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Future Visionaries

Molecule-sized semi-conductors, goats producing spider webs and rocket fuel power in a can of soda may sound like products from science fiction, but they are actual innovations that may affect the world in the near future.

December's issue of Scientific American magazine pays tribute to the people currently making the most important contributions to science and technology.

John Rennie, editor-in-chief of Scientific American magazine, visited The Early Show to name a few from the list of 50 people who made science and technology contributions.

The list includes not only researchers but business leaders, policy leaders and others. The issue recognizes contributions over the past year that provide a vision of a better future.

Rennie says the editors wanted to recognize some of the most outstanding visionaries who are advancing technology and working towards a brighter future for the world. Scientists aren't the only ones doing this. That's why the Scientific American 50 includes business leaders, policy leaders, companies and other organizations that influence how society puts innovations to good use.

The list spotlights accomplishments in the following categories: agriculture, chemicals & materials, communications, computing, defense, energy, environment, manufacturing, medical diagnostics, medical treatments, transportation and general technology. Each category recognizes a Business Leader, Policy Leader, Company Leader and Research Leader.

The list's top two distinctions are Research Leader of the Year and Business Leader of the Year. Business Leader of the Year went to a U.S.-Canadian developer of a new fuel cell. Rennie says the research has done the most to advance the progress of hydrogen fuel cells that could provide a cleaner source of automotive power. The work shows that hydrogen-consuming fuel cells could work in vehicles like a city bus, and will hopefully result in a hydrogen distribution system that would finally make possible widespread adoption of the technology.

A husband and wife team was recognized for the achievement of splicing spider genes into goat mammary cells to create a silk that is lighter, tougher and more flexible than the material in bulletproof vests.

Rennie says there were also several contributions noted in the area of miniaturization. A low-cost rocket engine the size of a soda can that delivers 400 pounds of thrust has been developed. It may someday increase the accessibility of space travel. Inventors are recognized for the development of nanotechnology devices with molecule-sized components that could eventually supplant semiconductor microchips.