THE GENIUS ISSUE
Readers praised TIME’s list of the 25 Best Inventions, which appeared in the Dec. 1–8 issue and included everything from a fusion reactor to vitamin-A-enriched “superbananas” (“@Time recognizes the power of #biofortification,” read a tweet by agribusiness Syngenta). And Steven Johnson, the author of How We Got to Now: Six Innovations That Made the Modern World, was struck by how many of the inventions–including a real-life hoverboard, a digital sign-language translator and a bike wheel that doubles as a motor–drew financing from Kickstarter and other crowdfunding platforms. Meanwhile, Walter Isaacson’s feature on computing pioneer Alan Turing was “a rich examination of his philosophical beliefs as well as his scientific achievements,” according to Julie Hanks of Watsonville, Calif. But Tom Cuff of Frederick, Md., wanted to recognize other contributions to code breaking: “The Polish intelligence services were the ones who invented the bombe … and taught the British everything about the Enigma machines.”
New York Sun editor Seth Lipsky’s comment that “more people are better” for a country–in his column criticizing the President’s executive action–didn’t sit well with University of Minnesota agronomist Les Everett. That sentiment, wrote Everett,”highlights the naive notion that populations do not depend on natural resources like water, clean air and soil to survive.”
San Francisco’s hands-on effort to eliminate HIV cases–as outlined in Alice Park’s story–won praise from Peter Heide of Olympia, Wash.: “Good article. Health care cannot be just a publicly funded program … it must include personal accountability.” But Nick Shultz of Lake Forest Park, Wash., viewed the program as too little, too late: “Somehow–650,000 American lives and billions of dollars later–attempting to do what poor, embargoed Cuba pretty much did in the 1980s and 1990s doesn’t impress me.”
NOW ON TIME.COM
For our annual Top 10 of Everything package, TIME experts rank the year’s best movies, memes, gadgets (as previewed below) and more. See the full lists at time.com/topten2014.
1. APPLE WATCH
2. SMARTTHINGS STARTER KIT
3. DJI PHANTOM VISION+
4. OCULUS RIFT DEVELOPMENT KIT 2
5. IPHONE 6 PLUS
Academy Award–winning director Kathryn Bigelow’s latest film, Last Days, is just three minutes long. Yet it has generated widespread attention since its September debut, thanks to its vivid depiction of how elephants get poached–and the process’s link to terrorism. (The ivory trade provides such groups with an estimated $600,000 per month.) “An elephant disappears every 15 minutes,” says Bigelow. “It is our hope that this film helps bring an activist into existence at least that often.” To watch the film, visit time.com/lastdays.
In order to fill its billions of dollars’ worth of holiday orders–there were 426 per second on the Monday after Thanksgiving in 2013–Amazon is increasingly turning to robots. In July the company began using 16-in., 320-lb. models made by Kiva to fetch warehouse items and says this has increased productivity. Videographer Stephen Wilkes captured them in action at Amazon’s Tracy, Calif., warehouse. For more, visit time.com/robots.
This appears in the December 15, 2014 issue of TIME.