GOOD


It appears the time for end-of-year lists is upon us. Popular Science gets a jump on its media brethren, inaugurating the season with its "Best of What's New 2008." Most of the list is high-concept tech and lust-worthy gadgets--like Sony's three-millimeter thick OLED TV, which garnered the mag's "Innovation of the Year"--but there are a few items that could benefit the world at-large. Aside from an entire section devoted to green tech, there's the hyper-efficient Ford EcoBoost engine, Honda's hydrogen fuel-cell-powered car, a new heart-transplant method that will cut down on organ rejection, and GE's handheld unit for detecting environmental toxins.PopSci also features a few of the innovators behind the new technologies. Yan Xiao is a professor of engineering at the University of Southern California who developed a method for making wooden beams out of notoriously difficult-to-work-with bamboo. The plant is more sustainable (growing faster and absorbing more carbon) than most other types of timber, and Xiao is now using it to rebuild homes lost due to the May earthquake in China's Sichuan province. University of California at Berkeley engineer Daniel Fletcher also gets props for his work developing a cell phone-cum-microscope. The device can take a picture of a person's skin (or a drop of their blood) and transmit it to a lab across the world for near-immediate disease diagnosis. Fletcher's students recently tried out the technology in the war-ravaged Democratic Republic of Congo.(Photo of Mariah Power Windspire from PopSci.com)