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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73.2 METERS (120 BAGUETTES LAID END TO END) | Americans have their late-night slices of pizza, and now, thanks to an entrepreneurial French baker, Parisians will have their late-night baguettes. For 1 euro, or about $1.35, hungry night owls in Paris and the town of Hombourg-Haut in northeastern France can get a nice warm baguette well after the country's roughly 33,000 bakeries have closed for the night. Jean-Louis Hecht told the Associated Press he got the idea from living above the bakery he owns and having customers knocking on his door at all hours, seeking a carb fix to tide them over until the morning. His machines can hold up to 120 precooked baguettes at a time. In his first month he sold 1,600, and in July, his machines moved 4,500.


94.7 METERS (ONE CITY BLOCK) | Police officers in Santa Cruz, Calif., are getting ahead of the bad guys by figuring out where crimes will be committed before they take place. Using a computer program developed by mathematicians, an anthropologist and a criminologist, officers are able to predict what areas of the city are most at risk for future crimes and the time the crimes are most likely to occur, so they can have a member of the force at the ready.


100 METERS | When the city of Copenhagen spent 3.5 billion kroner ($640 million) on a new waste-to-energy plant — the largest environmental project in Denmark — officials didn't want it to be just a 100-m-tall incinerator. They needed a way to turn the waste-treatment facility into a tourist destination, so they solicited bids to integrate the structure into the city. The winning architect, Bjarke Ingels, designed a 425-m-long, 31,000-sq-m ski slope with areas for skiers of all skill levels.


412 METERS | Kuwait City's newest skyscraper spirals up from the sand, but al-Hamra Tower is no desert mirage. The centerpiece of the booming Arab city, it stands tall in a challenging climate. The tower needed a shield from the blistering Arabian Desert to the south while preserving sweeping views of the Persian Gulf to the north, so architects Skidmore, Owings & Merrill wrapped the tower in glass and added a sweeping cut up the south facade covered in limestone. The rock face reflects the desert heat with a distinct salute to the unrelenting Middle Eastern sun. The aesthetic 90-degree curve traces the sun's path across the sky and is punctuated by glass wings at the top, making al-Hamra seem to rise ever higher.

The original version of this article did not mention Dr. Ali Aliev's affiliation with the University of Texas at Dallas.

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