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Friday, December 2, 2011

Best Inventions Of 2011: From Malaria Vaccine To Siri

Siri, the new virtual assistant, on the new Apple iPhone 4S. (AP)

From the digital personal assistant, Siri, to clothes made from milk, a malaria vaccine that’s still in testing and a MRI that can recreate pictures of your dreams – 2011 has seen a number of inventions that range from the ingenious to the downright weird. Time Magazine is out with a list of the 50 best.

Here are some picks from the list.

1.) The surveillance hummingbird— Engineers at AeroVironment created the Nano Air Vehicle, a surveillance prototype, wingspan 16.5 centimeters, designed to mimic a hummingbirds flight. It cost $4 million and is remote-controlled.

2.) Malaria vaccine: A team at Glaxo-SmithKline has found a malaria-vaccine candidate, it’s in the trial stages of testing but is showing success at cutting the chances of a child contracting malaria by 50 percent. At this rate, it could be on the market in 2015.

3.) Better batteries: Researchers at PolyPlus have created a working lithium-water battery that could provide more energy than the standard lithium-ion battery in your phone.

4.) Stem cells from fat: Instead of throwing it out, fat that’s vacuumed out during liposuction could be transformed into heart cells to compensate for dying tissue. Fat contains stem cells that can be turned into heart muscle in a lab dish, and now researchers have developed a method for extracting stem cells from a liposuction sample.

5.) Clothes made from milk: A German biologist and fashion designer named Anke Domaske has found a way to create clothing using a material that’s made from sour milk. He extracts protein fibers from the milk, and spins it into yarn!

What inventions do you think were the best of 2011? Post them in our comments section or on our Facebook page.

Note: Time Magazine requires readers to subscribe to see the entire list. We apologize for the inconvenience.

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Robin and Jeremy

Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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