was deep in litigation with RCA (or The Radio Trust as some newspapers of the time called them) and his case looked quite strong before IIRC he went out of a hotel window.
The Image Dissector Tube was the sensor used on the space shuttle to image low brightness stars to update it's attitude and position in space.
"The Image Dissector Tube was the sensor used on the space shuttle to image low brightness stars to update it's attitude and position in space."
Nothing to do with Farnsworth's tube. Farnsworth's tube only sensed light the instant each part scanned by electron beam. It was rubbish. It would always have been rubbish as that method means sensitivity is abominable. Every successful sensor/tube accumulates charge based on light the entire time it isn't scanned/read.
EVERYONE was deep in litigation with RCA and Marconi 1922 to late 1930s. So in that sense he had plenty of company. Edison (much earlier) Marconi, RCA and Philips were the Apple / Oracle / MS of the era (depending on country), Though Marconi, EMI and RCA did do a lot of real R&D. But many patents bought in and others prior art (TV, Superhet, FM etc). The patents awarded were too broad and frequently ignored prior art and even patents outside UK or USA.
The big companies in 1920s and 1930s created patent cartels/pools. Hence RCA never sued EMI.
Baird tried to use Farnsworth cameras, but his Film camera with near real time development and essentially film scanner to video worked far far better. People's eyes were damaged the lighting needed for Farnsworth's camera so bright. The EMI and RCA (very similar to each other) cameras of same time able to work in ordinary overcast daylight.
More information on fusors can be found here:
And, agreed on the availability of Deuterium. It used to be pretty common for physics students to make ice from heavy water (Deuterium Oxide) to put in drinks. The Deuterium, being slightly heavier than Hydrogen, causes the ice cubes made from it to sink rather than float (And, no, I don't think I'd drink one of those drinks, although several people have. And, there's some evidence that a slight concentration of Deuterium may actually help memory, although too much of it may be fatal.).
P.S. I'll get my coat. It's the one with the heavy ice cubes in the pocket.
Nuclear....fusion....sounds like a hydrogen bomb to me. ARREST THIS BOY!
Clearly he is a terrorist and manufacturing a bomb. WHICH OUR TAXES PAID FOR! (£3,000)
We cannot let children get away with this. ARREST HIM!
THINK OF THE CHILDREN!
Unless you are an aide of David Cameron, in which case DO NOT think of the children.
Does he have any ... evidence?
The reports I have seen elsewhere say his Geiger counter was detecting something. Detecting what, though? 18kV got mentioned somewhere, can the boy demonstrate that his electrostatic inertial confinement rig isn't oozing X-rays which are generating ionized particles, ionized particles that the average Geiger counter would notice long before it spotted any neutrons?
Ahh yes... and when Womersley brought in a pair of cow lungs.
We were told to shove a gas tube down the trachea and blow to inflate the lungs (everyone else had rabbit or similar). Some scamp had pre-lacerated Womersley's lungs with a scalpel, so the dead-cow mucus spluttered out everywhere. Such fun.
gimp suit: because you'd wish you were wearing one if you'd been anywhere near
As any fule kno the first school atomic reactor was the Molesworth/Peason atom smasher - and our headmaster woudl not giv us £3000 when he could spend it on more beer and cream cakes - chiz chiz. If this boy sa he is the first again I will have to go around an tuough him up. Anyway, why is a modurn schoolboy interested in fusion - he should be into global warming and sa things like "hello clouds, hello sky we are making you rain too much" - Fotherington-Thomas - a profit before his time
Wow, they let him build it in a school after a presentation and training where needed.
While here in the States, you can get suspended from school for chewing a Pop Tart into a shape that resembles a gun .
What a world.
Huh...Maryland. I was expecting Florida. Looks like this "zero tolerance" silliness is spreading.
I hereby apologise to the rest of the world for the embarassment that is US education. We seem to be in a race to the bottom. Maybe it has to do with getting rid of all the good teachers and training the new hires to be mindless form-fillers...
