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)
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