Independent Pursuits: Creativity Loki

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SYNCHRONISED NEW Year resolutions from the O'Byrne brothers: Hillary Clinton resolves to lose 220 pounds - her husband Bill (from Brendan); Mandelson insists to the media he just wants to be left a-loan (from John). And now for that leap second when The Time Was Out of Joint (FE Card and Hamlet) and readers' imaginations took some great leaps forward.

Disa Strauss foresaw tall, dark strangers crossing thresholds a second too soon, unleashing plague and pestilence. Carla Mitty saw a hole in the space-time continuum opening up and whole cities wrenched out of the ground and sucked through to the lost continent of Atlantis. Kata S Brophy scripts the ultimate global-warming scenario: the earth ineluctably sucked by a giant gurgling vortex straight into the sun. While HG Wells's Time Machine has all its co-ordinates scrambled, so no one ever gets back exactly to his own time.

During the second itself, Susan Tomes, mindful of leap-year traditions, has women leap on unsuspecting men, murmuring "let's leap together". PR McBean has every man holding political power instantly replaced by a woman, thus ending tyrrany, wars and torture, while James A Kelly was busy earning an extra 1/31536000th of his annual celery and taking a final puff before quitting.

Magy Higgs sees star charts messed up, as cusps burst and astrologers go bankrupt whilst Bruce Birchall brings Einstein's Relativity Theory to bear and launches the atomic clocks into space so that they all slow down relative to the time of the earth's rotation, instead of the other way round. And Andrew Duncan has a stewards' enquiry in the 2.30.01 at BenHurDorm, awarding Time's Winged Chariot a one-second penalty.

Eric Dunkley, ever alert, sensed a business opportunity. All sundials are now askew, but for a small fee he can fix it (wonder who's got the Stonehenge contract?). Business instincts seize the moment, or one-60th thereof, as airlines and mortgage lenders impose surcharges (Susan Tomes), Third World loan-repayments triple (Ken Moore), Paul Turner's insurance company refuses to pay out for leap second accidents, insisting that all policies have expired, and a million motorists are penalised as maladjusted parking meters expire ahead of time and gleeful traffic wardens pounce.

PR McBean and Susan Tomes share this week's Nobel Physics Prize and win a Chambers Dictionary of Quotations each. As does Michael Rubinstein for setting your next challenge: what shall we do with Postman Pat's surplus elastic bands? Ideas to Creativity, The Independent, 1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DL, by 28 January. Three prizes of The Chambers Dictionary of Quotations will be announced on 2 February. On 26 January readers recommend how to use a 450-word Creativity column in a week with no contributions.