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6 Teens Who Are Way Smarter Than You

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By Lauren Hansen

Did you pass Britain's bar exam at 18? Yeah, I didn't think so.

1. The youngest ever to pass Britain's bar exam

It's safe to say Gabrielle Turnquest (above) is one serious smartypants. The Florida native graduated from Liberty University in Virginia with a psychology degree at the age of 16. She then went on to study law in the U.K., where this year, at the age of 18, she became the youngest ever to pass Britain's bar exam. (The average age of test-takers is 27 years old.)

But Turnquest isn't stopping there. The motivated teen hopes to qualify as a lawyer back home in America as well as in the Bahamas, the country of her parents, and ultimately become a specialist in fashion law.

2. The pre-teen studying medicine

In 2003, Sho Yano became the youngest student to study medicine at the University of Chicago School of Medicine. Not even technically a teenager, the 12-year-old had already notched accomplishments above and beyond his mere dozen years. By age three he was playing Chopin on the piano and composing original work by four. By age eight he had scored a 1,500 out of a possible 1,600 points on his SATs, and started college the next year. He went on to graduate summa cum laude from Chicago's Loyola University in just three years before starting medical school.

And just last year, Sho completed his degrees at the ripe old age of 21, becoming the University of Chicago's youngest M.D. ever. "I guess it's a good feeling to be the youngest, but it doesn't feel like something particularly unusual to me," Sho told the Chicago Sun Times. "It's just what I've done."

3. The teen paving the way for safer nuclear energy

Nuclear power could arguably help free the U.S. from its dependence on fossil fuels, but there's once catch: It's environmentally risky, as anyone from Fukushima will tell you.

Enter Taylor Wilson. The 19-year-old has designed a smaller, modular fission reactor that is not only less expensive to run, but also safer to operate. Wilson's design is reportedly 15 percent more efficient than today's reactors, and would require refueling every 30 years instead of the current rate of every 18 months.

Wilson says his design would do no less than combat climate change, bring affordable power to the developing world, and power rockets to explore space. You know, no big deal. And if you're wondering what kind of cred this wunderkind has, Wilson was able to achieve nuclear fusion at the age of 14 — the youngest person ever to do so. "This could be the source of energy that provides carbon-free electricity," he has said.

4. America's youngest lawyer

Stephen Baccus wanted to be a lawyer so badly that he petitioned the Florida Supreme Court to waive a state law that says only contracts signed by those 18 years or older are valid. In 1986, Baccus, who graduated from college at age 14 with a degree in computer science, passed the Florida state bar on his 17th birthday. "I could have waited until I am 18, but I didn't want to,"he told the Miami News at the time.

With the court ruling in his favor, Baccus became the youngest lawyer in modern American history and went on to start his own firm. After seven years building his law career, Baccus changed gears. Eager for the humbling challenges of science, the one-time child genius earned a doctorate in neuroscience from the University of Miami. "If money was my primary motivating factor I might have different career plans, but it's not," he told the Associated Press in 1999 after graduation. "I'm interested in doing something interesting to me."

5. The youngest to win the MacArthur "genius grant"

You can't apply for the MacArthur fellowship. You can't even be nominated for it. The five-year, no-strings-attached grant is gifted one day out of thin air. The so-called "genius grant" is typically awarded to between 20 and 40 Americans of any age, working in any field, who show "extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits." And in 1984, David Stuart got the phone call that would make him the youngest fellow in the foundation's history. "I was dumbfounded," Stuart told the Harvard Crimson at the time. "The call came out of the blue."

The 18-year-old expert in Mayan archaeology had been studying ancient scripts since he was three years old. At the age of 14, Stuart published his first paper, "Some Thoughts on Certain Occurrences of the T565 Glyph Element at Palenque." He went on to publish two more papers before graduating high school and being accepted as a junior fellow in pre-Columbian studies at the Washington, D.C., research branch of Harvard University. Previously, the youngest MacArthur winner was a 22-year-old physicist.

