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Sinatra Bobby Soxers: clip from Teenage

The documentary Teenage, about the history of the concept of teenagers, will open in theaters on March 14th, 2014. Above, an exclusive clip from the movie about Frank Sinatra bobby soxers.

Teenagers didn't always exist. They had to be invented. As the cultural landscape around the world was thrown into turmoil during the industrial revolution, and with a chasm erupting between adults and youth, the concept of a new generation took shape. Whether in America, England, or Germany, whether party-crazed Flappers or hip Swing Kids, zealous Nazi Youth or frenzied Sub-Debs, it didn't matter - this was a new idea of youth. They were all "Teenagers."

A hypnotic rumination on the genesis of youth culture from the end of the 19th century to the first half of the 20th, Matt Wolf's Teenage is a living collage of rare archival material, filmed portraits, and diary entries read by Jena Malone, Ben Whishaw, and others. Inspired by Jon Savage's book and set to a shimmering contemporary score by Bradford Cox (Deerhunter / Atlas Sound), Teenage is a mesmerizing trip into the past and a riveting look at the very idea of "coming-of-age."

Teenage, a film by Matt Wolf

AIDS research done by 17-year-olds: Day 2 at AAAS 2012

It’s that time again. Maggie is back at the largest science convention in the Western Hemisphere for four days of wall-to-wall awesomeness.

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Teenagers: Enter YouTube Space Lab competition by December 14

Scientific American and YouTube are offering teenagers a chance to participate in real science. It works like this: Think up a question that can only be tested via an experiment performed in space. Make a video about your idea and submit it to the contest by December 14.

The two best ideas will actually be tested in space. That's right. If you win this, an experiment you designed will be performed by astronauts aboard the International Space Station. And you'll get some cool stuff—like a zero-G flight on board the "Vomit Comet" now, and, when you turn 18, actual cosmonaut training in Russia. Yeah. For real.

Oh, and Stephen-freaking-Hawking will be one of the judges.

This whole thing is a little insane.

If you're between the ages of 14 and 18, and you live on Earth, you can enter. Do it. Seriously. There are grown-ups who want to live vicariously through you.

For inspiration, here are some sample entries.

Awesome mentor program for Toronto high schoolers

This year, six Toronto-area high school students will get to learn supercomputing from researchers at The University of Toronto. If you'd like to be one of them, check out the application materials. Deadline is October 21. (Via Jonathan Dursi)

Teen driving restrictions don't have as big an impact as expected

My friend Jim captured this excellent moment in science reporting this morning. Thankfully, as I check Google News now, the headlines are drifting more towards the real story, which is fairly interesting. Turns out, deadly car accidents aren't so much a function of driver age as they are a function of driver experience.

Basically, over the past few decades, several states have placed stringent limits on teenage drivers—usually when they can drive, and who they can drive with. The idea was to separate first-time drivers from risky driving situations, and a lot of people assumed these measures were saving lives. Instead, we now know, the rules merely shifted when the deadly accidents happened. Some lives were saved. But, in general, the results were pretty much a wash.

The researchers found that states with the most restrictive graduated licensing programs — such as those that required supervised driving time as well as having night-driving restrictions and passenger limitations — saw a 26% reduction in the rate of fatal crashes involving 16-year-old drivers compared with states without any restrictions.

But the rate of fatal crashes among 18-year-old drivers in those states jumped 12% compared with the states without restrictions.

A similar trend was seen when comparing drivers in states with strong graduated licensing programs with those in states with weak programs: The rate of fatal crashes among 16-year-old drivers was 16% lower but was 10% higher among 18-year-old drivers.

Overall, since the first program was enacted in 1996, graduated programs were linked to 1,348 fewer fatal crashes involving 16-year-old drivers and 1,086 more fatal crashes involving 18-year-old drivers.

The speculative response: You can place restrictions on new drivers that limit their exposure to situations where mistakes are likely to happen. But, eventually, they'll have to navigate those situations on their own. And when they do, the mistakes creep back in. So maybe we need to look for a better way to mitigate the mistakes than simply instituting age-dependent restrictions. Personally, I wonder what the results would be if driving education included time to practice driving (either virtually or on a test course) with the distractions they're likely to encounter in real life. I know I learned how to drive and talk at the same time, and how to know when to shut everybody up, by experience. Maybe there's a way to do that in a safer environment.

Another radioactive Boy Scout

My old employers, mental_floss magazine, have a new editor and some cool new stories out in their September/October issue. One is about a kid who built a nuclear reactor at age 14. No, not that kid. Meet Taylor Wilson, a kid who shares some hobbies with the more-famous "Radioactive Boy Scout" David Hahn, but with, apparently so far, less tragic results. (It helps that Wilson, unlike Hahn, discussed his plans with adults who helped set him up with the right safety environment to build his reactor in.) Another difference: Wilson's interests lie with fusion, not fission.

By the time Wilson stumbled across Fusor.net, 30 hobbyists worldwide had managed to produce the reaction; Wilson was determined to become the thirty-first. He started amassing the necessary components, such as a high-voltage power supply (used to run neon signs), a reaction chamber where fusion takes place (typically a hollow stainless steel sphere, like a flagpole ornament), and a vacuum pump to remove air particles from the chamber (often necessary for testing space equipment).

Wilson also funneled money collected from Christmases and birthdays toward buying radioactive items, many of which, to his surprise, were available around town. Smoke detectors, he learned, contain small amounts of a radio-active element called americium, while camping lanterns contain thorium. In antique stores, he found pottery called Fiestaware that was painted with an orange uranium glaze. Wilson trolled websites such as eBay for an array of nuclear paraphernalia, from radon sniffers to nuclear fuel pellets, and came to own more than 30 Geiger counters of varying strengths and abilities. Most of Wilson’s radioactive acquisitions weren’t dangerous, given their small quantities. But a few—vials of powdered radium, for example—could be fatal if mishandled, which is why he’s never opened them. (Although he’s been tempted.)

There's a longer preview of the story online. The rest is in the new print issue.

Image: Radiation Suit Minifigure, a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (2.0) image from n8kowald's photostream