Science TED Talks

Like, want to see my nuclear fusion reactor? Taylor Wilson at TED2012

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Photo: James Duncan Davidson

Taylor Wilson is a 17-year old nuclear physicist. No, really. He charms the audience from the get-go, making the case that “you know, as a scientist, the glass is always 100% full, with water and air.” But he’s really here to make two cases: that nuclear fusion will be the energy of the future, and that kids can change the world. How does he know? “I built a fusion reactor when I was 14 years old.” Well then.

Winner of the Science Fair, Wilson built a radioactivity detector for hundreds of dollars he says exceeds the sensitivity of those used by homeland security (which cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.) He also built a device to make medical isotopes–and he says, he’s learned how to make yellow cake in his garage lab, so he personally has the same nuclear capabilities as Iran. “Perhaps I shouldn’t confess that,” he adds, jovially. Most recently, he met President Obama, a thrill. “I started out with a dream to make a star in a jar in my garage, and I ended up meeting the President of the United States!” he concludes, as the crowd leaps to its feet in rapturous applause.