Most Disappointing Peek Through a Looking Glass If you get the wrong prescription at the local vision center, you can just go back and have it changed. Not so for NASA, whose incorrect prescription is spinning around the earth in the Hubble Space Telescope. Because a mirror was ground to the wrong shape, the space agency was saddled with a $1.5 billion instrument that performs far below expectations.
Bravest New Surgery Medical science, which can do remarkable things to repair the human body, took a giant step by daring to tinker with the original blueprint. In the first authorized use of gene therapy, a four-year-old girl with a rare and deadly enzyme deficiency received genetically engineered cells that could control her illness. So far, she is doing well, and scientists hope eventually to treat other illnesses the same way.
Faultiest Forecast Schools closed, people fled and disaster kits sold out as Dec. 3 approached in New Madrid, Mo., all because climate consultant Iben % Browning had predicted a major earthquake. The fateful day passed with no earth-shaking news, but there were casualties nonetheless: Browning's already dubious reputation and the credibility of media outlets that treated his forecast seriously.
Worst Thing to Try at Home When two doctors working at Atlanta Hospital came up with a radical AIDS treatment -- heating up the patient's blood -- they let CNN know about it after just one trial. The gullible network broadcast live reports of the second attempt at treatment, giving free and favorable publicity to a farfetched, unproven medical procedure.
Best Reason to Avoid Drinking with the Boys Research showed what experience has long revealed: women can't hold liquor as well as men. Women have far smaller amounts of a stomach enzyme that breaks down alcohol before it enters the blood. Thus they get blitzed faster.
Cleanest Machine For the first time, a major manufacturer said it would be able to mass-produce a nonpolluting car. GM's electric Impact would be twice as expensive to operate as a regular chariot, but ever improving batteries should eventually change that. Besides, isn't clean air worth something?
Smallest Advertisement Using a powerful microscope, IBM researchers lined up individual xenon atoms to spell out the company's initials. That clever display of know-how got magnified pictures of the minuscule logo into newspapers all over the world -- for free.
Best Reason to Overhaul the Stereo System -- Again The long-awaited digital audio tape recorder has finally arrived in U.S. stores. Will DAT -- which makes crisp, noise-free tapes -- replace CDs? Will erasable CDs do the same to DAT? Whatever happens, audio stores will always tell people their stereos are just not good enough.
Best Imitation of the Fountain of Youth You say you're getting old and run down? Well, step right up and try some human-growth hormone. Normally it's used to treat dwarfism, but tests have shown that in elderly men it can reduce fat, restore muscle tone and make the body look 20 years younger. And all for $14,000 a year, plus the possibility of a few serious side effects.