Commentary on Doing Fusion

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Bruce Meagher
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Re: Commentary on Doing Fusion

Post by Bruce Meagher » Mon Mar 18, 2019 6:37 pm

Here’s my take…

If you look back to the first “youngest” fusonieer, Taylor, we see his fusor was hardly a solo effort. Taylor's first working fusor was built in a lab at the University of Nevada, with many, if not most, of the parts and detection gear coming from the university. In several of Taylor's original posts he mentions “we did this" or “we did that." I believe any young person building a fusor has a strong support system even if it’s not obvious from their forum postings. Does this lessen their accomplishment or warrant a special title? I posit not.

There seems to be a wide variety of people that come to our little space on the web. As Richard often mentions most do not even make it to the demo fusor level. Over the years many people, young and old, who do make neutrons are just looking for that notch in their belt, a “gold star,” to be part of the exclusive Neutron Club. Once attained they disappear never to be heard again. I claim even those providing just a few details, but having verifiable proof, enhances the community. If nothing else the members here have impacted their lives with the motivation to experiment. The wealth of information collected over the years on this site has made it fairly straight forward for the amateur to build a fusion reactor. As each year passes it becomes easier to accomplish.

Of the last ten neutron club entrants half have ten or fewer total posts. Most have excellent systems, but they just didn’t share their journey much with the community for whatever reason.

Frank asked "What is the goal? Is it learning a little? Learning a lot? Gaining fame? Dragged along kicking and screaming? “

I believe it’s all the above. We have several members who started pretty young now getting advance degrees, others winning science competitions, many getting an edge on college applications, and some getting a little TV fame. I’d say the lion share just read a little, scrounge a few parts, but dream of what could be possible. It’s all good in my view. It’s the new blood that keeps the site fresh and interesting. I feel the publicity we have obtained from these young folks has also been a good thing. It inspires others to come take a look.

Being a father I realize the limitations of the young experimenters. For me it’s all about the journey. My goal is to allow my son to explore different areas, run a few experiments, learn some physics, some metal working, some electronics, but mostly to spend some time together. He's still a long way away from a neutron producing fusor, but one day he hopes to achieve that goal. Clearly I'm providing a ton of guidance, support, and knowledge that allows him to even undertake this journey.

I think it was brilliant foresight to create the different club levels. It’s human nature to want to be included and recognized, and the more exclusive, the more desirable. It provides additional motivation, however misguided, to push to the next level. For the young folks this might be the endeavor that shapes their lives, but at a minimum hopefully it creates fond lifelong memories. I think we should continue to encourage the young folks. If added guidelines are deemed necessary, or special asterisks be placed by their names, then that’s ok by me. However, I not a fan of arbitrary age limits.


Tell me and I forget; teach me and I may remember; involve me and I will learn -some ancient Chinese dude
Last edited by Bruce Meagher on Tue Mar 19, 2019 3:18 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Richard Hull
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Re: Commentary on Doing Fusion

Post by Richard Hull » Mon Mar 18, 2019 6:54 pm

I have altered the rules! I note that we would like to have at least a 13-14 year old high schooler claim fusion and suffer the standard requirements. I also note that anyone younger than this will have to adhere rigidly to the 90+ day history of keeping us up to date on his or her progress and may have to jump through a much more rigorous oversight. In addition, the age of any applicant who makes the list will no longer be mentioned and no mention of a youngest or oldest fusioneer will be hailed or noted in any way. If you win, you are just in the neutron club so far as any one looking at the listing is concerned.

I have no issue with someone mentioning their age throughout the process in regular postings. Their age just won't make it to the neutron club listing.

I am considering removing all notations that currently mention the word youngest or reference about age. What say others on this last point?

Richard Hull
Progress may have been a good thing once, but it just went on too long. - Yogi Berra
Fusion is the energy of the future....and it always will be
Retired now...Doing only what I want and not what I should...every day is a saturday.

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Re: Commentary on Doing Fusion

Post by Cristiano_Machado » Mon Mar 18, 2019 8:09 pm


I agree with you on everything, including the last point.



Scott Moroch
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Re: Commentary on Doing Fusion

Post by Scott Moroch » Mon Mar 18, 2019 11:01 pm


I strongly agree with this change. I believe the neutron club should make no mention of age. The longer the title of "worlds youngest" continues, the further this forum develops into a hand-holding community for 8-12 year olds attempting to build a fusor. First and foremost, I think this is dangerous and a liability issue; I am surprised a young person has not injured themselves in the process yet.

With that said, however, a fusor can be built safely and successfully at a young age, there are countless examples of this. I think the most impressive efforts come in the 9-12th grade region, where people have the ability to build a fusor completely independently. When Jack Rosky and I built our fusor in high school, our parents provided no financial or intellectual support (not because they did not want to; they simply did not have the know-how). The effort took ~3 years. For this reason, the community should never prevent the involvement of younger fusioneers.

