Aidan Dwyer, a 13-year-old resident of Northport, Long Island, was staring at trees on a hike one day, when came up with an idea for a solar panel that mimicked the natural shape of trees to more efficiently capture solar energy. It was a lot like that scene from Little Man Tate. He became an internet sensation, until, of course, somebody bothered to check his math.
The young Mr. Dwyer had recorded voltage, when he needed to calculate power. The haters came out of the woodwork.The Wall Street Journal reports that the American Museum of Natural History, which had first publicized his work, was concerned for their reputation. His parents were concerned for his safety.
It was, of course Betabeat, or at least our peers in the media, who were more to blame. Everyone from The Atlantic to Gizmodo to Wired had heralded the breakthrough. The first serious debunking of his experiment fingered the culprits in a post titled: Solar-panel “trees” really are inferior or: In which hopelessly inept journalists reduce me to having to debunk a school science project. “Some poor 13-year-old kid is all over the news as having made a ‘solar breakthrough’. The news is to blame. All the usual suspects — popular environment blogs, tech magazines — blindly parrot the words of this very misinformed (not to blame him, he’s an unguided 13 year old) kid.”
Right or wrong, Mr. Dwyer’s curiosity seems to have impressed many people. He’ll be speaking to 300 engineer students at NYU in the spring and is being courted by venture investors via Facebook. Oh and that trip for him and his family to the World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi. He is now working on a new version of his experiment, using a larger seven foot tree, and measuring the correct variables. “”I’m thinking that it could actually change the world,” he told the WSJ.
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