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back to article Blighty teen boffin builds nuclear reactor INSIDE CLASSROOM

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 …

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Excellent stuff

More of this kind of thing!

Better than the year of code, the year of 'splode!

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Re: Excellent stuff

Couldn't have said it better my self (though I'm in IT), I'd much prefer it if kids were taught to be curious and explore (by 'splodin) rather than by rote!

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Now THIS is where OBEs belong

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.

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Very cool

Wish more schools would encourage their students to pursue their interests

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Re: Very cool

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.

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Mushroom

Re: Very cool

I wish more kids had enought interest on science, arts, whatever, so more schools could encourage their interests.

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Re: Very cool

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.

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Mushroom

Re: Very cool

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.

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Re: Very cool

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.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Very cool

Too right,

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!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Very cool

"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?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: creative at work

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.

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He will be a top flight boffin in 15 years - lets hope the UK can keep him.

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Happy

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...

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We do have a few underground nuclear bunkers littered about the place though, will any of those do?

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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."

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A cave in Mt. Snowden will suffice.

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Coat

If it's located in Mt Snowden, there's probably a leak somewhere!

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>If it's located in Mt Snowden, there's probably a leak somewhere!

Or a leek.

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Alert

Perhaps if the English got over their strange notion that secret nuclear bunkers should be noted as such on road signs.

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@Spartacus

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.

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Boffin

"...will any of those do?"

No, they are mine. I have dibs.

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Happy

Re: @Spartacus

One vote up for a great comment! I just wish I could upvote the headmaster as well.

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"There's no chance of that. We just don't have the extinct volcano cones that can be turned into secret bases for it. "

Sure we do! OK, so most of them are here in Scotland, but since when did a little democracy count for anything in the mind of a feline stroking, bald-headed, monocle-wearing evil genius?

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Good lad!

Of course, if he'd done this in America where potato guns are considered weapons of mass destruction, he'd be looking at The Chair right now!

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Coat

Re: Good lad!

potato guns - mass destruction? Thought it was mash destruction for potatoes?

OK, getting my coat now...

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Re: Good lad!

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.

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Re: Good lad!

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.

http://legalinsurrection.com/2013/06/7-year-old-pop-tart-gun-offender-loses-first-appeal/

http://abcnews.go.com/US/maryland-grader-suspended-pointing-finger-shape-gun/story?id=18123294

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Pop tart

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.

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Re: Good lad!

Lighten up dude, it was a joke (I'm not aware that any child in the US of A has ever had the chair for anything).

I'm really sorry to have offended you and promise with my pinky to try and remember to use an appropriate icon next time to help you along.

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Unhappy

Re: Good lad!

> Lighten up dude, it was a joke (I'm not aware that any child in the US of A has

> ever had the chair for anything).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Stinney

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Re: Good lad!

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.

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Alien

Re: Good lad!

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.

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There's quite a story behind this... :-)

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.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: There's quite a story behind this... :-)

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.

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Re: There's quite a story behind this... :-)

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.

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Re: There's quite a story behind this... :-)

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).

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Re: There's quite a story behind this... :-)

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.

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Galileo Galilei

Yet again the 'know alls' didn't know better. The head deserves a medal as does the boy. The naysayers should be sent to the flat earth they obviously believe in.

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Happy

Does this signify a revival

of cold fusion stories ?

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Happy

Re: Does this signify a revival

Well I keep reading stories about the e-Cat. Maybe once a month at the moment? I believe you can now buy one. Though if you do, you aren't allowed to look inside.

Just in case you find you've bought a containerful of AA batteries perhaps...

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Someone get that lad a hollowed out Volcano pronto.

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Pint

Really encouraging

A pint for when he's older.

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Almost certainly a stupid question...

£3000 for a small reactor vs several more for solar panals on your roof.

Would it not pay to have this kid build something a little bigger in a garden shed and cut yourself off from the grid?

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Happy

Re: Almost certainly a stupid question...

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 Thunderbirds.

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Re: Almost certainly a stupid question...

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.

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Happy

Re: Almost certainly a stupid question...

"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?

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Re: Almost certainly a stupid question...

£3000 for a small reactor vs several more for solar panals on your roof.

Maybe the school could apply for an alternative energy subsidy?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Almost certainly a stupid question...

Where's my bloody hoverboard?

http://huvrtech.com/

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