However, I think the time has come to abolish any age recognition in the neutron club. It breeds competition over who is the next "youngest", instead of fostering actual scientific work on IEC Fusion devices. If a young person wants to build a fusor, they should want to build it for the right reasons. Being the youngest in the world to do so is not one of them. As a forum of amateur fusor builders, our goals should reflect these values: scientific discussion.

Otherwise, the forum will (and arguably has) become a hand-holding community for young people who seek to build a fusor for fame and are never heard of again.

Scott Moroch
"In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity"
-Albert Einstein

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Frank Sanns
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Re: Commentary on Doing Fusion

Post by Frank Sanns » Tue Mar 19, 2019 1:08 am

I agree with much that has been stated in these responses.

The most recent post by Scott is one that is quite appropriate. He has been through it as a bright young person. He knows what it takes to walk the walk. It took him and Jack three years to understand and put together a top notch fusor. He is also right that his forum has turned into a competition and hand holding site. A far cry from where it started and what its mission is.

It never has sat will with me, the individual groups of ages, genders, races, continents, and all of the peripheral and unnecessary labels that have absolutely nothing to fusion. They really need to go away on a technical site such as this.

Just as a side note, I was the 6th or 7th documented person to do fusion even though I appear farther down on the list. It was not really an issue for me to get on a list of accolades. It was not until after a couple of fusor people visited and witnessed my fusion runs that I was put on the list. I think it was Carl Willis that left here the first or second time and mentioned it to Richard that finally was the stimulus to add my name.

Science is just that and that is why I did so many experiments that lead up to a completed fusor which in turn lead to many more experiments. Building the fusor was only building the tool. The tool was used for research. Some of those experiments like insulating the outer grid, needle point electrode(s), conditions for initiating plasma, preventing extinction, three grid systems and a few others appear in the older Images and Technical sections.

I only bring this up to give a flavor of how the site used to operated. Contributions came from a dozen or more regulars that advanced the science. We collaborated and we learned and we grew individually and as a group. People contributed to the knowledge base and brought it to where it has been essentially stagnant for a decade now.

If you want to make a difference in the field, look at what you can do to further what has already been done. Do it, don't talk about it or go looking for fame. Do it for yourself and not bragging rights that really mean nothing to anybody that really is knowledgeable in the field.

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Re: Commentary on Doing Fusion

Post by JoeBallantyne » Tue Mar 19, 2019 1:57 am

I think that removing reference to age in the neutron club list, and ending the tracking of whoever is the youngest to do fusion, is a good idea. I would support scrubbing the current list of all references to age, and to "youngest" fusioneer.

I think that the bar for accepting folks into the neutron club, should be age neutral. We shouldn't make it harder or easier for anyone. The bar should be the same. (So, don't make it harder for younger folks than for older ones.) Being fair, is always a good thing. It's about the data and the evidence presented. If having some sort of a track record or history of your efforts is going to be part of the bar, that is fine, but it needs to apply equally to everyone.

I think that having a FAQ for parents of young people who want to do fusion, that enumerates the risks, and the things the parents/mentors need to be aware of and concerned about, would be a very valuable thing to have. Anyone less than say ~14 years old or so, should be strongly encouraged/required to share that FAQ with their parents.


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Richard Hull
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Re: Commentary on Doing Fusion

Post by Richard Hull » Wed Mar 20, 2019 2:35 pm

I have just purged the entire Fusioneer listing of any mention of age.

Richard Hull
Progress may have been a good thing once, but it just went on too long. - Yogi Berra
Fusion is the energy of the future....and it always will be
Retired now...Doing only what I want and not what I should...every day is a saturday.

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Re: Commentary on Doing Fusion

Post by Paul_Schatzkin » Fri Mar 22, 2019 4:40 pm

Coming in a bit late here... catching up with all the traffic issues, etc.... stopped to skim through this thread.

I concur with the initiative to stop making note of a Fusioneer's age, and that will in the long run reduce the traffic from the idly curious.

The discussion reminded me of something that Carrie Fisher said shortly before she died, when she was getting trolled on the Interwebs about her appearance in the recent Star Wars films:
"Youth and beauty are not accomplishments."
By a similar token, the fact that somebody in a single digit or low-double-digit age bracket has done something that many others have already done is really not so much an "accomplishment" as it is a "novelty" –– and that is not why this site was started nor why people like Richard and Frank and Andrew and several others before them have kept it running through various incarnations for more than 20 years now (one is tempted to proclaim that THAT is an accomplishment!).

So the next time somebody wants to know if an infant is the youngest to produce neutrons, we just say, "dunno, we don't keep track of the ages..."

Paul Schatzkin, aka "The Perfesser" – Founder and Host of
Author of The Boy Who Invented Television -
"Fusion is not 20 years in the future; it is 50 years in the past and we missed it."

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