Friday, January 2, 2009

50 Best Inventions (?)

Time magazine has offered a list of the year's fifty best inventions.

Unfortunately, the list makes me wonder if the people who compiled the list even know what an invention is. I like, but does it really count as an "invention" in the same way that "smog-eating cement" (#37) does, and if so, does really rate the number four slot? What about "Facebook for Spies" (#32)? For that matter, why do several different brands of electric car rate different slots, the Tesla Roadster (#2), the Chevy Volt (#7), the Aptera Electric Car (#46) each get their own, even though the hyperlinked articles do not show them to contain any really different, fundamental innovations?

Even sloppier, many of the things that may actually be considered "inventions" have yet to be invented properly speaking, the more exciting items generally just concepts characterized as still in development, like "Green Crude" (#11), or "Airborne Wind Power" (work on which did not begin in 2008, but much earlier, and which will deserve much more than the crummy #35 awarded it here if the R & D folks deliver the goods).

Most of the items on the round-up are certainly worth knowing about, but the presentation is a reminder of the execrable quality of journalism about science and technology, to which this article is no exception.

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