Taylor Wilson

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Taylor Wilson
Taylor Wilson - 02.jpg
Born (1994-05-07) May 7, 1994 (age 21)
Texarkana, Arkansas, United States[1]
Nationality American
Occupation Nuclear science

Taylor Wilson (born May 7, 1994) is an American nuclear physicist and science advocate. Since 2008 he was the youngest person to fuse the atom, but was overtaken by 13 year old English Jamie Edwards in 2014.[2][3]

Personal life and education[edit]

Taylor Wilson was born in 1994 in Texarkana, Arkansas to Kenneth and Tiffany Wilson. Kenneth is the owner of a Coca-Cola bottling plant, and Tiffany was a Yoga instructor.[4] Wilson was initially interested in rocketry and space science, before entering the field of nuclear science at age 10.[1] During high school Wilson attended both the Davidson Academy of Nevada and the University of Nevada, Reno where he was given a laboratory to conduct his fusion research. He resides in Reno, Nevada.[5]

Wilson's parents realized Taylor had a photographic memory when he was 5. “Whatever his passion was, he would research everything about it,” Kenneth recalls. “When he was four, he got obsessed with space and learned about all the astronauts.” When he was 6-and-a-half, Taylor and his father attended space camp at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama. According to his father, how they ended up with a little Einstein remains a mystery. “Neither of us knows a dang thing about science,” Kenneth confesses.[6]

In June 2012, Wilson was awarded the Thiel Fellowship.[7][8] The two-year $100,000.00 fellowship would require him to drop out of college for the duration of the fellowship.

Scientific projects[edit]

Taylor Wilson presenting nuclear security work to Barack Obama, February 7, 2012[9]

Fusion reactor[edit]

The Wilsons moved to Reno, Nevada, so Taylor and Joey could attend The Davidson Academy, a subsidized public school for students who score in the 99.9th percentile on standardized tests.

Once enrolled at Reno’s Davidson Academy, Taylor was (safely) able to achieve nuclear fusion under the careful supervision of professors and engineers. Building a bomb was not his goal. He had read of thousands of shipping containers entering America’s ports without being effectively inspected for plutonium and uranium.

In 2008, Wilson first achieved nuclear fusion using an Inertial Electrostatic Confinement device which was a variation of the fusor, invented by Philo T. Farnsworth in 1964.[1] He utilized the flux of neutrons from a deuterium-deuterium fusion reaction to conduct nuclear experiments, as well as studied novel fusion fuels inside the IEC device. In March 2012, Wilson spoke briefly at a TED conference regarding the building of his fusion reactor.[10] Along with the IEC reactors, Wilson has conducted fusion research using Dense Plasma Focus devices he also constructed and developed nuclear diagnostics for basic fusion research.[11]

Nuclear detection[edit]

In May 2010, Wilson entered the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in San Jose, California, and won several awards for his project titled "Fission Vision: The Detection of Prompt and Delayed Induced Fission Gamma. Radiation, and the Application to the Detection of. Proliferated Nuclear Materials".[12]

In May 2011, Wilson entered his radiation detector in the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Los Angeles, California, against a field of 1,500 competitors and won a US$50,000 award.[3][13] The project, “Countering Nuclear Terrorism: Novel Active and Passive Techniques for Detecting Nuclear Threats”, won the First Place Award in the Physics and Astronomy Category, Best of Category Award, and the Intel Young Scientist Award. Wilson stated he hopes to test and rapidly field the devices to US ports for counterterrorism purposes.[3]

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Department of Energy offered federal funding to Wilson concerning research Wilson has conducted in building inexpensive Cherenkov radiation detectors; Wilson has declined on an interim basis due to pending patent issues.[3] Traditional Cherenkov detectors usually cost hundreds of thousands of dollars (USD), while Wilson invented a working detector that cost a few hundred dollars.[3]

Fission reactor[edit]

On February 27, 2013 at TED 2013, Wilson presented his ideas on the benefits of building small underground nuclear fission reactors that are self-contained and use decommissioned nuclear weapons to fuel power.[14][15][16] He temporarily left his research on the fusion reactor and designed a variation of a compact molten salt reactor that he says would supply about 50 MW and would need refueling only once every 30 years. According to Wilson, because much of the reactor would be buried and its uranium would not be weapons-grade, it is less vulnerable either to terrorist attack or misuse.[17] The development of molten salt reactors began in the United States at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, where the first reactor was built in the 1960s.[18] The development of the new reactor type was stopped in 1976 due to political issues.[19] Since the beginning of the 21st century, molten salt reactors are again being explored (see Fuji MSR, LFTR) in a few countries in some commercial companies as well as in nationally funded projects.[18][19] Additional design information was provided at Google Zeitgeist Americas ’13, which describes a sealed vessel and the use of natural circulation in the core.

In an article in Power Engineering, Taylor states:


  1. ^ a b c "The Boy Who Played With Fusion". Popular Science. Retrieved October 18, 2013. 
  2. ^ "Taylor Wilson". TED.com. Retrieved October 18, 2013. 
  3. ^ a b c d e Dutton, Judy. "Teen Nuclear Scientist Fights Terror", CNN.com, September 1, 2011. Retrieved September 3, 2011.
  4. ^ "Rock Center: 19-year-old hopes to revolutionize nuclear power". NBC. Retrieved October 18, 2013. 
  5. ^ http://www.sciradioactive.com/Taylors_Nuke_Site/About_Me.html Retrieved February 12th, 2014.
  6. ^ Besonen, Julie. "The Challenges of Parenting Genius Kids". Coca Cola Journey. Coca Cola. Retrieved 20 June 2015. 
  7. ^ "Peter Thiel Announces 2012 Class of 20 Under 20 Thiel Fellows". Thiel Fellowship website. June 13, 2012. 
  8. ^ Cutler, Kim-Mai (June 14, 2012). "Nuclear Fusion, 3D Printing, Biomedical Imaging: What Thiel’s New 20 Under 20 Fellows Are Attacking". TechCrunch. 
  9. ^ "President Obama Hosts the White House Science Fair". The White House. Retrieved October 18, 2013. 
  10. ^ "Taylor Wilson: Yup, I built a nuclear fusion reactor". TED.com. Retrieved October 18, 2013. 
  11. ^ "Taylor's Nuke Site". Sciradioactive.com. Retrieved October 18, 2013. 
  12. ^ Intel SEF database. societyforscience.org
  13. ^ Teen Builds Nuke Detecting Device, Gizmodo.com. Retrieved September 3, 2011
  14. ^ TED2013. "Taylor Wilson: My radical plan for small nuclear fission reactors". TED.com. Retrieved May 6, 2013. 
  15. ^ "Good energy comes in small packages: Taylor Wilson at TED2013". TED.com. February 27, 2012. 
  16. ^ "The Wunderkinder of TED". Time. March 1, 2012. 
  17. ^ "TED Day 3: Fixing the Planet". Discover. February 28, 2012. 
  18. ^ a b Bullis, Kevin (March 12, 2013). "Safer Nuclear Power, at Half the Price". MIT Technology Review. Retrieved May 11, 2013. 
  19. ^ a b Waldrop, M. Mitchell (December 5, 2012). "Nuclear energy: Radical reactors". nature.com. Retrieved May 11, 2013. 
  20. ^ "Redeeming the Atom". Power Engineering. Retrieved 18 October 2013. 

External links[edit]