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Topics ranging from tabletop reactors to forensic investigations of the first president helped to pep up the humdrum month of February for readers. Two articles that caught letter writers' attention were about rethinking established technology: In "Plasma Accelerators," Chandrashekhar Joshi showed how small, inexpensive particle accelerators promise a wealth of data in lower-energy research. "Protecting New Orleans," by Mark Fischetti, assessed various flood-control system designs for the Mississippi Delta able to withstand major storms and rising sea levels.

In "Putting a Face on the First President," forensic anthropologist Jeffrey H. Schwartz intriguingly chronicled how he solved the mystery of what George Washington looked like as a young man. A number of readers noticed a curious resemblance. Harry Melkonian wrote via e-mail, "From what I can see from the digital reconstruction, the 19-year-old Washington looked like a young Jack Benny. Well! Now cut that out!"

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