The Daily Beast and their panel of MacGeniuses came up with a list of twenty "smartest people of 2010." Nobody I actually know made the list, but I have some opinions on some of them. Of course the really smart people of 2010 are probably toiling in utter obscurity in some math or physics department, but we are sticking with just the public types here.
#15 Christopher Hitchens. A very clever, passionate, and erudite fellow who manages to be wrong about a lot of stuff. If I had to be stuck on a long ocean voyage with only one person to talk to, he would be my choice from this list.
#14 Kanye West. WTF?
#8 Felisa Wolfe-Simon. Probably a good scientist who did some nice work with the arsenic tolerating bacteria, but this story was so absurdly hyped by NASA and the press that it really has become something of an embarassment. The bottom line seems to be that she and colleagues do not seem to have proven metabolic replacement of phosphorus in cellular processes.
#5 J. Craig Ventner. Yes, of course.
#4 Mark Zuckerberg. Well, he is lucky, which as Napoleon noted, is far more important than being good. I'm sure he's also bright, but is Facebook good for anything besides entertaining the idiots with global gossip?
#3 Steve Jobs. If there is such a thing as a business genius, Jobs is the man. Many of the tech zillionaires are mostly lucky, but Jobs really is a guy with vision and artistic temperment. That said, I use an android, not an iphone, and only rarely use my powerbook.
#2 Bill and Melinda Gates. They certainly deserve a lot of credit for trying to put their money to good use in the world. Is that genius? Well, it is virtue.
#1 Jon Stewart. I'm a big fan of this talented entertainer, and his heart is usually in the right place, but he really isn't that smart - or even very well informed. Of course he is well ahead of 95% of politicians and 99% of what passes for television news types.