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WY Teen Cut From Science Fair For Entering Too Many

timothy posted about a year ago | from the you-can't-science-in-here-this-is-the-science-room dept.

Education 204

An anonymous reader writes " A Wyoming high school student who built a nuclear reactor in his dad's garage was disqualified from the International Science and Engineering Fair this month on a technicality.' His crime: competing in too many science fairs."

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How? (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43883489)

I've heard of several teens building nuclear reactors in their garages it seems. How are they accomplishing this, when foreign states seem to have such difficulty?

Re:How? (5, Interesting)

istartedi (132515) | about a year ago | (#43883575)

Almost anything is a nuclear reactor if you play with the definition. There are isotopes decaying in my thumb right now. It's a nuclear reactor. I seriously doubt these things are producing net energy beyond curiosity wattage. You can probably do some interesting betavoltaic stuff that would generate power at the cost of $50/milliwatt. If you tried to scale it up and generate any significant power, the Feds would eventually find you... probably. I've often wondered if anybody has set one up for "off grid" power. I think there's a 50-50 chance that one back-woods dude is powering his cabin on a huge parcel of land somwhere where it woudln't attract attention. Dangerous as all get-out though. It's so much easier just to use wood stoves, solar panels, etc.

Re:How? (2)

Lehk228 (705449) | about a year ago | (#43883913)

a wood fired stirling engine can be power generation, water pump for a well, heat for home, heat for hot water, grill for cooking and oven for cooking all at once. and it won't kill you and you can grow your own fuel

Re:How? (2)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | about a year ago | (#43883971)

Some lighthouses in Russia are powered by RITEGs about the size of a large fridge...good luck collecting enough nuclear material to build such a thing though.

Bad comparision (2, Informative)

nuckfuts (690967) | about a year ago | (#43884371)

Almost anything is a nuclear reactor if you play with the definition. There are isotopes decaying in my thumb right now. It's a nuclear reactor.

But it's not a fusion reactor. If you want to trivialize what the kid did, at least compare apples to apples.

Re:Bad comparision (2)

meerling (1487879) | about a year ago | (#43884607)

The article stated FUSION reactor, not FISSION reactor.
All the nuclear reactors and batteries you people are talking about are FISSION reactors.
You know, Uranium or Plutonium or some other radioactive material breaking down in to lighter elements.
A FUSION reactor takes light elements, like hydrogen or helium and fuses them into heavier elements like helium or lithium, etc.

Fusion is currently only experimental. I wonder if the article got it wrong and he was actually doing fission, but fissionable materials tend to make the feds go ballistic, so who knows. (Other than the kid.)

Re:How? (1)

firex726 (1188453) | about a year ago | (#43884425)

Wasn't there a time that the americium in smoke alarms was detachable and someone made a productive reactor from collecting the material from like 1000 smoke alarms?

Re:How? (2)

HairyNevus (992803) | about a year ago | (#43884631)

Yes, there's a book about him called "The Radioactive Boy Scout". David Hahn [wikipedia.org]

Re:How? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43883579)

I've heard of several teens building nuclear reactors in their garages it seems. How are they accomplishing this, when foreign states seem to have such difficulty?

Farnsworth Fusors are fusion reactors that aren't net energy positive. They're just fascinating.

The kids who build fission reactors aren't building them on a large enough scale to risk harm to anyone but themselves. By way of analogy, anyone can make a model rocket engine out of firecrackers, at the risk of blowing their fingers off. Making a solid rocket engine that can boost something into orbit an entirely different story.

Re:How? (4, Funny)

Mister Transistor (259842) | about a year ago | (#43883829)

Farnsworth Fusors are fusion reactors that aren't net energy positive. They're just fascinating.

Good News, Everyone! My latest reactors are getting much better now, and yes - yes, they ARE fascinating!

Re:How? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43883871)

I've heard of several teens building nuclear reactors in their garages it seems. How are they accomplishing this, when foreign states seem to have such difficulty?

Farnsworth Fusors are fusion reactors that aren't net energy positive. They're just fascinating.

The kids who build fission reactors aren't building them on a large enough scale to risk harm to anyone but themselves. By way of analogy, anyone can make a model rocket engine out of firecrackers, at the risk of blowing their fingers off. Making a solid rocket engine that can boost something into orbit an entirely different story.

