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John C. Mather, 60
Astrophysicist, co-winner of the 2006 Nobel Prize in physics

"One of the most powerful scientific tools ever invented is the telephone," Mather says. When inspiration falters, he dials up his colleagues to brainstorm. Or he tries explaining what's stumping him to his wife, a ballet teacher. "It makes the problem clearer to me because I have to go back to the beginning and question all the basic assumptions." But, he adds, there's nothing like fear of failure to catapult the brain into action. "When you have a deadline or when you know that your equipment is about to go up in a rocket and you won't have another chance to fix it, your mind works in a way that it otherwise never would."