You know how sometimes you got to a dinner party and the "adults" all sit at a big table and there's another table set aside for the "kids"?
Well, yesterday I went to dinner with all the folks who attended Richard Hull's "High-Energy Amateur Science" fair at his home in Richmond, Virginia. After spending the afternoon at his lab, the bunch of u all all went to dinner at a nearby restaurant (Anthony & George's).
By the time I got there, most of the assembly had taken seats at a long table near the window. But, as luck would have it, some of the younger attendees grabbed a circular table for themselves (I'll take a small circular table over a long rectangle any day). There was room for one more seat at the table… and I swear, it was the best time I ever had sitting at "the kids table" — waaaaay more fun than when ever I was a kid…
From left to right, my dinner companions here are: Robert Tubbs (who flew in from Seattle for the event), Chad Ramey, Ben Bartlett, Tyler Christensen, and Steven Shaw. I believe these guys (except possibly Steve, who racers lawn-mowers instead of building fusors) have all achieved nuclear fusion with their experimental reactors – which is to say, they are members of "the neutron club." And the average age of this group is… 17.6 years!
Having dinner with these guys was like being in the middle of an episode of "The Big Bang Theory" on TeeVee (and imagine my relief when, after confessing that I watch that show, they all told me they like and watch it too…). I mean, how often do you sit around a table and banter about phrases like "periodically oscillating plasma spheres" ?
When I first sat down with these guys, I thought of Pem Farnsworth. I remembered how she loved to talk with young people about her late husband, Philo T. Farnsworth, with the hope that his story would inspire them to experiment with their own lives.
These guys are the truest expression of the Legacy of Philo T. Farnsworth. Forget television, forget patents, forget gizmos and doohickeys… it's the spirit of exploration and adventure these guys embody that really impresses me.
As I sat with these guys, all I could think of was how very, very proud Pem would be if she could have sat there with them. I can just see her beaming from ear to year…