What I find amusing about this story is that the kid's name is... wait for it... Farnsworth.
Yes, really.

Re:How? (1)

Mitchell314 (1576581) | about a year ago | (#43883601)

I assume because it's on such a tiny scale; the fusion reaction is probably microscopic and not practical. As in you pump in a huge amount of energy and resources and barely get a detectable signal out. Not to downplay making and running such a contraption; that takes some serious talent to pull off.

Re:How? (-1, Flamebait)

davester666 (731373) | about a year ago | (#43884129)

It takes absolutely no talent to waste power like this. Well, perhaps it does, to use so much power while getting so little useful result.

Re:How? (1)

Radak (126696) | about a year ago | (#43884203)

It takes absolutely no talent to waste power like this. Well, perhaps it does, to use so much power while getting so little useful result.

Think about carefully next time you're driving down the road in a vehicle that gets around 12% effeciency from the gasoline it burns.

Yeah, I'll think about that for you. (2)

tlambert (566799) | about a year ago | (#43884393)

It takes absolutely no talent to waste power like this. Well, perhaps it does, to use so much power while getting so little useful result.

Think about carefully next time you're driving down the road in a vehicle that gets around 12% effeciency from the gasoline it burns.

I'll think about that, and I'll think about the fact it could probably be 30% more efficient than that, if it wasn't for all the crap additives like ethanol and MTBE they are stuffing into it to keep cars manufactured prior to 1981 (prior years did not have oxygen sensors to control fuel mixture) from polluting.

Then I'll wonder exactly how many pre-1981 cars are actually still on the road, and I'll wonder about the percentage of total fuel usage by all cars which is accounted for by pre-1981 cars.

Then I'll start in again with my sneaking suspicion that the reformulation lobbying by Chevron in California is less about a concern for pollution, and more about a concern for Chevron to have their markets there protected from imports from out of state refineries unable to keep up with California's frequently changing reformulation requirements. You know, for the children, not so that they can have a higher profit margin due to sole-sourcing or anything.

Re:How? (1)

Mitchell314 (1576581) | about a year ago | (#43884433)

Because learning and inspiring is a waste of power. Got it.

Fusion Reactor (-1)

frovingslosh (582462) | about a year ago | (#43883711)

The claim is even worse than that. The article claims that he built a fusion reactor, not a fission reactor. I expect that there is a healthy dose of Wyoming male cattle waste, and that the actual project contains a lot of "if .... then ...." and other imaginary "science".

Re:Fusion Reactor (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43883799)

A Farnsworth Fusor [fusor.net] is a fusion reactor and can be built at home with a little electrical engineering prowess. Someone needs to do some research before making claims that it can't be done. The problem with that device is that the containment is too good. It's not possible to add fuel once the reaction is started and the reaction produces less energy than is required to start it.

If teleportation of protons (ionized hydrogen, not photons) becomes practical, it may achieve breakeven.

Re:Fusion Reactor (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43883857)

The problem with that device is that the containment is too good. It's not possible to add fuel once the reaction is started

How is that possible? If you shoot a drop of liquid deuterium into the chamber, what will stop it from getting inside?

Re:Fusion Reactor (3, Informative)

Maury Markowitz (452832) | about a year ago | (#43883881)

> If teleportation of protons (ionized hydrogen, not photons) becomes practical, it may achieve break-even

It is extremely unlikely that any non-equilibrum reactor will ever reach break even. This includes the fusor, Forward's design, focus fusion, and many other designs. The bremsstrahlung is simply too great for any realistically sized reactor to stop thermal transport out of the core more rapidly than the reaction rate can replace it.

Re:Fusion Reactor (0)

Shavano (2541114) | about a year ago | (#43883947)

That's the kid's own website, right? If we don't already trust a teenager's claims to have made a homebrew fusion reactor, why would we trust a site where he congratulates himself for his achievements? As far as I know, it's a LED in a fancy looking tube.

Re:Fusion Reactor (4, Interesting)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | about a year ago | (#43884051)

That's the kid's own website, right?

No, it's not. You may have been confused because his name is Farnsworth, which isn't a particularly common name; as another poster said, it would be interesting to know if there's a family connection with the Farnsworth [wikipedia.org] the fusor [wikipedia.org] is named for. Fusor.net, AFAICT, is a site run by and for fusor hobbyists, people who like to tinker with the kind of machines this kid built.

