Having a go on your PlayStation, going to the cinema with your friends, playing outdoors — that’s how the spare time of most 12-year-old children looks.
That’s not how it is for Jackson Oswalt though. Two years ago, the now 14-year-old achieved something even some of the most renowned scientists have been unable to: he carried out nuclear fusion, in his parent’s garage in Texarkana, Ark.
“One day I had a sudden epiphany,” wrote the teen on amateur physicist forum, Fusor. “I realized that I could be the absolute best at whatever video game, but in the end it still wouldn’t mean much. I realized that, in the grand scheme of things, video games had no role to play.”
It was at this point that he decided to dedicate himself to science and to pursue a new hobby — nuclear fusion.
While other children want a bicycle or a game console for their birthday or Christmas, Oswalt ordered the parts he needed for a nuclear reactor from eBay.
Instead of watching videos of gamers, Oswalt would watch physics videos — his parents agreed to give him financial support if he promised to first check through expert guidelines on a forum and to pay attention to their tips and advice.
They spent somewhere between $8,000 and $10,000 collecting the parts he needed to build his nuclear reactor, and also footed a bill for 50,000 volts and radioactive radiation.
Using Open Source Fusor Research Consortium— an online forum for amateur physicists — Oswalt relied on trial and error to ensure he was taking the appropriate measures to build a reactor and successfully carry out fusion reactions.
According to Fox News, just before his thirteenth birthday in early 2018, Oswalt finally succeeded in what he’d been working towards for such a long time — a nuclear fusion reactor.
“Being a parent of someone that was as driven as he was for 12 months was really impressive to see. I mean it was everyday grinding; every day learning something different; every day failing and watching him work through all those things,” said his father, Chris Oswalt.
Whether Oswalt is actually the youngest person ever to have succeeded in doing something like this now needs to be confirmed by experts.
In addition to a world record title, Oswalt may also be given a letter of recommendation from his school for a scholarship.
In the meantime, however, he still has some plans: he wants to build an even bigger nuclear reactor.