Hopeful Highlights From The 2006 Scientific American 50 Awards

Here’s a quick look, through my personal filter, at a few of the very hopeful 2006 Scientific American 50 award winners for the most important developments in the science world during 2006.

It’s very hopeful to note that Climate Change and Sustainability were big winners in this year’s picks:

Swiss Re, a global reinsurer was awarded business leader of the year for its co-sponsorship (along with the United Nations Development Program) of a major report and documentary highlighting the potential economic impact of global warming.

Al Gore was awarded Policy Leader of the year for his tireless work communicating the truth about climate change. The movie, An Inconvenient Truth, has become the third-highest grossing documentary of all time. You go Al!

In the Trends in Business, Policy and Research, a major section was devoted to advances in alternative fuels and other tools for improving the environmental performance of vehicles. These include new technologies to produce biodiesel from renewable sources (including industrial waste, thereby “closing the loop”) more efficient hybrid engines that work at highway speeds as well as in city driving, and plug-in hybrids.

It was interesting to note how many of the award winners accomplished tasks that were considered unlikely or, in two cases, previously thought to be “impossible.”

Here are some of the no longer impossible feats.

In the new field of Plasmonics – in which light is turned from a three-dimensional wave into a two dimensional one – researchers created a microscope that can see details smaller than the wavelength of the illuminating light – “a feat that physics textbooks used to say was impossible.” This technology has also created an “invisibility cloak” ala Harry Potter. (You can bet the military is throwing big bucks into this technology!)

Here’s another one: “Conventional wisdom specifies that the central nervous system – the brain, spinal cord and eye nerves – cannot heal in adults. This thinking no longer holds.” Researchers have found a molecule that triggers nerve regeneration.

Another hopeful, to me at least, award went to Warren Buffet. Fortune Magazine said he is “breaking the mold of how extremely rich people donate money.” Buffet is giving away 30 Billion (yes that’s with a B) dollars, more than 85% of his wealth. (He’ll still probably be able to retire pretty well with the few Billion he has left!) What an incredible example to others in the “extremely rich” category.

I find it inspiring to hear about these positive developments in the world of science, technology and high finance. As we, individually and collectively, offer the desire for more effective solutions to problems and refine our positive vision of the future, we make it possible for the seemingly impossible to become true.

Keep dreaming. The bigger our dreams and visions, the bigger the breakthroughs will have to be to make them come true.

And our dreams and visions do come true!

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