The Boy Who Played With Fusion

What happens when your teenage son is obsessed with nuclear research and wants to experiment in the backyard? How 17-year-old Taylor Wilson found support from his family and a group of scientist mentors:

“Kenneth and Tiffany agreed to let Taylor assemble a ‘survey of everyday radioactive materials’ for his school’s science fair. Kenneth borrowed a Geiger counter from a friend at Texarkana’s emergency-management agency. Over the next few weekends, he and Tiffany shuttled Taylor around to nearby antique stores, where he pointed the clicking detector at old radium-dial alarm clocks, thorium lantern mantles and uranium-glazed Fiesta plates. Taylor spent his allowance money on a radioactive dining set.

“Drawn in by what he calls ‘the surprise properties’ of radioactive materials, he wanted to know more. How can a speck of metal the size of a grain of salt put out such tremendous amounts of energy? Why do certain rocks expose film? Why does one isotope decay away in a millionth of a second while another has a half-life of two million years?”

Author: Tom Clynes
Source: Popular Science
Published: Feb 20, 2012
Length: 21 minutes (5,265 words)

Scientist in a Strange Land

[Not single-page] The research, financed mostly by NASA and published initially in the online edition of Science, jolted the scientific community. If confirmed, scientists said, the discovery would mean that this high mountain lake hosts a form of life distinct from all others known on Earth. It would open up the possibility of a shadow biosphere, composed of organisms that can survive using means that long-accepted rules of biochemistry cannot explain. And it would give Mono Lake, rather than Mars or one of Jupiter’s moons, the distinction of being the first place in our solar system where “alien” life was discovered.

Author: Tom Clynes
Source: Popular Science
Published: Sep 26, 2011
Length: 22 minutes (5,736 words)

The Terminator Scenario: Are We Giving Our Military Machines Too Much Power?

Robots will come to possess far greater intelligence, with more ability to reason and self-adapt, and they will also of course acquire ever greater destructive power. So what does it mean when whatever can go wrong with these military machines, just might?

Author: Ben Austen
Source: Popular Science
Published: Dec 14, 2010
Length: 18 minutes (4,631 words)