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Our "Brave Thinker"

Posted: Mon Oct 29, 2012 2:37 pm
by Paul_Schatzkin
I was tuned in this morning to MSNBC for its "Hurricane Sandy" coverage, and caught the tail end of an interview with somebody from The Atlantic Magazine who was discussing its listing of "Brave Thinkers" for the year 2012.

I about spit out my oatmeal when he said one the people on the list was a teenager working on "cold fusion*."

I knew right away what he was talking about. See for yourself: ... kers-.html

So Taylor has earned himself one of PayPal founder Peter Thiel's $100,000 "you can have this money if you don't go to college" grants. I hope he's not spending any of that money on PR...


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*if I'd been drinking milk instead of eating oatmeal when I heard this, I would have blown the milk out my nose at the use of the expression 'cold fusion.' It really disheartens me when people who are given a forum like national television reveal that the really have no idea what they are talking about.

Re: Our "Brave Thinker"

Posted: Mon Oct 29, 2012 2:59 pm
by Richard Hull
I wonder how far that $100K will go towards solving the fusion mystery?

Richard Hull

Re: Our "Brave Thinker"

Posted: Mon Oct 29, 2012 3:04 pm
by Nicker
Seeing as how fusion is only 50 years away, hopefully the $100K will speed things up.

Re: Our "Brave Thinker"

Posted: Mon Oct 29, 2012 3:25 pm
by Jim Kovalchick
The 100k isn't for fusion development; it is " a no-strings-attached grant of $100,000 to skip college and focus on their work, their research, and their self-education." I think the general premise is that college would hold these under-20 wunderkind back.

I personally hold the opinion that universities are the best place to nurture our top thinkers as long as convention is not used to hold them back, but it is my experience that the best universities all have plenty of programs to let high po's excellerate. To isolate them in an elitist way is a mistake. It probably won't help them and it definitely won't help others. Perhaps the fellowship will still allow a collegial approach, but my superficial read on it is that the best that be gained from this situation is that it will be a think tank for product development for a rich financier will make a buck on. Forgive my skepticism, and please don't interpret it as any comment on the young participants themselves.

Re: Our "Brave Thinker"

Posted: Mon Oct 29, 2012 6:26 pm
by Chris Bradley
I'm still a bit rather hazy on what Taylor's ideas are - it'd be nice if he recognised the forum that spawned his good works and disseminated back what these are and what he is currently trying to do.

Isn't that what this forum is for?

What are his 'brave thoughts', exactly? Just dreams, or are they grounded on physical reality?

I'd really like to understand the basis of what he's trying to do. Is it just 'fusor-gone-large', or has he a more substantive original idea on where to take fusor design, or is he thinking of another device altogether?

Anyhow, I'd agree with Jim that the educational routes have evolved for good reasons. Nonetheless, I would pick a 'mid-point' between those viewpoints and I think a grant mixed with part-time studies would be optimum. e.g. the terms are you do 2 days a week at Uni for 4 or 5 years, a bit like a sponsored 'under-grad' PhD, so to speak, in whatever you want to research. That way, you get academics keeping the work 'real' and relevant, whilst a wad of cash is there to support 'maverick' routes without worrying about what sort of projects might make a successful grant application, etc..

Re: Our "Brave Thinker"

Posted: Mon Oct 29, 2012 6:28 pm
by Chris Bradley
Richard Hull wrote:
> I wonder how far that $100K will go towards solving the fusion mystery?

.. or maybe just on educating the general public on the differences between 'cold' and 'real' fusion.

Re: Our "Brave Thinker"

Posted: Tue Oct 30, 2012 12:39 am
by Carl Willis
I would like to hear more from Taylor on the forum also, but of course nobody can compel him to indulge the interest. I sometimes talk to him on the phone. I think his current fusion projects revolve more around DPF and less around IEC. His fascination with nuclear science had its origins elsewhere besides this forum, and his present interests in nuclear science are much broader than fusion, so indeed our community may not be notably prominent in his life. There is a wide nuclear world out there and he is well-connected in it.

As far as the $100k goes, it's an unusual opportunity with unusual risks, and Taylor already had an unusual academic trajectory and is an unusual guy. I don't think there will be lessons from his experience with the Thiel Fellowship that apply generally to anyone else. I don't doubt he will make the most of it.

I do hope Taylor and anyone else who accepts Mr. Thiel's money is able to keep sufficiently distant from the limitations of some of the man's own views, e.g., on higher education. There's a widely-held, albeit restrictive and poorly-considered, framing of education-as-financial-investment that happens to be common across ideological lines, and it's central to Thiel's critique. The far more durable ideal of education as a value in itself is minimized in this view, and the role of formal education in broadening one's horizons is given short shrift. As long as one can take the money without being beholden to Thiel's own prolonged intellectual adolescence on certain matters, then it's surely a compelling option. Personally, I think college and grad school were opportunities that, in quite different ways, expanded my interests and helped satisfy my curiosity, and I would encourage any high-schooler on here to think seriously about going to college as one of the surest ways to nurture the intellect.


Re: Our "Brave Thinker"

Posted: Tue Oct 30, 2012 3:47 am
by Frank Sanns
Carl, I can not agree with you more. As much as I bucked the school system through HS and college, it is a positive experience. Without it, I know for a fact that I would not have the knowledge and insight that I now have. Many times it is the questions that arise in your head when you are learning something else. The piquing of curiosity and the humbleness of how much we do not know. There are those that are successful without college but one wonders how much more than might have had if they had attended. By attended, I do not mean void of the world of work but by integration of internships, work, and education in conjunction with each other.

Frank Sanns

Re: Our "Brave Thinker"

Posted: Tue Oct 30, 2012 10:58 am
by Paul_Schatzkin
Thanks for that suggestion, Chris.

Maybe we can just educate some in the media, and they can educate the public.

"Cold Fusion" - one of the great oxymorons of our time.


Re: Our "Brave Thinker"

Posted: Tue Oct 30, 2012 2:53 pm
by Richard Hull
The media educates the public about as well as it informs them. The media is a mere concentrated, condensed reflection of the public's "interest du jour". Cerebration is not the public's strong point. As always, Circus is what they want. Media is the ever attentive and doating ringmaster.

Richard Hull