The problem with inspiring stories of young people who accomplish great things is that the stories often make one realize how much of their own youth was wasted. That happened to me this morning, when I watched a new video of a TED talk by 17-year-old Taylor Wilson ... a boy who, at age 14, built his own nuclear fusion reactor in his garage!
Source: TED (used under fair use)
As Wilson explains it, his ambitious project started when he decided at age 10 that he wanted to create his own star. Nuclear fusion is the process that fuels the stars. Within a star, the mass of all the stellar gas creates enough gravitational force to collide together atoms so that the nuclei fuse together. This is the process of stellar nucleosynthesis and generates all of the heat and light that comes from stars.
As impressive as this sounds, Wilson hasn't single-handedly solved America's energy crisis. His nuclear fusion reactor accelerates beams of the element Deuterium so that it collides together. This acceleration takes energy and, unfortunately, it takes more energy than what is generated by the fusion process.
Still, I think that is overall a fairly minor failure, given that the professionals are running into the exact same problems in designing a nuclear fusion reactor that generates more energy than it takes. But Wilson hasn't let that slow him down, as he's continued inventing and has even designed equipment for the Department of Homeland Security.
Whether you're looking for a dose of inspiration or humility, watching the Taylor Wilson video will fit the bill.