The 50 Best Inventions

The year's most inspired ideas, innovations and revolutions, from the microscopic to the stratospheric

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Phillip Toledano / Trunk Archive

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5.06 METERS | Electric cars are undoubtedly good for the earth, but are they any good to drive? Too often the answer has been no, but the souped-up Fisker Karma is a scorching exception. Developed by Henrik Fisker, the Danish automobile designer behind iconic sports cars like the BMW Z8, the Karma has an all-electric range of 80 km. But its greenness aside, the Karma is also an unabashed luxury product, with sustainably sourced wood trim, a high-tech paint job, solar panels built into the roof and a drive system that can go from 0 to 60 m.p.h. in 6.3 seconds. (Unlike the equally zippy electric Tesla Roadster, the Karma also has a gas engine that extends the driving range by 400 km.) It's not surprising that green celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio already have Karmas in their driveways.


APPROXIMATELY 8 METERS | "I, for one, welcome our new computer overlords." Those were the words of 74-time Jeopardy! champion Ken Jennings after IBM's Watson computing system dismantled him and another top Jeopardy! player in a man-vs.-machine challenge last February. Though the publicity stunt may have secured Watson its notoriety, the computing system, which is the size of 10 refrigerators and performs 80 trillion operations per second, has higher aspirations. The machine is not simply Google version 2.0. Rather than gathering countless pieces of data, Watson aims to relay only one — the necessary one.


13.4 METERS | What will soon be the fastest car in the world isn't in NASCAR or Formula racing or even in a Fast and Furious movie. By 2013, the world's fastest car will be the Bloodhound SSC. The goal: 1,000 m.p.h. — nearly Mach 1.4 at sea level. The current record of 763 m.p.h. was set in 1997 by the Thrust SSC, driven by Andy Green, who is also slated to helm the Bloodhound. The Bloodhound has both an EJ200 jet engine and a hybrid Falcon rocket engine, the combined power of which will enable the 7-ton car to reach 1,000 m.p.h. in only 42 seconds. Project director Richard Noble is relying on contributions from corporate sponsors and individuals to fund the car's development.


15.8 METERS | Marines are sending unmanned helicopters to Afghanistan to test a safer way to supply troops deep inside hostile territory. The 3-ton, twin-rotor K-MAX, built by Lockheed and Kaman, will be capable of ferrying up to 3 tons of supplies. Human controllers will guide it from its main base to isolated forward-operating bases. The goal: replacing risky truck convoys that are exposed to ambushes and roadside bombs.

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