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The Most Amazing Inventions

11 minute read

Our annual roundup of the best new products and technological innovations prompted readers to share their excitement about the cool things that await them in the future — maybe even as a holiday gift. Some, however, were troubled by the ethical implications of the cloned dog Snuppy

I truly enjoyed your selection of the best new inventions [Nov. 28]. I liked the ENV hydrogen-powered motorcycle and the Shift tricycle, whose rear wheels move closer together at higher speeds and separate for balance at slower ones. But I was most impressed by the LifeStraw [a drinking tube with powerful filters that can prevent waterborne infections, which kill millions of people in the developing world]. I’ve traveled to areas where clean water is not a given, so I can appreciate the LifeStraw’s value. Thank you for opening eyes around the world to this wonderful device.
Rathika Ramadoss
Gallup, New Mexico

Congratulations on “The Most Amazing Inventions Of 2005.” Your package on new ideas, gadgets and gifts has become another eagerly anticipated feature, like your annual Person of the Year. Thanks for keeping Time a leader.
Jim Tracy
Denver, Colorado, U.S.

I was a bit unnerved by your referring to Snuppy as an invention. The cloning technique is remarkable, without a doubt, but it is wrong to classify a cloned creature as an invention. Doing so somehow implies that a clone is different and inferior to other living creatures merely because the method of creation was changed. A clone is just another member of its species.
Laura White
Folsom, California, U.S.

Snuppy, the dog cloned by South Korean scientists, was a disturbing choice for Time‘s Invention of the Year. The cloning of mammals has an extremely low success rate, and experience suggests that Snuppy may later suffer debilitating illness. The purpose of the Snuppy experiment is clearly to put a cuter, more approachable face on the use of cloning technologies in humans. While there are people who might approve of the use of more than 100 canine egg donors and 123 surrogate mother dogs to get one viable clone, I and many others consider this “invention” a cynical public relations stunt.
Jaydee Hanson
International Center for Technology Assessment

I was thrilled By Michelin’s invention, the Tweel, a wheel that does not have an inflated tire. That is a milestone for the automobile industry and creates an incentive for giving a new look to various other components of the car. Automobiles can have a new, funky design, something different from the old-fashioned look they now have. The current styles have become too monotonous. Cars, like everything else, need frequent new approaches to exterior and engine design. I was excited to learn that the Tweel has been tested on a wheelchair and on military vehicles. I look forward to seeing Tweels on our cars as they zoom down the road.
Akshay Mor
Bangalore, India

Your list of inventions left me yawning. There weren’t any great breakthroughs to dazzle the imagination or inspire hope, or new products that promise to move civilization to its next evolutionary rung. Many of the items were trivial, or mere improvements on things already available. It’s not Time‘s fault that the year didn’t see the introduction of something fantastic. From the standpoint of new technology, it was a very dull year.
Lou Varricchio
Middlebury, Vermont, U.S.

Iraq, Past and Future
In “think twice about a pullout” [Nov. 28], columnist Joe Klein accurately presented both sides of the discussion of whether to keep American troops in Iraq or to cut our losses and get out — and the possible consequences of each position. Klein also said that determining whether President Bush intentionally misled the country into war is “a waste of time.” But Bush is the man who will make the call to get us out of the war. If we could not trust his honesty and integrity in getting us into this quagmire, what makes Klein think we can trust Bush and his cronies to get us out with dignity and honor and without a tremendous loss of life?
Samir Id-Deen
Hawthorn Woods, Illinois, U.S.

Klein is right. None of the blathering about being misled into war matters at all. What really counts is what would happen if we left Iraq before the new government was ready to take over all the duties we now perform. Would the Middle East situation worsen or not? Would the U.S. be seen as weak and thereby become more vulnerable to attack both at home and abroad? We must see our mission through in Iraq. And I say this as a father whose son will be entering the Army in 2007 and could go to Iraq before the war is over. We are making progress, despite what the spineless members of both parties in Congress want to acknowledge and in spite of the mass media that seem to be rooting for our failure. The consequences of pulling out too soon would be terrible, not only for Iraq but also for the U.S. Instead of talking about leaving, we need to go about winning.
Bryan Boyd
Bristol, Tennessee, U.S.

The Middle East is inherently unstable. An American pullout from Iraq would increase its instability. But so would a continued American presence there. And sending yet more troops to Iraq — if there were more troops to send — would only make things worse. We are seeing in retrospect that Saddam Hussein’s brutal regime, crippled and contained in the aftermath of the first Gulf War, was the best of many bad scenarios. As for the future, we can pull out U.S. troops and watch things disintegrate, or we can stay in Iraq and watch things disintegrate. The only benefit to the first scenario is that Americans won’t be the ones getting killed.
Allen B. Ury
Costa Mesa, California, U.S.

It seems clear that the U.S. needs to deploy additional troops in Iraq and that commanders have repeatedly asked for more manpower. Any military historian knows that a war cannot be won when the enemy is allowed either to rearm or to get money and additional troops on a regular basis. That situation is occurring in Iraq because the U.S. does not have enough troops to close the borders with Syria and Iran. We won’t win in Iraq until we have more troops to close its borders.
Don Johnson
Kirkland, Washington, U.S.

