Click to follow
The Independent Culture
READERS WERE asked to consider what mysterious affliction might have caused Homo sapiens to become extinct during the 21st century.

Too much browsing the Net and no time spent on procreation, suggests F.E. Card. With everyone plugged into virtual reality machines, no one noticed the invasion of giant alien cannibals who ate us all for breakfast, says Len Clarke. Internet sex and virtual relationships replaced face- to-face encounters (Ian Hurdley). ET turned nasty when he got the phone bill (Colin Archer). The Mekon inherited the earth (Bruce Birchall).

Extrapolating current anxieties, Andrew Duncan foresees GM crops, radiation from nuclear accidents, pesticides and an outbreak of widespread Bobbitting destroying our ability to reproduce. Frank Rogers's scientific nightmare scenario involves running into a huge cloud of anti-matter, or the consequences of scientists getting down to absolute zero. James A. Kelly's crystal ball has Atlantis resurfacing and everyone drowning. W.G. Haigh has a cancer vaccine discovered, everyone inoculated, headless children born because of the vaccine, and mass suicides ensuing. The echo from the Big Bang finally reached us (Peter Thomas). Water levels rose and all inhabitable land was submerged (Magy Higgs). The basic human right to send everyone you don't like into outer space was established (D. Harbort). Everyone got bored by millennui (John O'Byrne).

Neanderthals emerged from their subterranean caves, overjoyed at the success of their nerve gas; a Serbian giant vacuum cleaner on the Moon sucked in all the Earth's atmosphere, to perfect ethnic cleansing (Mike Gifford). Intelligent dolphins evolved and created robots that killed all humans, says 12-year-old Matthew Weston, while Kathleen and Alan Russell have the dolphins transmit a death wish to humans by telepathy. Many of you thought Nostradamus simply got the date wrong.

Martin Brown's explanation is more intriguing: as a reaction to the panic industry spreading gloom and despondency, everyone took a one-way time machine journey to the perceived safety of the distant past.

Len Clarke, W.G. Haigh and Frank Rogers win a Chambers Dictionary of Quotations. The third Mind Sports Olympiad is at Olympia from 21 to 29 August. All enquiries to: mso@; the website is at http://www.mind

We now seek a definition of happiness. For Mr Micawber it was the result of an annual income of pounds 20, an annual expenditure of pounds 19.19s.6d. But what say ye, gentle readers? Write to Creativity, Features, The Independent, 1 Canada Square, London E14 5DL or e-mail Loki.Valhalla@btinter by 12 August. Results and more Chambers' prizes on 17 August. Now that I am out of hospital, I am at last able to pursue the question of undelivered prizes; winners' patience is requested while this is sorted out. Next week: Sun-dwellers' interpretations of the total eclipse of the Earth.