And for those who are saying "Oh, he just downloaded some tutorials off the net"--well, if you could or would have done something like that as a teenager, good for you, but most people couldn't or wouldn't. It's not groundbreaking research, but putting together a working fusor is a pretty neat accomplishment for a high-school kid.

Re:Fusion Reactor (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43884053)

No, it's not "worse than that". Fusion reactors are pretty simple to build. It's hard to build fusion reactors with net energy output, but he didn't claim to have done that. Fission reactions are actually a bit harder, simply because the material is harder to get. He probably didn't move on in the science fair because the project really wasn't all that innovative.

Re:How? (1)

Hentes (2461350) | about a year ago | (#43883779)

This is a nuclear fusion reactor, not a fission one. A Farnsworth fusor [wikipedia.org] is relatively easy to build.

Re:How? (2)

camperdave (969942) | about a year ago | (#43884033)

How are they accomplishing this, when foreign states seem to have such difficulty?

Two different definitions of nuclear reactor. The teens are not building nuclear reactors in the nuclear power plant sense - a sustained, large scale reaction with a net energy release. They are building reactors in the technical sense - a device that can produce nuclear reactions. They're not worried about sustaining a reaction, or about net energy production, or about industrial scale production. They're just worried about did a reaction happen or not.

Re:How? (1)

lightknight (213164) | about a year ago | (#43884507)

Thermonuclear reactors using some isotope of Uranium / Plutonium != All versions of nuclear reactors, in much the same way as 747s using a series of jet engines != All vehicles using engines (of some design).

But it does require some knowledge of physics to know how common something can qualify for the phrase 'nuclear reactor,' and it does take some browsing / reading to know of the various versions that have been used / are used today.

All the better.. (4, Interesting)

Hans Lehmann (571625) | about a year ago | (#43883491)

He won't lose any high school credit because he wasn't able to compete in his nth science fair. But just think how good his resume after college will read when it says that he was disqualified because he entered too many science fairs in high school.

Re:All the better.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43883547)

If he had actually won, then I can understand it, but disqualifying someone just because they failed to win too many times is low.

Re:All the better.. (5, Insightful)

AthanasiusKircher (1333179) | about a year ago | (#43883685)

disqualifying someone just because they failed to win too many times is low

That's not why he was disqualified. He was disqualified because he failed to advance to the next level and then jumped over the state border to try again with the same project in another state. Without this rule, you could have kids entering a dozen different state competitions with the same project, just hoping to get the right set of judges to advance you.

Re:All the better.. (4, Interesting)

Dcnjoe60 (682885) | about a year ago | (#43883791)

disqualifying someone just because they failed to win too many times is low

That's not why he was disqualified. He was disqualified because he failed to advance to the next level and then jumped over the state border to try again with the same project in another state. Without this rule, you could have kids entering a dozen different state competitions with the same project, just hoping to get the right set of judges to advance you.

While what you say is technically true, the way you say it implys that he did this to circumvent the system. From the article itself, it was his high school that entered both the Wyoming and the South Dakota events and they, along with the people at both Universities involved were unaware of the rule. It seems like this was one of those rules put in place to prevent cheating that had unintended consequences. Even the article states the rule is looking at being rewritten because of it.

Re:All the better.. (5, Informative)

nick_davison (217681) | about a year ago | (#43883931)

“The South Dakota fair is close and gives our kids another opportunity to present their work,” Scribner said. “I think that was some of our motivation, and it did give our kids another chance to qualify.

The school absolutely used multiple fairs to get extra chances to qualify - they outright say so. And that's exactly why the rule's in place.

They put the rule in place to stop people failing at one using other fairs as a chance to succeed at another. He failed at one then used another to succeed. The school uses the second fair for exactly that purpose. And then they're shocked when they discover there was a rule to prevent the loophole they thought they'd discovered. That's not an unintended consequence. That's the intended consequence.

Re:All the better.. (3, Insightful)

Dcnjoe60 (682885) | about a year ago | (#43884045)

“The South Dakota fair is close and gives our kids another opportunity to present their work,” Scribner said. “I think that was some of our motivation, and it did give our kids another chance to qualify.

The school absolutely used multiple fairs to get extra chances to qualify - they outright say so. And that's exactly why the rule's in place.

