Italian physics & engineering professor Nicola Pugno generates a lot of discussion (at least in blogosphere) for his scientific work and predictions on carbon nanotubes. Last year, he predicted that carbon nanotubes, even in all of their theorized glory, wouldn't be strong enough for a space elevator cable.
This year, he's more optimistic. No, the space elevator is still a no-go. But he does have high hopes for scaling walls Spiderman-style.
Why does Dr. Pugno catch my eye? His use of science fiction images is not likely to be an accident. When he writes about taking elevators into space or climbing up walls with special adhesive clothing, he invokes strong, myth-like, associations for a range of people- including many who probably don't spend lots of time trolling around peer-reviewed scientific journals.