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The TIME 100 most influential things in the world - 2011

By Joel Stein

 

1. Earthquakes
Not just the tsunami-causing one in Tohoku, Japan, that killed more than 14,000 people, but the ones in Burma and Christchurch, New Zealand as well. No matter how sophisticated we get with our gadgets and eighth-grade method of categorizing conflict in novels, it's still man vs. nature out there. Man vs. himself is for bored rich people.

2. The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant's reactor core
Worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl. Worst Gilbert Gottfried disaster since 9/11.

3. Youth unemployment
Causing unrest throughout the third world and uncomfortable interactions when buying Big Macs from people older than you.

4. Bombs
Like protests but far more effective.

5. Protests
Still far more effective than petitions. Glenn Beck tried one; Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert pretended they were mocking it but really just wanted to throw one too. Wisconsin teachers couldn't stop doing it. Then the "Arab Street" actually went to the streets in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Algeria, Bahrain, Iran, Djibouti, Iraq, Jordan, Syria, Oman and Yemen. And the U.S. somehow managed to get only one war out of it.

6. Tweets
Ending a painful past in which people went on and on in bursts longer than 140 characters. Now they go on and on all day in burst of 140 characters. Much improved.

7. Diplomatic cables
Like e-mail but sexier. Thanks to WikiLeaks' exposure of American diplomatic cables, we learned that Colonel Muammar Gaddafi sleeps in a tent when in hotel rooms and travels with a voluptuous blond Ukrainian nurse. Making him the world's most powerful 12-year-old.

8. The government shutdown
Seemed so scary, and yet all anyone could say would happen was that we wouldn't be able to go to national parks. I bet we could have still gotten into national parks. They're pretty big, and those gates are pretty small.

9. Watson
The robot kicked Jeopardy! champion Ken Jennings out of a purpose, but Jennings then went and wrote a funny, self-deprecating bit about it for Slate. Which means, indirectly, that the robots have taken my job.

10. The Verizon iPhone
Its main influence was stopping the painful conversations about how this person would totally get an iPhone, but AT&T's coverage sucks.

11. The Constitution
Thanks to the Tea Party, it's become the bible for conservatives, except for the Bible, which is really the bible for conservatives. So they've got two bibles. I wonder if this list could become like a third bible for them. They like bibles.

12. The cloud
Everything is up there. It better have a surge protector.

13. The drug called Charlie Sheen
Although only one man has ever done it (Smoked it? Snorted it? Injected it? Basked in it? Only one man knows), it changed the history of both CBS television and celebrity. "I am on a drug. It's called Charlie Sheen. It's not available because if you try it once, you will die. Your face will melt off, and your children will weep over your exploded body." Also, you will bore the crap out of live audiences.

14. Alcohol
Influencing people to do both regrettable things and things they pretend they regret.

15. Muppets
A few lip-synching YouTube videos, and they've got a 2011 hipster movie written by and starring Jason Segel.

16. Home
No one goes out anymore.

17. Whatever the opposite of unions is
Whatever the opposite of unions is, is getting union contracts ripped apart and even getting liberal documentarians to destroy the teachers' unions' reputations.

18. The debt ceiling
If they called it a "debt roof," people would be way more excited about raising it.

19. Conflict minerals
Not as sexy as blood diamonds but still pretty sexy.

20. Birth certificates
In the age of Photoshop, people still want to see them.

21. Vampires
Losing ground to zombies but still kicking mummy ass.

22. No-fly zones
If you need proof that we live in an ugly time: the great 1990s euphemism for not having sex is the 2010s euphemism for war.

23. Thundersnow
A rainstorm with thunder, well branded.

24. Eyjafjallajökull
Despite the weak dollar, Iceland's volcano was able to stop Europeans from heading to America.

25. Bioengineered fish
The FDA may soon say it's O.K. to eat giant salmon, but people are worried about giant salmon escaping from fish farms and leading to the most lame horror movie ever.


View the full list for "The 2011 TIME 100"

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Tags: 100, 2011, TIME, influence, top, world

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