They put the rule in place to stop people failing at one using other fairs as a chance to succeed at another. He failed at one then used another to succeed. The school uses the second fair for exactly that purpose. And then they're shocked when they discover there was a rule to prevent the loophole they thought they'd discovered. That's not an unintended consequence. That's the intended consequence.

You left out the part about the school not being aware of the rule and the officials not being aware of the rule and the colleges involved not being aware of the rule all because the rule was not enforced in the past. If it is an obscure rule that nobody is aware of, it is hard to cry foul with an intent to cheat. If it is enforceable, why was only his project disqualified and not all of the duplicated projects? If it was correct, why was the chairwoman dismissed over this?

Maine has a law about how many pounds of cherries must be in a pie before it can be called a cherry pie. Not a pie sold today meets that standard, but the rule is on the books. Missouri doesn't allow margerine to be sold, or at least for it to be called that and yet grocery stores are full of it. There are all sorts of rules on the books that are old and obsolete, just like the rule in question with the science fair. The question people should be asking is why was it enforced all of a sudden and only selectively and if it was all on the up and up, why was the director let go?

Re:All the better.. (4, Informative)

ceoyoyo (59147) | about a year ago | (#43884255)

It was not enforced in the past because nobody doing the state fair jumping had qualified for the ISEF before. It's in the article.

The US science fair system is poorly organized, which is why things like this happen. It's disappointing for the kid but he did not qualify at his own state fair anyway.

Re:All the better.. (1)

AthanasiusKircher (1333179) | about a year ago | (#43883939)

Absolutely. I agree the rules should have been clear. I didn't mean to imply he was deliberately trying to cheat.

Re:All the better.. (1)

minstrelmike (1602771) | about a year ago | (#43884235)

disqualifying someone just because they failed to win too many times is low

That's not why he was disqualified. He was disqualified because he failed to advance to the next level and then jumped over the state border to try again with the same project in another state. Without this rule, you could have kids entering a dozen different state competitions with the same project, just hoping to get the right set of judges to advance you.

I'm trying to understand the difference between that and marketing your own commercial product in different places and getting different results.I don't consider that cheating. In the business world it is called trying.

Re:All the better.. (1)

Jonathan C. Patschke (8016) | about a year ago | (#43884549)

So, just like shopping any under-development technology around (or applying for research grants) in real life, then?

Re:All the better.. (1)

Isaac-1 (233099) | about a year ago | (#43884693)

This sort of thing happens all too often with science fairs, the are looking for above average students to encourage them to go into science fields, but for some reason frown on the amazing projects.

Years ago in High School I had a very smart friend that had a science fair project on the macroscopic effects of quantum phsical properties in quartz fibers, he spent months on the project, corresponded with scientest that were published in peer reviewed publications, etc. He easily won at the local highschool level, and at the regional level, however at the state level, he was disqualified because "Such work is beyond the abiltiy of a Highschool Student"

Re:All the better.. (4, Interesting)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | about a year ago | (#43883727)

Well, that's what the rule's for; to prevent students from milling through county fairs in order to qualify for the state fair. (Perhaps the idea is that it would let a student with a lot of funding go into a low-income county and exercise an unfair advantage? Although that would just even itself out at the state level anyway...) In this case, though, the student was entering into fairs in two different states, (if you consider Wyoming and South Dakota different) and the rule wasn't worded in a way that considered that. The person responsible was quietly let go, though, so... yeah.

This story has nothing to do with the kid's project, if anyone was wondering.

Re:All the better.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43883849)

Let's hope he hangs out with the right people and not those who would tell him to get a Job (i.e. not you). Let's hope he he will never have to write a resume or work for a corporation. Let's hope he gets together with a few of his peers and does something innovative and constructive after college.

A Fusion Reactor? (1)

jimbrooking (1909170) | about a year ago | (#43883515)

Maybe he ought to share with Lawrence Livermore (https://www.llnl.gov/) and the ITER project (http://www.iter.org/).

Re:A Fusion Reactor? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43883535)

I'm sure LLNL knows about the Fusor.

Re:A Fusion Reactor? (2)

Kavli (762663) | about a year ago | (#43883551)

Could it have been some development of the Farnsworth-Hirsch Fusor, perhaps?
He's got the right surname, for sure. Maybe a descendant?
  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fusor [wikipedia.org]

Re:A Fusion Reactor? (1)

camperdave (969942) | about a year ago | (#43884097)

Could it have been some development of the Farnsworth-Hirsch Fusor, perhaps? He's got the right surname, for sure. Maybe a descendant? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fusor [wikipedia.org]

Maybe an ancestor [geektrio.net] ?

