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By Boonsri Dickinson, Amy Barth, and Andrew GrantJanuary 27, 2009 6:00 AM


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Like playing God? Then you’ll love the latest, much slicker iteration of the ultimate lifestyle video game by Electronic Arts. In The Sims 3, players can venture beyond their home turf to an attractive neighborhood populated by thousands of other Sims (i.e., simulated characters) and mold a Sims personality from infancy through old age. The game’s programming allows other characters to react to your traits and keeps all the Sims aging and growing. If you’re feeling benevolent, guide them to fulfill their life’s ambitions; if you’re in a fire-and-brimstone mood, frustrate their every turn. Have your brave vegetarian confront a meat meal. Live vicariously through a frat boy. The possibilities are endless in this addictive world.

Kilauea: Mountain of Fire

PBS, Sunday, March 29, at 8 p.m. (EST)

Few things are more awesome than 100 million gallons of lava flowing down a mountain. That’s what happens every day at Kilauea Volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii. This beautifully assembled and often dramatic PBS documentary chronicles the people intimately connected to Kilauea, from volcanologists and ecologists to a stubborn resident who refuses to move, despite having a two-hour walk over recently formed volcanic rock to reach the nearest store. Watch for stunning underwater footage of 2,000-degree lava cooling and solidifying beneath the surface of the sea.

dollhouse Fox, Fridays at 9 p.m. (EST) starting Feb. 13.When you wipe away memory, what’s left? Find out in this captivating new series from Joss Whedon, creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly. An underground organization holds employees hostage by repeatedly erasing their memories; it hires them out on assignments as lovers, killers, and everything in between. After each mission, heroine Echo (played by Buffy alum Eliza Dushku) returns to the Dollhouse, where she wakes up a different person. But a glitch sparks her original memories, setting her on a quest to unearth her past. The Dollhouse operation is not as far-fetched as it sounds. In December scientists reported discovering an enzyme that preserves memories; blocking its action could, in principle, delete memories without damaging other parts of the brain.

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