When i was in school we got bollocked for looking at anything that was not OFSTED approved. Suggesting something like this got you threatened with being booted out. Instead you were supposed to act as a second teacher and help everyone else out rather then being encouraged to challenge yourself academically.
Even then there were stories of wunderkinds taking GCSE's early and again when i asked in the subjects i could of done i was politely told to sod off and focus on the ones i was not so good at which being dyslexic is like telling someone with depression to just cheer up.
The year is 2164 and Jamie Edwards (known now only as Supreme Chancellor Y'Icyhter) sits alone in his dark towe, gazing upon the blasted Earth that was once home to so many. Few visit anymore. Mostly only those so desperate for an end to their pathetic lives they smash themselves upon the Tower so very much like the ships that had once come to challenge him were smashed against the rocky beaches after being plucked from the angry seas.
Today, like every other day since that cold November night so long ago, Y'Icyhter considers the future of Humanity. Some two million souls had been spared, as a gesture of mercy to those who would shortly perish, that some few of their species would carry on.
When, he asks. When will they conquer their fear? Even now, so many generations later, the stink of fear and their putrid, unclean ways continue unabated. Y'Icyhter has shown them the most tender of mercies for so very long. But fear remains. Always fear. When he descends into their breeding paddocks on each solstice and equinox he takes only the weak, the defective, the ugly and unloved as fuel the reactor.
Long ago the anger of Y'Icyhter had subsided. Remorse dwelt within him for a time, as did pity. Only apathy remains. Millions of times he had considered simply destroying the last of Humanity to liberate them from fear. No, they must grow strong and fearless before Y'Icyhter can end his own suffering. Should he destroy them now he would be left with nary a subject of contemplation. Without that he was lost. Greater knowledge had become a useless abstraction as he discovered nearly every law of the universe was subject to his command. Why learn when the knowledge is meaningless.
Only one element in all the universe was not subject to the will of Y'Icyhter. Fear remained his only rival. The Humans must master fear alone. Journey into dark places and feel the sting of loss as loved ones perish, but never for moment hesitating to follow them into the unknown simply because they can. Secure in knowing that if they too perish it will be an end on their terms. With eyes open and fists raised, turning fear against their challenger and fighting until the end. That is a good life.
Why could the remaining Humans not see that? Y'Icyhter will wait. Y'Icyhter holds pity for only one man. A man who told Y'Icyhter no when he sought to learn. Who betrayed Y'Icyhter and sacrificed him to the authorities. Took him away from a loving mother and father who he would never see again. One who caused all of Humanity to be destroyed. A headmaster who said 'no, you cannot build a fusion reactor'. Coward.
"I was a bit stunned and I have to say a little nervous when Jamie suggested this but he reassured me he wouldn’t blow the school up," the head recalled.
"he reassured me", really? "he reassured me"?
I've never, ever, ever had a school head OK one of my "special" projects that easily. He didn't cast an Imperius Curse on him first did he?
Looking at Jamie's presentation (link to it in the El Reg article) I notice part of the sales pitch to the Head was a promise of fame. 'Imagine your name next to mine' or something like that (I've closed the presentation and can't be bothered to go and find it again). The lad clearly understands management; he will go far.
At the risk of ignoring the spirit of the moment...
Schools are desperately short of cash right now. Just what, exactly, did they have to cut so this kid could build this machine (because they certainly didn't have 3k sat around doing nothing!)? I'm sure the head would blythely say "nothing", but the fact is that 3k is a fair chunk of money to spend on one pupil. Is it a fair use of resources? It may not be if they don't give every kid in the place the opportunity to have 3k spent on their personal "project", which probably had nothing at all to do with the sylabus.
Don't get me wrong, I think it's great that he got the opportunity to do this. But 3k could do a lot of good in a school and i'm not sure this is the best, or the fairest, way to spend it.
Instead of making yet another radiation emiting device the teacher should
have encouraged a project involving cleaning up the mess of Fukushima
The teacher and school are irresponsible to allow such experiments that release radiation. Irresponsible, dangerous and useless. The teacher should be fired.
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