This is a special list. sure, every annual roster of top achievements is a big deal, but in this case the crown — for the best book, album, design and so forth — earns the recipient extra recognition as tops for the 21st century (so far anyway) — and, while we're at it, for the entire new millennium. For Tiger Woods, it's no doubt nice to be called the greatest golfer of the millennium, and in his case the honor might just hold up. For Europeans living along the Danube, it's less fun to have suffered the year's worst toxic shock: a giant spill of cyanide and other chemicals from Romania.
Sports gave us the year's incontestable superlatives thanks to an Olympics in Sydney that, besides all the world records, broke marks for sunny hospitality and, by using solar-power, environmental consciousness. Two teams of scientists mapped the human genome, an achievement that promises a millennium's worth of scientific breakthroughs. The century's first year showcased many fascinating personalities, too, though neither of the two most intriguing — fictional boy wizard Harry Potter and Honda Motor's Asimo household robot — boast actual flesh or blood. Our march to a high-tech future quickened pace: shareware site Napster took instant gratification on the Net to new levels, and at no cost to you — at least for now.
And let's not forget the year's prime scandals, lest we be doomed to repeat the tragic sinking of the Kursk or another outbreak of mad cow disease. Of course, some people don't believe the new millennium begins until Jan. 1. Either way, next year's candidates get a second shot at the grand titles.