Finally, a business publication issues a juicy, substantive list of business visionaries and innovators who actually reflect the general population ("The 100 Most Creative People in Business"). I am so sick of publications honoring deathly pale 24-year-old entrepreneurs living in their mom's basement and middle-age white guys working on their fifth startup. Yes, those guys matter. We can learn a lot from them. But the young, the old, third-world residents, minorities, and women have always had just as much creative energy as the stereotypical entrepreneur. Now, with the democratization of innovation exploding around us, they have a chance to grab investors and cheap tools for prototyping and product development to gain meaningful market access. This issue is a welcome mirror on a new reality — and I'm delighted your team had the curiosity to so beautifully photograph and verbally express the fascinating sculptors of our future.
Lady Gaga, No. 1 on your list, should not be considered some great source of civic pride. Only 30,000 hours of community service from her fans? I almost laughed when I saw that number in your article. The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire alone produces 100,000 hours annually.
Eau Claire, Wisconsin
I find stories that list the 100 most creative or the top 100 smartest people to be almost without value. Great for them and their companies, but these are people I'll never meet or companies I'll never do business with. What's supposed to be my takeaway? Why not cut the list down to 5 or 10? After a while, they all run together.
Sean O. Allen
Chef Jamie Oliver would have to get my vote for No. 1. I think what he is trying to do about obesity in America is maybe the most important work anyone has done in a good long while. He is one of the good guys.
Go Back, Bill
Kudos, Farhad Manjoo, for having the courage to say what the editors of most business mags seem unwilling to say (Tech Edge). I count many Microsoft veterans and alumni among my friends. They all recognize that not only does Steve Ballmer lack any semblance of vision but he has also systematically purged Microsoft execs who might have been viable candidates to replace him. Perhaps the most perplexing question is why Bill Gates still sanctions Steve as CEO.
Barry L. Smith
Energy, Found — and Lost?
All but one of the examples in "Supertiny Power Plants" run afoul of the second law of thermodynamics, which, simply stated, says that any system that converts energy has losses. Take a stretch of road and implant the devices discussed. In the absence of vehicles, no power is produced. Therefore, it is the passage of the vehicles that causes the power to be created. Considering the second law, we can positively state that the amount of power produced by the system is less than the additional power expended by the passing vehicles.
Only the helicopter example makes sense. The power to drive the sensor must be derived from the helicopter's engine, via either a traditional generator/transmission line approach or the one described.
The magnitude of the energy crisis is such that fortunes stand to be made solving it. For this reason, there are innumerable "solutions" being brought forth. Sadly, the overwhelming majority of them simply will not work.
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A version of this article appeared in the September 2010 issue of Fast Company magazine.