"For something ubiquitous that we don't notice, yet 'indispensable' and with huge recent improvements, I'd nominate 'intentional genetics' [the altering of genetic information to produce a desired effect—ed.]. This invention dates back 9,000 years and affects essentially all of our food, pets, children and medical practice. It is beginning to impact our energy and materials. It is quite likely that millions would die if we removed this invention (or even the past few years of improvements) from the earth—probably more impact than if we removed all iPhones."
Director, Center for Computational Genetics
Harvard Medical School, Cambridge, Mass.
"I could not survive without a ballpoint pen in my back pocket. It's invaluable for scribbling notes on the front of my hand (my version of the PalmPilot...) to remind me to do things I used to be able to remember unaided before my age converged with my IQ while traveling in opposite directions."
John P. Moore
Professor of Microbiology and Immunology
Weill Medical College of Cornell University, New York City
"Indoor plumbing! It's the most important gadget we've got—everything else is child's play."
Michael E. Webber
Associate Director, Center for International Energy & Environmental Policy
University of Texas at Austin
"The three higher-tech things that I most depend on are my couple-year-old MacBook Pro, my couple-year-old 32 gigabyte iPhone, and my several-year-old Bose wave radio. My wife's Volvo XC70 is also pretty nice."
M. Granger Morgan
Professor and Head of Engineering and Public Policy
Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh