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Thursday, September 18, 2003

LOGAN — A widespread belief among physicists nowadays is that modern science requires squadrons of scientists and wildly expensive equipment.

Craig Wallace and Philo T. Farnsworth are putting the lie to all that.

Wallace, a baby-faced tennis player fresh out of Spanish Fork High School, had almost the entire physics faculty of Utah State University hovering (and arguing) over an apparatus he had cobbled together from parts salvaged from junk yards and charity drops.

The apparatus is nothing less than the sine qua non of modern science: a nuclear fusion reactor, based on the plans of Utah's own Philo Farnsworth, the inventor of television.

The reactor sat on a table with an attached vacuum pump wheezing away. A television monitor showed what was inside: a glowing ball of gas surrounded by a metal helix.

The ball is, literally, a small sun, where an electric field forces deuteron ions (a form of hydrogen) to gather, bang together and occasionally fuse, spitting out a neutron each time fusion occurs.

"Here I am with this thing here," Wallace mused, looking at his surroundings. "Who'da thought?"


Y'know, if I had any cash, this is the kind of person I'd be funding. Good man, Wallace. Try not to lose track of that thing, okay?


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