Definitely somebody to watch... (4, Insightful)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about a year ago | (#43883523)

People who take an "unusual" interest in knowing things are dangerous.

Re:Definitely somebody to watch... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43883565)

You don't need an unusual interest. You just have to be one of those people who can figure this stuff out from the library, net, etc... at the drop of a hat.

Re:Definitely somebody to watch... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43883731)

No, doing shit like this is what is dangerous.

It turns incredibly smart, incredibly competent people in to criminals or bad people in general. (worse when it goes as far as terrorism)

The system makes these people, not the people themselves.

And yet... (1, Insightful)

bondsbw (888959) | about a year ago | (#43883527)

Our society encourages people who refuse to learn or take responsibility for their education or that of their children, by throwing money to them every chance we can.

Re:And yet... (5, Insightful)

timeOday (582209) | about a year ago | (#43883585)

That has nothing to do with this story at all. He entered different lower-level competitions with the same entry in order to maximize his odds of making it to the next level. The problem with allowing this would be that to even the odds, everybody would have to enter every competition, where the same set of projects would be re-evaluated over and over.

Re:And yet... (4, Insightful)

jlechem (613317) | about a year ago | (#43883611)

This right here, TFS is so distorted. He didn't make it past round 1 in his state, so he jumped the border (with his schools's permission) in order to try again. They had rules against this for a very good reason.

Re:And yet... (4, Informative)

I'm New Around Here (1154723) | about a year ago | (#43883751)

That's not quite accurate.

He went to the science fair in Wyoming, conducted by the University of Wyoming, which is a 'State Level' fair. He didn't place.

His school also attends a 'Regional Level' fair, sponsored by the South Dakota School of Mines. He did place at that one.

He get disqualified from the International Science and Engineering Fair because he went to a regional fair after attending a state fair.

If those two events had simply happened in the reverse order, he would have been fine. It's not his fault the two events are scheduled the way they are.

Also, his town is only 3 miles from the South Dakota border, so it's not like he crossed five states to try to cheat the system. For all we know, students who live in South Dakota attend his high school.

Re:And yet... (2)

Dcnjoe60 (682885) | about a year ago | (#43883841)

This right here, TFS is so distorted. He didn't make it past round 1 in his state, so he jumped the border (with his schools's permission) in order to try again. They had rules against this for a very good reason.

From TFA the school did not know it was a problem. The events did not know it was a problem. The kid in question did not know it was a problem. Not included in the article but elsewhere online, it was not the same "experiment" but modified based on feedback from the first science fair. (Isn't that how science advances?)

There was no intent to cheat here, just a well meaning rule to prevent cheating that was erroneously applied (the director who singled him out has been fired). What the real story is that has not been answered is that there were several other kids that had equivelantly the same experiment, as the high school entered both events, but only he was disqualified. As TFA states, the director is no longer employed with the institution after this and the rule is being rewritten to keep this from happening again.

The nice thing is that he took the high road and didn't blame anybody. His only regret is that he didn't get to discuss his project further with the judges to gain more insight (again from TFA). He's been accepted at the South Dakota School of Mines for college. Hopefully they gave him a scholarship.

Re:And yet... (1)

bondsbw (888959) | about a year ago | (#43883655)

But still, he is spending his time doing so. It's likely that he refines his entry each time. Unless he's simply being lazy and the project has no scientific value, let him be. Encourage his persistence at scientific achievement.

And frankly, a scientist will often do the same with a research publication. If it isn't accepted, the paper is refined and proposed at a different venue.

Besides, are they kicking out other students who use the same tactic, but try fewer times? How many entries is too many? Is he being singled out?

Re:And yet... (1)

Dcnjoe60 (682885) | about a year ago | (#43883797)

That has nothing to do with this story at all. He entered different lower-level competitions with the same entry in order to maximize his odds of making it to the next level. The problem with allowing this would be that to even the odds, everybody would have to enter every competition, where the same set of projects would be re-evaluated over and over.

That is false. His high school entered both competitions and he along with other students submitted projects for both competitions. His was not the only disqualified project, the difference is that his was interesting enough that it had already caught the public's attention. The rule in question is an old rule and this is not the situation it was intended to prevent. As such, the committee is looking at revamping the rule and the official who disqualified him has been dismissed.

