Judy Dutton in Mental Floss:
Taylor Wilson makes people nervous. While his beanpole frame and Justin Bieber–esque haircut suggest he’s just a harmless kid, his after-school activities paint a far more ominous picture. At age 10, he built his first bomb out of a pill bottle and household chemicals. At 11, he started mining for uranium and buying vials of plutonium on the Internet. At 14, he became the youngest person in the world to build a nuclear fusion reactor. “I’m obsessed with radioactivity. I don’t know why,” says Wilson in his laid-back drawl. “Possibly because there’s power in atoms that you can’t see, an unlocked power.”
Shouldn’t teams in hazmat suits descend on Wilson and shut down his operations before someone gets hurt? On the contrary, there are people in the government who think that Wilson is key to keeping this country safe. “The Cold War is really when nuclear physicists got their shot, and those people are all retiring,” points out one of Wilson’s mentors, Ron Phaneuf, a professor of physics at the University of Nevada in Reno. “I think the U.S. Department of Energy is a little concerned that the motivation of young people to get interested in that kind of science has waned. I think that’s one of the reasons doors have been opened to Taylor. He’s a phenomenon, probably the most brilliant person I’ve met in my life, and I’ve met Nobel laureates.”
When the U.S. Department of Homeland Security heard about Wilson two years ago, officials invited him to their offices to hear more about his research and determine whether or not it could be applied toward their counter-terrorism efforts.