Technological overoptimism lurks as a persistent risk to both professional and amateur watchers of advances, from artificial intelligence to the flying car. But sometimes new technologies actually live up to some of the wildest expectations for them.
This year’s SciAm 50 awards are replete with instances of new machines or chemicals that come close to the true meaning of innovation as something entirely new. One winner has created an instrument that measures fluids in zeptoliters, or sextillionths of a liter. (You know, the zeptoliter, the measurement unit that is 1,000th of an attoliter?)