Putting El Caudillo to Rest
“Farewell To Franco” offered a simplistic view of Francisco Franco’s dictatorial regime in Spain [Nov. 21]. The only reason that Franco is in the spotlight again is the current government’s obsession with the Civil War. Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero seems to be consumed by what happened 70 years ago. He wants to demonstrate that there were good guys and bad guys in our Civil War and that the so-called spirit of transition to democracy of the 1970s, in which the Spanish people preferred to look together to a democratic future rather than repeat the errors of the past, was a mistake. Fortunately, as usual, Spain’s citizens are smarter than its politicians. Most of the people are not interested in this historical revisionism. Nobody wins in a war — especially a civil war. Many families can tell you stories of atrocities committed by both sides. But fortunately, Franco and the Civil War have no place in today’s Spain — despite Zapatero’s obsession.
Javier Crespo
Santander, Spain

If the Spanish government insists on revisiting the history of Spain’s Civil War and Franco’s regime as it weighs changes to the Valley of the Fallen memorial, it should consider the actions of both sides. Crimes and atrocities were committed in Spain by both Franco’s Nationalists and the opposition Republicans. If the discussion is not evenhanded, half the Spaniards will not be represented.
Antonio Pérez Rubio

Franco is dead and forgotten in the minds of most Spaniards. We were ready a long time ago to lay him to rest. He and his supporters, an insignificant minority of Spaniards, do not play any role in current Spanish politics. You included with your story a photo of supporters of the nationalistic Falange party that was captioned “Hate Wave.” Why? There isn’t any wave of hate in Spain.
David J. Santos

Bitter Harvest
Simon Robinson’s article “The Farm Fight” [Nov. 28] pointed out a real problem faced by developing countries: the World Trade Organization’s inability to persuade the U.S. and European countries to curb their trade-distorting agricultural subsidies. We used to think that the problems of underdeveloped countries could be solved just by reducing their debt. But this would merely be a gift to their tyrannical leaders. I would like to see Bob Geldof and Bono tackle the issue of reducing the rich world’s agricultural subsidies. They are truly unfair.
Sergio Elia
Abbiategrasso, Italy

Power Failure
I was pleased to read “The Man Who Wasn’t There” by political commentator Alain Duhamel [Nov. 28]. It’s rewarding to see that a French intellectual realizes that France is in bad shape and that he has an explanation for the failure of French President Jacques Chirac to do what he was elected for. As Duhamel wrote, “Chirac has failed to tackle France’s two most pressing social problems: unemployment and the integration of immigrant populations.” Duhamel and other French intellectuals must now accept that all the French psychobabble about victimized youth did not explain the riots in the banlieues. What is really sad is the number of burned cars and shops it has taken to open the eyes of France’s so-called intelligentsia.
Nicolas Thébault
Versailles, France

The riots that exploded in the French suburbs are another proof, if needed, that French immigration policy is a total failure. Our demagogues have let thousands of African immigrants settle in our country without showing any concern for their integration. They were housed in huge, cheap unconnected buildings outside the main cities and offered no opportunity to work. The result? Thousands of uneducated people lived in isolation in indecent conditions. Those housing projects turned into lawless cities in which gangs ruled by threat, violence and blackmail. The police, much less firefighters, doctors and nurses, did not dare enter. The French integration model is a fraud. The various steps that the state has taken and that are going to cost the taxpayers billions of dollars will temporarily mend the situation. But in the long term, the gap between the two communities will not close until the French of immigrant descent are properly educated and trained and the nation can give them real jobs and decent housing. Knowing my countrymen, I figure that will take a while, if it ever happens.
Bernard Goussault
Le Perreux sur Marne, France

Heroes Give Hope
Thank you for your extensive coverage of global health [Nov. 7]. In a world that is becoming more and more interconnected, the problems of people in Africa or Asia are also those of the West. Trying to solve them means that we will make the world a better place for all of us. Topics like these may not make for easy conversation, but it is the stories of people like Dr. Paul Farmer, whose goal is to provide first-class health care to the poor, and Cynthia Maung, who runs a medical clinic on the dangerous Thailand-Burma border, that give me hope for the future, not the big political visions of the White House. Thank you for giving a voice to those who are normally neglected by the media. That is what I call quality journalism.
Morena Nannetti

I was inspired by your articles on “Global Health” and your profiles of heroes from around the world who fight diseases in the poorest countries. The selection was impressive. Since I’m working on a Ph.D. in molecular biology, I wish you had included someone doing not just clinical but basic biological research on deadly diseases. The interview with Bill and Melinda Gates indicated that very little is being done by governments to help create drugs for diseases in poor countries, which makes me curious about what is happening. Bill Gates has been celebrated as a philanthropist. Isn’t it time to call him a hero too?
Claes Molin
Gothenburg, Sweden

Celebrating Arab Scholars
Re Your interesting article “Ahead Of Their Time,” on the Paris exhibition of Arab cultural breakthroughs [Nov. 21]: The gold astrolabe you pictured does not bear Arabic script but is in Hebrew. Could you explain why?
Michaela Mills

Fourteenth century Spain was populated by Muslims, Christians and Jews, who exchanged cultural and scientific knowledge. The astrolabe was an Arab invention, but the devices are inscribed in many different languages — Arabic, Latin, Greek, Hebrew — depending on the craftsman or intended owner. The one we showed just happens to be inscribed in Hebrew.

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