If you've got any guts at all, you'll march outside today to rant scorn at the heavens. You'll dare the cosmos to swallow you with an earthquake, drown you with a tidal wave, hit you with its best shot, because today we're talking about the meanest mojo in 179 years: "The Jupiter Effect," right?
Isn't this when the planets line up like a tug-of-war squad, all of whose members are named "Sumo," and:
The gravitational pull will turn San Francisco into a sanitary land fill? Rouse a tidal wave that'll have Flipper visiting Mount Rushmore? Tilt the earth's axis, instantly giving Indonesia the climate of Sandusky, Ohio? Stop the earth's rotation, making everybody late for everything?
Heal the sick, raise the dead,
Make the little girls talk outa their head.
Make Herve Villechaize grow! Squeeze the Charmin!
You can run, but you can't hide, that's the message.
"It was my hope that this sort of thing was demolished in the Renaissance, but then I'd hoped that about astrology, too," says Dr. Leroy Doggett, an astronomer at the Naval Observatory. "I'm the unfortunate person who started answering questions about it five or six years ago and I'm tired of it. I've been tired of it for some time."
It started in 1974 when two scientists with PhDs from Cambridge University published "The Jupiter Effect" to a general reception, in the scientific community, of boos and laughter. The thesis was that the gravitational pull of the aligned planets would cause huge eruptions on the sun, spewing high-energy particles earthwards to muddle our magnetic fields, changing winds and exerting torque on the rotating earth, thereby springing loose uneasy tectonic plates in places such as the San Andreas fault, causing tidal waves and all the rest of it. The big day would be today, when all the planets would be inside a 96-degree slice of the solar system, an event which hasn't happened since 1803, according to most sources.
You remember 1803, The Year the Mountains Walked . . . or no. Historians seem to have missed all the calamities, concentrating instead on the Louisiana Purchase as the number-one hit of the year.
One of the book's authors, John Gribbin, has since repudiated his predictions, writing in a letter to The New York Times: "The sun's activity peaked in 1979, not 1982, proving that the planets do not dominate the sun's behavior and removing the bases of an original forecast."
Nevertheless, the New Delhi Sunday Herald has warned: "A strange epidemic affecting the abdomen will stalk India." (Tourists take note.) In China, the People's Daily has attempted to allay the fears of the public by saying that "there is no regular cause-effect relation at all between this astronomical phenomenon and natural disasters like earthquakes." Wire services tell of "a respected, if erratic, Indian astrologer" predicting that Los Angeles will be destroyed. (No doubt half the doom freaks there will be devastated if it isn't.)
A "cosmobiologist" at the Peruvian Institute of Interplanetary Relations indicated that the prudent pet owner will lay in more Alpo, because, according to reports, "animals will want to eat more." In Wilkes-Barre, Pa., The Station restaurant was holding an "End of the World Party," with a restaurant spokesman saying that "instead of a come-as-you-are party it's a come-as-you-want-to-go party."
This raises an ancient eschatological question, and not a few puzzled frowns will study wardrobes tomorrow, the question being: What does one wear for the end of the world? Everything? Anything?
Kitt Peak National Observatory in Arizona has published an eight-page statement disputing the book point by point, and noting that the planets don't throw that much weight around, seeing that they consist of .135 percent of the mass in the solar system.
And they won't be in a straight line anyhow. They'll be spread out over more than a quarter of the solar system, which would mean that if home plate were the sun, earth would be a foul ball; that if the planets were bank tellers and you laid a sawed-off shotgun across the sun, Neptune would be able to call the police with no sweat; that if the solar system were a pie, it would take a real hog to eat the slice big enough to contain all the planets tomorrow.
It doesn't even count for anything astrologically, according to Washington astrologer Svetlana Godillo. "There is no meaning whatsoever and if anyone asks me that question again I'm going to scream. It means nothing, even if you are born on this day."
Today has benefits, however. A careful student of this phenomenon--the biggest to come along since the comet Kohoutek made such a smash--will come away having learned the word "syzygy." You may remember "syzygy" as the Gnostic philosophic term referring to paired opposites, but today it refers to two or more planets in line with each other and the center of the sun, which they aren't really, but that's what the cognoscenti are calling this business.
"We've had a hundred phone calls a day for the past week," says Jack Horkheimer, executive director of the Miami Space Transit Planetarium, and host of a Doomsday Dawn party on Key Biscayne this morning. Denials of disaster have done nothing. "People love to be scared to death. Some people get upset when they find out the world is not coming to an end. Some people get angry. They want anything but reassurance."
It doesn't do any good to tell people that similar configurations took place in the years 626, 628, 949, 987, 989, 1126, and the real syzygy biggie, 1128, when the planets were within 40 degrees of each other on April 11, which means that if the sun were a hood ornament on a 1957 Cadillac, the farthest-spread planets would be the side-view mirrors.
You think this is big, says Horkheimer, wait till Halley's comet reappears in 1986, at which time we will once more forget what Shakespeare has Cassius say in "Julius Caesar": "The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings."
As Hamlet says, "We defy augury . . . the readiness is all."
So okay. Head outside with a clear view of the sky. Take a good solid position, feet apart, knees slightly bent. Curl your upper lip in a sneer, jab a forefinger at the heavens and talk your talk. Get bad. Say: Come on, big time, if you got it, let's see it!
Maybe this offer should be declared not good in California, but around here, go for it! Defy the cosmos! Alarm your neighbors and frighten your family! If you're wrong, what can happen--Skylab gonna fall on you?