It'd be great (2)

memnock (466995) | about a year ago | (#43883537)

... if the faculty could figure how to get this kid to coach others.

Regardless, it does seem like he'll have a bright future if he's that motivated.

Re:It'd be great (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43884721)

RTFA, his motivation was just reentering another county fair because he didn't qualify at his own. Hardly impressive.

Well... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43883545)

Its only 'fair'.. to all the other kids.

cheater (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43883555)

Wyoming has the smallest population and he didn't win, so he entered in another state.

The rules are there for a reason.

A working fusion reactor??? (0)

Greg01851 (720452) | about a year ago | (#43883563)

From article: "Conrad Farnsworth is the first person in Wyoming to build a nuclear fusion reactor. He is one of only 15 high school students in the world to successfully achieve fusion. He made it using parts he ordered online, traded with other fusioneers and created himself." So this and 15 other high school students have been able to achieve what no other scientist in the world has been able to achieve to date? Hmmm.

Re:A working fusion reactor??? (4, Insightful)

Analog Penguin (550933) | about a year ago | (#43883589)

We can achieve fusion without too much trouble. The elusive white whale so far has been a sustainable fusion reaction that puts out more energy than you have to put into it.

Re:A working fusion reactor??? (1)

mbone (558574) | about a year ago | (#43883631)

We can achieve fusion without too much trouble. The elusive white whale so far has been a sustainable fusion reaction that puts out more energy than you have to put into it.

Details, details...

Re:A working fusion reactor??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43883639)

We can achieve fusion without too much trouble. The elusive white whale so far has been a sustainable fusion reaction that puts out more energy than you have to put into it.

Exactly. Also, don't glean over the "high school" part when reading about that small number, especially since most kids that age these days have an attention span of a goat.

Re:A working fusion reactor??? (1)

Ferzerp (83619) | about a year ago | (#43883883)

Well, we also don't have trouble creating fusion reactions that put out *far* more energy than we put in to them.

The problem is doing anything useful with that energy other than making a really big boom.

Re:A working fusion reactor??? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43883695)

Are you stupid? are all of you?

Fusion in various forms has been achieved for decades!

A controlled, commercial grade reactor is another issue.

Please read more before making such absurd comments

Re:A working fusion reactor??? (1)

Deadstick (535032) | about a year ago | (#43884415)

Are you stupid? are all of you?

Welcome to the H. L. Mencken principle...

Re:A working fusion reactor??? (1)

camperdave (969942) | about a year ago | (#43883825)

Fusion is "easy". Sustained fusion is difficult.

Re:A working fusion reactor??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43884059)

Easy eh? Work on it and get back to me.

Re:A working fusion reactor??? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43883855)

From article: "Conrad Farnsworth is the first person in Wyoming to build a nuclear fusion reactor. He is one of only 15 high school students in the world to successfully achieve fusion.

This is nonsense. Back in the 1970s, about a half dozen of my friends built them (each with slightly different designs, using everything from modified electron guns of old B&W tv sets to cascade flyback transformer accelerator-collider designs. We were poor, and used whatever we could find or build. Sure, we didn't get anywhere near break-even, but we got enough neutrons that we started being paranoid and built paraffin shielding for the better versions). I'm sure we weren't doing anything that other people elsewhere weren't also doing.

And this was in the backwaters of Arkansas, before the internet, going to a school that didn't even have a decent library or teachers that had a clue about what we were doing. If we were doing it on our own in middle school there, the number of people doing it somewhere else (with way more money, fancier schools with more science classes and better equipped labs, better paid teachers, etc.) has to be a lot higher than 15.

Perhaps there are only 15 self-promoting extroverted kids among the many doing this sort of thing who would think their efforts are deserving of media attention, but the number of people doing these sorts of experiments has to be orders of magnitude higher than that.

Re:A working fusion reactor??? (1)

Dcnjoe60 (682885) | about a year ago | (#43883869)

From article: "Conrad Farnsworth is the first person in Wyoming to build a nuclear fusion reactor. He is one of only 15 high school students in the world to successfully achieve fusion. He made it using parts he ordered online, traded with other fusioneers and created himself."

So this and 15 other high school students have been able to achieve what no other scientist in the world has been able to achieve to date? Hmmm.

