Ten Inventions That Will Change Your World

Space exploration is the ultimate megaproject. Idled space shuttles sit in their hangars in Florida like pampered royalty, with white-coated technicians in attendance. The collaboration extends to engineers, contractors and nations. Is all this cooperation such a grand thing? Or is it part of what's wrong with the space program: as sign of what happens when innovation is merely the outcome of meetings?

Some say progress is now the province of groups, and the days of the lone inventor are over. Maybe so. But inventors will never disappear. "The initial flash of an idea is often an individual idea," says Francis S. Collins, head of the National Human Genome Research Institute and World Economic Forum fellow. "So brilliant, creative people are crucial." Since the dot-com bust, such types have continued to ply their craft in labs and basements, producing ideas that seem obscure, even loopy, until a closer look reveals their world-shifting import. Here are 10 such individual visions that may change our collective future.