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THE WAG THAT DOGS THE TALE OF '99 SCIENCE HIGHLIGHTS

As partial responses to the cabin fever -- or even real flu -- that always seems to set in at this time of year, I offer two palliatives.

First, I just came across a copy of a survey of important science news in 1999 that some wag had annotated. Consider a few of the items together with the additions:

Researchers concluded that chimpanzees develop cultural traditions much like those of humans -- late-night TV high on their list.

Bone flutes uncovered at a 9,000-year-old Chinese village included the earliest known complete, playable musical instrument -- the first marimba.

A spacecraft created an extremely detailed, three-dimensional map of the Martian surface -- clearly showing the hole into which Lunar Prospector descended.

Astronomers found new evidence that the universe is flat, confirming to many that the Earth is flat as well.

A new cloud-seeding technique showed promise -- but weeds infested the first crops.

Teeth treated with a synthetic protein remained free of a cavity-causing bacterium for more than three months -- dentists now picketing the lab.

New evidence indicated that, compared with young adults, the elderly experience a richer mix of emotions that they regulate more effectively -- through large doses of Viagara.

A new type of battery stored 50 percent more energy than an alkaline cell -- Energizer bunny takes over the world.

Mice engineered to make extra copies of a brain-cell protein showed improved memory and learning skills -- moving them ahead of U.S. education standards.

Computer scientists demonstrated that circuitry can redesign itself to handle new tasks --while we've yet to handle the old ones.

Researchers used isotopes to trace monarch butterflies to particular wintering sites in Mexico -- travel agents seek funding to replicate with prospective clients.

An Oklahoma tornado set the wind-speed record, 318 mph -- Oz now facing overpopulation.

Meteorologists started factoring global warming into extended forecasts -- bringing accuracy near that of the Farmer's Almanac.

Scientists have begun analyzing data from hoofprints . . . and dung piles for clues on how to save the world's most-threatened rhino -- nearby restaurants post hand-washing requirements.

IBM announced plans to build in five years a supercomputer 500 times faster than any available today -- to be called HAL.

Meanwhile, this item appeared on the Internet:

Football playoffs are also under way in the Animal Kingdom, and the following episode occurred in the Supper Bowl game between the Big Animals and the Small Animals.

The Small Animals were losing, 26-0, by the time they kicked off to begin the second half. On the first play from scrimmage, the elephant was brought down for a gain of only one yard. On second down, the hippo tried the line again and was tackled for a two-yard loss. With third and 11, the giraffe, the Big Animals' coach, substituted his best running back, the rhino, but he was downed at the line of scrimmage. The Big Animals had to punt.

As the Small Animal defense trotted and bounded and slithered off the field, the snake, their defensive coach, asked who it was who downed the elephant.

"It was me," responded the centipede proudly.

"Who tackled the hippo?" asked the coach.

"I guess that was me too," answered the centipede.

The exchange continued: "Did you get the rhino too?"

"Uh, yes I did."

"Great but where the hell were you in the first half when we needed you?"

"Sorry coach, I was having my ankles taped."

Spring will be here in just a few months. I hope we all make it.

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