The article doesn't say that only 15 high schoolers have been able to do this and no other scientists have. OTOH, it is pretty impressive that some high schoolers have been able to achieve what professional scientists have by spending a fraction of the cost on education and materials. These kids, wherever they may be in the world are similar to the kids that were building rockets at the dawn of the space age or breadboard computers prior to the PC.

If that capability isn't enough to win a science fair, I wonder what did win?

Re:A working fusion reactor??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43884117)

Impressive, yes, but he did this while standing on the shoulders of those who came before him.

Bureaucracy wins again (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43883581)

But hey, he's wearing a lab coat. Can't he go on TV to sell Viagra?

Farnsworth–Hirsch fusor (5, Interesting)

mbone (558574) | about a year ago | (#43883595)

The Farnsworth–Hirsch fusor [wikipedia.org] is decades old, relatively easy to build (I know someone who built one in his garage), available commercially (as a neutron source) and is generally considered to be not a candidate for fusion power.

Given that the name of the student is Conrad Farnsworth, I have to wonder if there is a family connection, but the article does not go into that.

Waste of time (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43883607)

Science fairs are of no value, they're time wasters for kids (and parents) and judges aren't remotely interested in improving entrants' knowledge. This young man would be far better off making contact with his local university and signing up for evening classes beyond the crap they do at high school.

Re:Waste of time (1)

hierofalcon (1233282) | about a year ago | (#43883845)

Sadly, WY has just one University. It's about four hours away from Newcastle where he lives. There are only seven community colleges. None of them are nearby either - the closest are two to three hours away from him. Even to Rapid City, SD, it's an hour and 1/2.

So, while online options might be available, depending on bandwidth to the town of 3,500 people, signing up for evening classes is largely out of the question.

Great great great nephew (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43883619)

The kid's name is Farnsworth... Where on his family tree is there a Phillip J Fry?

I got banned for ONE project (1)

Skiron (735617) | about a year ago | (#43883621)

I made a stink bomb in chemistry class, and not only did I get banned, I also got the black plimsoll across my backside! (c. 1973).

Re:I got banned for ONE project (2)

Nyder (754090) | about a year ago | (#43884143)

I made a stink bomb in chemistry class, and not only did I get banned, I also got the black plimsoll across my backside! (c. 1973).

If you did that today, you'd get visited by the feds, put on a no fly list, and expelled from school.

Want Fries With That? (1)

pipingguy (566974) | about a year ago | (#43883659)

"He is one of only 15 high school students in the world to successfully achieve fusion."

Really? Wow.

I predict many job offers for this individual.

Re:Want Fries With That? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43883697)

15 smart kids have parents with lots of money. Film at 11.

When asked how he felt... (1)

rhazz (2853871) | about a year ago | (#43883679)

Farnsworth said: "I don't want to live on this planet anymore!"

Re:When asked how he felt... (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about a year ago | (#43883991)

Well, if anyone's going to invent the teleporter, it could well be him.

This isn't because he is doing too MORE Science. (4, Insightful)

dmomo (256005) | about a year ago | (#43883689)

The summary makes it look like he is being held back by bureaucracy, while he's really just using it. He entered ONE project in many fairs. Each of these fairs were lateral contests in a larger competition. Effectively he entered multiple times in the over-all road to the International Fair.

What he did would be like a NCAA team losing in March Madness multiple times, only to move position in the bracket, to try again on each defeat. Sorry, I couldn't think of a car analogy.

The kid was taking the same project to different fairs after failing to qualify. Nothing is stopping him from doing Science. He was more interested in being successful. He wasn't doing this so he could "do more science". He was doing it so he could basically enter more times, giving him an unfair advantage. Say I ran a science fair for a bunch of inner city kids. They worked really hard on their projects. When time for judging comes up, some AP, college-bound kid with a rich ( anything white-collar, to these inner city kids) dad comes in with his garage-built project. He didn't qualify in his home town, but blows these kids out of the water. I would be livid.

However, by seeing the way he plays ball, we know he will fit right in in Academia.

Re:This isn't because he is doing too MORE Science (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43883951)

However, by seeing the way he plays ball, we know he will fit right in in Academia.

A moron who can't do practical work and reads tutorials on the Internet? I think not.

