What's the biggest problem facing humanity over the next 50 years? According to Nobel lauriate Richard Smalley, the answer is energy. In an engaging and thought-provoking lecture, Smalley explains that finding sustainable sources of energy for the entire world will not only alleviate a growing energy crisis, but will also assist in the solution to many of the world's other problems, such as water, terrorism, and health.
In addition to diagnosing the magnitude of the problem, Smalley also presents his vision for our energy future -- the transition to renewable sources of energy by developing cost-effective technologies that capture solar, wind, and geothermal energy. While the talk looses a bit of its perspective at the end as Smalley argues that advances in his area (nanotechnology) are the key to achieving a sustainable energy future, it is interesting to contrast his general emphasis on the need for new energy technologies with the relatively decline in the proportion of R&D funding given to energy (see below).