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January 2016 Policy Study, Number 16-1


Doom and Gloom = 0, Human Ingenuity = 10

The World Hasn't Ended Yet!


Other Predictions



Other predictions from the 1800s and since which have been proven wrong include:


“When the Paris Exhibition closes, electric light will close with it and no more will be heard of it.” – Professor Erasmus Wilson 


“X-rays will prove to be a hoax.” – Lord Kelvin, President of the British Royal Society 


“Is it not demonstrated that a true flying machine, self-raising, self-sustaining, self-propelling, is physically impossible?” – Professor Joseph LeConte, Popular Science Monthly, 1888


“What can be more palpably absurd than the prospect held out of locomotives traveling twice as fast as stagecoaches?” – The Quarterly Review, March 1825[29]


“A rocket will never be able to leave the earth’s atmosphere.” – The New York Times, January 13, 1920


Electric light, x-rays, airplanes, trains, and rockets are all critical parts of society today and provide significant economic, educational, social, and health advantages to billions of people.  Those who made the doomsday predictions of the 1800s were put out of work by those doing the work.  The industrial revolution is working. 


More recent failed predictions


If there wasn’t enough to worry about during the 1990s, then alarmists began talking about “Y2K.”  The Y2K crisis began when someone realized that computers were only programed to record the last two digits of the year, not the first two.  Asking if this would make a difference to the smooth mathematical operations of your computer system was a logical and sensible question.  The worldwide, hysterical response was not. 


Time magazine was one of the first to issue a “The End of the World!?!” alert on their January 1999 cover.[30]  The general public responded in a variety of ways, from indifference to prepping, just in case.  In my own family, some members were concerned enough that they insisted we all be together for New Year’s Eve, “just in case.”  Fortunately, there was no crisis and it was a good excuse for a party!


Many end-of-the-world predictions have surrounded outer-space issues.  Some of the most famous are the threat from Halley’s Comet in 1910 and 1986, and the scare caused by the 1974 book The Jupiter Effect.


Image result for halley's comet fear drawingsHalley’s Comet can be seen from Earth only once every 75 years: the last sighting was in 1986 and the next will be in 2061.  The meteor showers from the comet are visible every year, and could be seen in both May and October of 2015.[31]  In 1910, the year of the previous sighting, French astronomers discovered that one of the elements in the comet’s tail was cyanogen, “a deadly poison.” Because the Earth would pass through the 25-million kilometer tail (which was concerning enough!), it was thought that the gas could “impregnate the atmosphere and possibly snuff out all life on the planet.”[32] In response magic pills were sold to protect people from the gas, submarines were recommended, prayer vigils were held, and those living on the coastlines were concerned about tidal waves.  Even 75 years later, during the 1986 sighting, some people responded with fear, stockpiling food and survival equipment. Of course, nothing happened.


In the 1974 book The Jupiter Effect, two astrophysicists found and compiled research showing that solar sunspot activity and earthquakes were correlated.  Sunspots are known to peak in an 11-year cycle and cause various weather changes and geological activity, i.e. earthquakes.  The cycle in 1982 would come at the same time the planets circling our sun would line up.  Additional research, from a variety of presumably credible scientific sources, showed that planetary alignment could be expected to make the sunspot effect stronger and result in significant earthquake activity. 


The Cambridge astrophysicists, John Gribbin and Stephen Plagemann, stated that, “From time to time between 1982 and 1984 we imagine there will be bursts of strong activity associated with the unusual series of alignments.” They predicted that “A remarkable chain of evidence, much of it known for decades but never before linked together, points to 1982 as the year in which the San Andreas Fault will be subjected to the most massive earthquake known in the populated regions of Earth in this century.”[33]


The Jupiter Effect did not happen, and California has not yet fallen off into the Pacific Ocean – though many disaster movies have addressed this scenario.  The fear of these theories is stronger, because earthquake predictions show that the San Andreas and Cascadia Faults are due for major moves sometime in the “near” future – but no one knows when.  Prophecy of world-ending disasters continues today!




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