Re:This isn't because he is doing too MORE Science (1)

dmomo (256005) | about a year ago | (#43884025)

No. Exactly this. I'm referring to propping oneself up on the work of others; worrying more about getting grants and being published in Journals. I didn't say he would excel, but he sure is cut out for it.

Re:This isn't because he is doing too MORE Science (1)

westernjanus (900664) | about a year ago | (#43884163)

I concur. Very little "science" is done here. The kid cobbled together a cookbook "fission" reactor and then hawked it until he won somewhere. The disregard for anything but winning, the derivative nature of the work, the hurt feeling caused by "the man keeping him down" all reek of self promotion and playing the system show me an excellent and lucrative future in the status quo. But that is the whole point, isn't it?

Re:This isn't because he is doing too MORE Science (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43884499)

No, he's a liar and cheater and won't fit into scientific academia, but but he will prosper in University administration.

Re:This isn't because he is doing too MORE Science (1)

cdrudge (68377) | about a year ago | (#43884673)

He entered many fairs? The article I read mentioned two, Wyoming State Fair and one for South Dakota. It's something his school has been doing for at least a few years as they live so near the border.

I wouldn't exactly call entering two fairs that were geographically very close to the school gaming the system.

minus 1, Tr$Oll) (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43883749)

back keystrokes disabled from that page (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43883755)

any idea why the back buttton in firefox works but the keyboard control is lost?

Just a cheater... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43883823)

He should forget science... And try politics where that bullshit works better.

Or maybe banking. Big business... Maybe be a lawyer.

All good for cheating in..

Science? Not so much.

Re:Just a cheater... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43884473)

I agree, he is just a cheater. We should be very worried if he happens to advance in the field of science, where a person's ethics and honesty are the only things we must trust.

Science- is it good or is it wack? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43883879)

Techmology. What does it all mean? My mainly rainbow Jeremy rejects all things science.

Good news everyone said Prof. Conrad Farnsworth (1)

burni2 (1643061) | about a year ago | (#43883957)

This name coincidence is really cool, and he built a fusion device, I would call it "take shelter, buy a gun and much canned food" the DOOMSDAY DEVICE is on the rise!

Making the process more important than the goal (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43883973)

"A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of mediocre minds." - Emerson

Islam (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43884013)

Islam is evil,
The muslims are aware
Though as long as they can kill and rape
they don't really care

If a reactor can't win on the first try what will? (1)

BetaDays (2355424) | about a year ago | (#43884135)

If a reactor can't win on the first try what will? I haven't followed these kid shows in a long time but I wonder what won over this in the show he lost in.

Goddamnit, McKay... (1)

Azure Flash (2440904) | about a year ago | (#43884155)

This is clearly Rodney McKay starving for attention and compliments. Hasn't he been accosted by the FBI about his job in the Stargate program yet?

The death of ethics among future scientists (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43884413)

I just caught this on AP and decided to check out the source. Something does not make sense in the way this story was crafted by the author. There are rules of engagement in EVERY competition (sports, spelling bees, etc) and how then can this kid (or worse, the kid's teacher), who claims to have been preparing for this event for years not know them??? The facts (not the writer's spin, but the facts) appear to be that this kid tried in one fair and failed to advance, so he then jumped into another state's fair to get around this first failure. This is cheating, plain and simple. What is this lesson teaching him about ethics and morality here? We should all be ashamed. The loss of ethics and honesty here is especially critical, in fact, of paramount importance, when we are talking about science teachers and future scientists, since we have to trust their honesty above all else. If they cheat, everyone loses. It is a shame, then, that the administrators at UW rushed to decide to throw the state director, their subordinate, under the bus, saying her actions were not condoned by them and she acted outside her authority. It is THEIR heads that should roll, not the state director's who was only doing what they were paid to do. If you don't believe me, think about this -- what if this kid ended up winning and the international science fair officials found out later that he was ineligible because of the rules of the International Science Fair Association, and it was later learned that the state director knew he was ineligible but kept her mouth shut. Do you think the UW administrators would not still fire her? Certainly they would. The actions of the UW administrators plainly reveal that they are doing everything they can to protect their own jobs and keep the public's eye off them. Truth, ethics, and morality are the true victems here, not this kid who regrettably cheated. His teacher should be fired as well.

Nooo (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43884599)

"disqualified from the International Science and Engineering Fair"

I'll show you! ...I'LL SHOW YOU ALL!!!!!

Muahahahahaha...

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