Even Fabiola Gianott would have been a better pick
Time magazine's person of the year pick always seems to be controversial, especially in1939 when it picked Adolph Hitler. That was explained by pointing to his impact on the world, not whether he was a good or bad person.
I won't quibble about Time's selection today of President Barack Obama; a lot can be said about his impact on America and the world, for good or for bad. But I think the magazine struck out, perhaps blinded by its ideology, in overlooking Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani girl shot in the head by the Taliban for advocating girls' education. Reports said she came in a close second to Obama.
What she has going for her: Her near-martyrdom; her determined fight in the faced of overwhelming odds; the fact that she's still a girl when men and women in full maturity would not have dared to continue to defy the murderous Taliban. (Look here for its treatment of women.) Most important, she is a spark within a world still dominated by Medieval hatreds and persecution. She is an inspiration for more Islamic women to speak and act for reform of the debasing culture that values women no more than dogs. Would that feminists in this part of the world would speak out with the same force. Her impact could be incalculable.
I notice that another woman also in the running, but didn't make it--Fabiola Gianotti. Who's that, you ask? Someone's whose impact on mankind could be even greater. She is an Italian particle physicist, in charge of the ATLAS experiment at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN in Switzerland, considered the world's biggest scientific experiment. It is this experiment that is searching for the Higgs boson that could change our understanding of the world. According to the experiment's website:
This result is an important advance in our understanding of the basic forces holding the universe together. In particular this new boson provides support for the existence of the proposed Higgs field, which explains how some particles come to have mass and others don't. Without mass, all particles would fly around freely and matter as we know it would not exist.
Physicists work to a theory of fundamental particles and their interactions called the Standard Model, which was first proposed in the 1970s. So far experiments have been able to confirm the existence of nearly all its elements with a high degree of precision. The Higgs boson, however, had eluded detection until now, prompting speculation that the theory could be incomplete. The findings so far suggest a Higgs boson compatible with the Standard Model, but further studies are needed to confirm this.
There is a more philosophical reason for the importance of this observation. Human beings have a capacity for abstract thinking and reasoning that goes beyond solving only our immediate needs. This scientific investigation and the large, complex apparatus needed to make it happen are examples of our unique human ability and drive to find out "why?". This drive forms the basis of our civilisation, producing knowledge and tools for future generations.