6. The teen prodigy battling pancreatic cancer

One of the many unfortunate characteristics of pancreatic cancer is that it is usually caught too late to save the patient. After a family friend died of the disease, Jack Andraka decided to devote himself to making a better early-detection test. The solution came to him during his freshman biology class and the teen set to work. He read free online journals and anything that came up in Google searches to develop a plan and a budget. He sent proposals to about 200 laboratories requesting to use their facilities. He received only one acceptance letter from Dr. Anirban Maitra at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

Andraka worked at the lab after school, on weekends, and over holidays to develop his test, which he submitted to the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair ("the Olympics of science fairs," he said). The 15-year-old's final product proved to be 28 times faster, 26,000 times less expensive, and 100 times more sensitive than the current diagnostic tests. Andraka earned the fair's highest prize, including the $100,000 pot.

Sources: Associated Press (2)(3), BradAronson.com,Chicago Sun TimesHarvard CrimsonMiami NewsSmithsonianTech News Daily,The Telegraph


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10 Fun Facts About Play-Doh
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As any Play-Doh aficionado knows, September 16th is National Play-Doh Day! Let's pay tribute to your favorite modeling clay with some fun facts about the childhood play staple that began life as a cleaning product.

1. IT WAS FIRST SOLD AS WALLPAPER CLEANER.

Before kids were playing with Play-Doh, their parents were using it to remove soot and dirt from their wall coverings by simply rolling the wad of goop across the surface.

2. IF IT WEREN'T FOR CAPTAIN KANGAROO, PLAY-DOH MIGHT NEVER HAVE TAKEN OFF.

When it was just a fledgling company with no advertising budget, inventor Joe McVicker talked his way in to visit Bob Keeshan, a.k.a Captain Kangaroo. Although the company couldn’t pay the show outright, McVicker offered them two percent of Play-Doh sales for featuring the product once a week. Keeshan loved the compound and began featuring it three times weekly.

3. MORE THAN 3 BILLION CANS OF PLAY-DOH HAVE BEEN SOLD.

Since 1956, more than 3 billion cans of Play-Doh have been sold. That’s enough to reach the Moon and back a total of three times. (Not bad for a wallpaper cleaner.)

4. IT USED TO COME IN JUST ONE COLOR.

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Back when it was still a household product, Play-Doh came in just one dud of a color: off-white. When it hit stores as a toy in the 1950s, red, blue, and yellow were added. These days, Play-Doh comes in nearly every color of the rainbow—more than 50 in total—but a consumer poll revealed that fans' favorite colors are Rose Red, Purple Paradise, Garden Green, and Blue Lagoon.

5. FOR QUITE SOME TIME, DR. TIEN LIU HAD A JOB SKILL NO ONE ELSE IN THE WORLD COULD CLAIM: PLAY-DOH EXPERT.

Dr. Tien Liu helped perfect the Play-Doh formula for the original company, Rainbow Crafts, and stayed on as a Play-Doh Expert when the modeling compound was purchased by Kenner and then Hasbro.

6. YOU CAN SMELL LIKE PLAY-DOH.

Want to smell like Play-Doh? You can! To commemorate the compound’s 50th anniversary, Demeter Fragrance Library worked with Hasbro to make a Play-Doh fragrance, which was developed for “highly-creative people, who seek a whimsical scent reminiscent of their childhood.”

7. HASBRO RECENTLY TRADEMARKED THE SCENT.

Anyone who has ever popped open a fresh can of Play-Doh knows that there’s something extremely distinctive about the smell. It’s so distinctive that, in early 2017, Hasbro filed for federal protection in order to trademark the scent, which the company describes as “a unique scent formed through the combination of a sweet, slightly musky, vanilla-like fragrance, with slight overtones of cherry, and the natural smell of a salted, wheat-based dough.”

