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2007: A year of surprises

By Paul Sussman for CNN
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- As the world stands on the threshold of a new year, we offer a few left-field predictions for what's going to make the news in 2007.

Alien contact

The launch at the end of 2006 of the COROT space telescope -- the name is an acronym for "Convection, Rotation and planetary Transits" -- has allowed astronomers to peer deeper into space than ever before, searching out new planets beyond our own solar system that might provide a suitable environment for the development of life. Despite initial skepticism the telescope comes up trumps towards the end of the year when it pin-points not only an earth-like planet way out in the icy wastes of the cosmos, but, dramatically, signs of life on that planet. Further investigation reveals a cluster of jelly-like microbes that, when prodded with a spatula, start singing "New York, New York." They prove a huge hit on the reality TV circuit, coming second in Celebrity X-Factor before, like all reality TV stars, the public lose interest in them and they revert to a life of Z-list obscurity while Simon Cowell and COROT resume their cosmic search for the next big star.

Harry Potter puts on weight

Although no definite release date has been announced for the seventh and final installment of the Harry Potter series -- titled Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows -- author J.K. Rowling has indicated that she has almost finished writing it, and rumors are rife that it will be in the bookshops by the end of the year. Also rife is speculation that the book will contain a shocking last-minute twist. But what could the twist be? Will Harry Potter die? Will he turn to the dark side, joining forces with evil Lord Voldemort and transforming his best friends Ron and Hermione into lemon muffins? In fact Rowling, the master of the unexpected, delivers the ultimate post-modern double bluff by making her final twist a dramatic non-twist. After six, multi-million-selling adventures the boy wizard, in his final outing, decides that actually a life of glamorous necromancy isn't for him. Having gained middling grades in his final Hogwarts exams, he instead settles into a low-key job selling magic bath taps, wiling away his spare time eating owl-burgers, watching Quidditch on TV and making not very good origami models of famous witches. The last we see of him is as a balding, overweight 42-year old being harangued by his wife and six kids for being a boring lazy slob who can't even finish the Daily Prophet Sudoku puzzle let alone do any serious magic.

Discovery of a the Loch Ness Monster

While the extinction rate of the world's plant and animal species has hit an all-time high (latest figures suggest that out of a total of some 30 million living species, 50,000 a year are now dying out), it's not all bad news. We may be losing our flora and fauna at an unprecedented rate, but we are also constantly discovering new plants and creatures. Admittedly most of these a pretty boring: A new type of fungus here, a previously unknown genus of earwig there. The possibility remains, however, that somewhere -- underneath the ocean, deep in the Amazon rainforest -- something really spectacular will be found: A mermaid, a yeti, a Sasquatch, an invisible, eight-footed tap-dancing mongoose. In 2007 just such a spectacular find is made in the form of the Loch Ness Monster. Long derided as a fiction designed to boost Scottish tourism, the legend proves horribly real when it rises from the peat-darkened depths of Loch Ness and bites off Mel Gibson's leg during the filming of "Braveheart 2: Drown the English." Nessie is removed to Orlando's SeaWorld where she spends the rest of her life inanely jumping through hoops and balancing beach balls on the end of her nose; Gibson goes on to win an Oscar for his portrayal of Long John Silver in his Urdu-language version of Treasure Island.

Paris and Britney transform

2006 was the year in which socialite Paris Hilton and recently-divorced pop-princess Britney Spears hit the headlines with their hardcore (and in Britney's case knickerless) partying. Following news that the two have fallen out, however, 2007 heralds a dramatic change of direction for both women. Weary of the celebrity circuit, Paris returns to her first love, quantum astrophysics, completing a master's degree at Harvard, joining NASA and becoming the first human to have a pedicure in space. Britney, meanwhile, fulfils her craving for a deeper, more meaningful existence by releasing a series of issue-driven singles including "Oops I Squid it Again" (about ocean pollution,) before withdrawing from the world entirely, joining a Trappist Monastery and spending the rest of her days sitting cross-legged in total silence meditating on why on earth she ever married Kevin Federline.

Prince William Marries

For some time now Britain's tabloid newspapers have been buzzing with predictions that Prince William, future King of England, will marry his long-term girlfriend Kate Middleton in 2007. The predictions are proved half right when early in the year Prince William does indeed announce that he is to tie the knot. In an unexpected twist, however, his spouse turns out to be not the demure, publicity-shy Middleton, but sassy, luscious-lipped rock chick Courtney Love. After some initial resistance the royal family embrace their new daughter-in-law, welcoming Princess Courtney into the Buckingham Palace fold where her grunge makeover of the national anthem God Save the Queen goes straight to Number One and makes a crowns and corgis the must-have new year celebrity fashion accessory.

Peace in the Middle East

A nice idea, but simply too fantastical for inclusion in this list.


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