Don't panic: It's just the end of the world (once again) : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

5 February, 2000 Don not panic: It's just the end of the world (once again)

JUST when you thought it just might be safe to come down from the hills, it looks as though our poor planet is due for another dose of millennial catastrophe. After the great Y2K bug brought civilisation to its knees (I am penning this article from a darkened bunker, as gangs loot and pillage overhead), the world now has to look forward to two further cosmic hammer blows; the great leap year anomaly, and the titanic planetary conjunction.

Those still reeling from the effects of New Year's Eve had better gird their loins and beware. The Ides of March - or at least of late February - are upon us.

You see, 2000 is a leap year. No surprise there, you think. It is a century year, and as centuries divide by four, a leap year it should be. But no, because of all sorts of clever complications, our calendar system needs a bodge to keep the days in order. Those in charge of the weeks and months decreed long ago that the centuries would not be leap years.

But, horror of horrors, this bodge is not quite enough. A further tweak is necessary to avoid chronological chaos, and this means that century years are leap years, if the century number itself is divisible by four. Since 2000 clearly fulfils this criterion, it has the requisite 366 days. Sadly, however, this fact has completely passed by the best minds of the world. Those in charge of our stock markets, our transport systems and our armies have been well and truly caught out by the 2000-is-a-leap-year-after-all bug. With computers failing to recognise the existence of this historic day, civilisation looks poised to collapse completely. Expect sickening tales of credit cards being refused, and small children, born on the 29th, failing to get even their once-every-four-years birthday presents as the toy industry implodes.

But these catastrophes are nothing compared to the nastiest news of all. On May 5, Earth is threatened by the Great Planetary Conjunction, when six of the celestial spheres line up like a line of cosmic billiard balls. The Earth, Mercury, Venus, Mars Jupiter and Saturn will find themselves in a straight line on May 5. So why does this matter? Well, for a start, we are promised a pretty light show in the sky. But the Great Planetary Conjunction also threatens to split the Earth asunder. When the Moon joins the cosmic identity parade on May 3, expect tidal waves and earthquakes. Don't listen to the so-called "experts" at Mickey Mouse institutions like the Royal Astronomical Society who maintain that the planets, combined, exert just a tiny fraction of the Moon's gravitational pull on the Earth, and that we will suffer no ill effects whatsoever.

Listen instead to the real experts, many of whom have kindly shared their wisdom over the Internet, who maintain that ill effects are most definitely on the cards. If you thought the millennium bug was bad, listen to this: on May 5 the Earth could well tip over, like a spinning top kicked by an angry child. With Antarctica suddenly finding itself on the Equator, expect catastrophic flooding as the ice melts. As long ago as 1998, one Dr Julian Salt, an expert in such matters, warned that we faced "tidal waves a mile high". He was promptly hired by a top London insurance firm to help them calculate premiums for the Big Event.

So there you have it. The end of the world, once again, is nigh. Or maybe, just maybe (once again) it isn't.Michael Hanlon

-- Martin Thompson (, February 15, 2000


While it's not likely to be TEOTWAWKI, the Leap Year Date Bug is the OTHER "Y2K" computer Bug, companion to but very different from the much more ballyhooed Century Date Bug. Since software systems were, for the most part, successfully remediated for the Century Date Bug, the Leap Year Date Bug probably will be just another "Bump in the Road" for software. But, Embedded System Real Time Clocks are quite another matter: Some of these RTCs do have the LYDB, some are difficult to find and/or to access, and some control major systems, even basic infrastructure (electric, telephone). On 12.31/99, all embedded system RTCs at least rolled over to the same date: 01/01/00. When 02/28/00 ends, this won't be true -- some will roll to 03/01/00, and then STAY "one day fast" until found and reset or reparied. Worse, unlike the Century Date Bug, this rollover hits in the middle of the businsess week, with all systems at full load. Hence, failures are more likely to "get out the door", and be publicly observable. It could even cause scattered byt serious infrastructure failures, which take days to fix. The potential urban chaos, esp. with the added element of surprise, is a possibility that merits preparation. Even if no such dramatic effects occur, the LYDB is likely to aggravate or mimic existing slowly unfolding Century Date Bug problem areas (such as petroleum production and refining) or create new "problem areas." As for the planetary alignment: There was a highly ballyhooed planetary alignment in March 1982, heralded in Time magazine as early as 1974. NOTHING happened. However: This alignment coincides with peak solar flare activity; so there is a chance of aggravated solar flare activity, resulting in radiocommunication. disrupitons and/or unusual weather. It won't be the end of the world, but it could augment a nascent "crisis" atmosphere and cultural perception.

-- Robert Riggs (, February 17, 2000.

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