8. IT CAN CREATE A PRETTY ACCURATE FINGERPRINT.

When biometric scanners were a bit more primitive, people discovered that you could make a mold of a person’s finger, then squish Play-Doh in the mold to make a replica of the finger that would actually fool fingerprint scanners. Back in 2005, it was estimated that Play-Doh could actually fool 90 percent of all fingerprint scanners. But technology has advanced a lot since then, so don’t go getting any funny ideas. Today's more sophisticated systems aren’t so easily tricked by the doughy stuff.

9. IT HOLDS A PLACE IN THE NATIONAL TOY HALL OF FAME.

Unsurprisingly, Play-Doh holds a coveted place in the National Toy Hall of Fame at The Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester, New York. It was inducted in 1998. According to the Hall of Fame, “recent estimates say that kids have played with 700 million pounds of Play-Doh."

10. YOU CAN TURN YOUR PLAY-DOH CREATIONS INTO ANIMATED CHARACTERS.

While Play-Doh may be a classic toy, it got a state-of-the-art upgrade in 2016, when Hasbro launched Touch Shape to Life Studio, an app that lets kids turn their Play-Doh creations into animated characters.

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Unfazed by Haters, This Bug-Loving 8-Year-Old Helped Author a Scientific Paper
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Sophia Spencer's passion for insects felt perfectly normal to her and her mom. But some kids in the Canadian second-grader's class disagreed, and they didn't make an effort to hide their disgust from Sophia. "She is often teased at school by her peers because she will proudly display her current bug friend on her shoulder," her mom Nicole wrote in a letter that was widely shared on Twitter. But instead of letting bullies discourage her, Sophia held on to her love of all things creepy-crawly. That dedication has since paid off: At just 8 years old, Sophia is now the co-author of a scientific paper published in an entomology journal.

According to Science Alert, the story started when Nicole Spencer wrote to the Entomological Society of Canada (ESC) in search of a mentor to support her daughter in pursuing her hobby. "She has asked me for over a year if this is a job she can do one day, exploring and learning more about bugs and insects. I have told her that of course she could; however, I am at a loss on how to continue to encourage her in this field of science," she wrote. She then went on to ask if there were any entomologists willing to talk with Sophia about bugs and how to turn her passion into a career, writing, "I want her to know from an expert that she is not weird or strange (what kids call her) for loving bugs and insects."

The response was overwhelmingly positive. ESC shared Nicole Spencer's message on Twitter, calling on entomologists to reach out so they could be connected with Sophia. Bug-studying scientists replied with offers of books, supplies, and email addresses for sharing advice. Entomologist Jessica L Ware wrote, "she can contact my lab anytime! We are happy to send her papers, nets, whatever will keep her entomology passion going!" Another reply came from ecology professor Julia Koricheva: "I've been that girl, became an entomologist & still proudly wear bugs on my shoulder."

The tweet was so successful that it's become the subject of its own scientific publication. The paper, titled "Engaging for a Good Cause: Sophia's Story and Why #BugsR4Girls," appears in a science communication edition of the entomology journal Annals of the Entomological Society of America. In it, lead author Morgan Jackson—who sent out ESC's original tweet enlisting help for Sophia—writes about the impact Sophia's story had and how social media can be used as a tool by scientists. Sophia herself is listed as a co-author, and her section affirms that bugs are indeed awesome. "My favorite bugs are snails, slugs, and caterpillars, but my favorite one of all is grasshoppers. Last year in the fall I had a best bug friend and his name was Hoppers," she wrote.

Sophia also describes how the project made her feel more confident about her love of bugs. "It felt good to have so many people support me, and it was cool to see other girls and grown-ups studying bugs. It made me feel like I could do it too, and I definitely, definitely, definitely want to study bugs when I grow up, probably grasshoppers," she wrote. Sophia has even managed to open the eyes of some of her peers since going viral: "I told my best friend and her sister about bugs, and now they think they're cool, and her sister will pick up any bug! I think other girls who saw my story would like to study bugs too."

[h/t Science Alert]

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