ARE YOU BORED by the prognostications of the Y2K doomsayers? Are you just a little impatient these days with those high-tech hucksters still trying to make a buck by spinning humanity's ancient death wish into the shiny new metaphor of a giant computer bubble about to burst into lethal chaos?
Planes falling from the skies, nuclear missiles launching without provocation, billions blipping from bank accounts in the blink of an eye, power-suited businessfolk reduced to cannibalism in elevators stuck between penthouse and pavement, and -- horror of horrors! -- supermarkets utterly bereft of toilet paper.
As amusing as all that would be, it appears most Americans have indeed grown weary of the Y2K hype, currently fading faster than a Star Wars poster in the window at Taco Bell. Fueled by a tinder-box dry media devoid of worthwhile content (how is Monica wearing her hair today?) -- not to mention wishful thinking-out-loud on the part of sexually frustrated fundamentalist Christian computer geeks and Mormon freeze-dried food hucksters -- the Y2K firestorm has prematurely burned itself out.
Thus the smoldering field of Western Civilization's collective unconscious lies wide open for yet another quickie propaganda blitz before the dawn of January 1. And it appears the final assault may come from the good old death-from-the-skies traditionalists.
We love these guys. They've been around since long before John of Patmos -- nobody's really sure if he was also John the Apostle -- composed the Book of Revelation in a cave off the coast of Asia Minor nearly 2,000 years ago. And there were doughty Old Testament doomsayers Daniel and Ezekiel before him, both of whom appear to have benefited by subsequent editors blessed with 20/20 hindsight; not to mention eons of Egyptian and Summerian astrologer/priests hip to the predictable movement of the heavens long before the ignorant masses got wise to their schtick.
In fact, predictions of doom and gloom as a dietary staple of the human psyche have probably been around at least as long as beer, a Neolithic invention.
But instead of a heady brew of superstition thick and rich with the earthy flavors of natural hops and grains, the kind last served by Nostradamus, who croaked in 1566, we've pretty much been forced to content ourselves with an anemic swill pasteurized by the rigors of science.
If Y2K is a mere diet soda, having no nutritional value whatsoever and manufactured by indifferently trained factory nerds blending artificial ingredients in sterile computer labs, then today's death-from-the-skies concoction is a sort of quasi-traditional Coors of doom-and-gloom, brewed by equally air-headed New Agers from waters at least as heavily filtered as diet soda. As end-of-the-world brewskis go, it's not at all satisfying, and you have to guzzle quite a lot of it to get truly smashed.
Which, of course, never stops fools from trying.
This latest back-to-basics, end-of-the-world beverage is dispensed from -- where else? -- the Internet, which increasingly resembles the soda fountain leaking blah drinks at your local Pizza Hut.
A few weeks ago, something called the EcoNews Service served the following bilge to God-knows-how-many publications across the planet:
"Remember those dramatic photos of 20 fragments of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 crashing into Jupiter between July 16-22, 1994? Well, scientists at the Millennium Group are worried that Comet Lee, a wild card (non-periodic) comet first discovered by Australian Steven Lee on April 16, 1999, may pass discomfortingly close to Earth sometime starting in mid-August, 1999, and continuing through early 2000.
Yes, we're all about to die at or near the millennium -- happy days are here again!
The Millennium Group, it turns out, is apparently a couple of guys -- Earl L. Crockett and Jim McCannery, and assorted fans -- whose qualifications are somewhat vague, although McCannery "was kicked out of Cornell 20 years ago by Carl Sagan, et al.," according to their wonderfully entertaining website, http://www.millenngroup. com.
They seem to believe the following:
· The sun is pumping huge amounts of electrical energy via electrical currents to all the planets.
· Most fundamental weather systems on Earth, including cyclonic storms, are not driven by sunlight, but by these electrical currents.
· NASA has done everything possible to prevent the Millennium Group from spreading its message among the scientific community. NASA has also prevented the group from implementing methods to dampen the electrical effects of the sun on Earth's atmosphere, thus making life better for millions of poor people across the globe.
Damn those government bureaucrats, with their penchant for secrecy and their iron-fisted control of the sheep-like global scientific community!
The Millennium groupies are worried the sun's alleged all-pervasive electrical field will pull Comet Lee off course, much closer to the earth and its moon than standard models of cometary behavior indicate. And while nobody's predicting a direct hit, these Millennium bugs are chirping a warning that the cosmic zapper could be about to snap, crackle and pop us into oblivion.
Already there are strange omens in the sun, and the Northern Lights have been behaving oddly of late, not to mention increased cyclonic activity in Earth's atmosphere, the Millennialists claim. Could this be due to the unacknowledged -- by real scientists, anyway -- electrical capacitance of the solar system??!!
More than likely it's due to their ill-spent youth, during which many of them undoubtedly indulged in the uncritical reading of Immanuel Velikovsky's pseudo-science classic Worlds In Collision, a book that thrilled a generation of poorly educated teenage baby boomers attracted to catastrophism out of sheer boredom with their insular, pampered lives.
One man with a highly critical, well-educated mind is UA professor Tom Gehrels, founder of the Spacewatch group, whose mission is to scan the skies every night, looking for comets and asteroids that one day might present a real threat to our home planet. Geherls personally has spent tens of thousands of hours without sleep up on Kitt Peak, observing the heavens, studying the behavior of the known asteroids and comets, and, of course, looking out for the Big One, which even reputable scientists like Gehrels agree will undoubtedly come one day (See "Homo Sapiens Stupidus?", TW, May 7, 1998).
However, Gehrels assures us, Comet Lee ain't it.
"This one (Comet Lee) is very nicely under control," Gehrels says, adding the brouhaha the Millennium Group is trying to stir up "just doesn't seem to be worthwhile."
He describes the group's peculiar electrodynamic theories of the solar system as "just an idiot kind of thing."
And one of Gehrels' colleagues, Jeremy B. Tatum, professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Victoria, Canada, adds, via e-mail:
"The Comet Lee stories appear to have originated from a Canadian group unknown to us or to the scientific community, and have no basis in reality. It's not possible to rebut these stories in detail, partly because it would take too long to do so, but mostly because they make no sense at all to begin with. Suffice it to say that the orbit of Comet Lee is perfectly well-known to any astronomer, amateur or professional, and there is not and could not be the slightest possibility that the comet could have any discernible effect on the Earth or the Sun, other than exciting the curiosity of astronomers who enjoy studying such natural phenomena."
So there you have it -- this whole Comet Lee disaster scenario is being stirred up by a bunch of silly Canadians, people currently suffering through the most boring lives on earth. Millennium Group, indeed. More like the Boring, Pasty White Group of Twits.
Our apologies to the author of this article. If you've read this far in your quest for end-of-the-world thrills, common human COMPASSION compels us to offer the following. It won't do any harm -- let's face it, very few of you are likely to believe something you read in a free weekly newspaper in the first place, and anyway you're all about to die. Or the vast majority of you, to be precise. You see, we're from the future. Of course, we're not allowed to interfere with actual events in the past, because that would change everything with us, and we've got it pretty good right now. But we do have a great deal of fun cruising the Web and inspecting various computer systems in your time, trying to imagine how things were, well, you know, before. Before what? Let's see, you'll be reading this shortly after August 26 if the dates on this publication's website were accurate. Which means some of you, at least, may have seen the well-respected Wall Street Journal's all-too-brief article of June 21, 1999, about the quickening spread and diversification of the lethal (in 45 percent of all cases) hantaviruses, first discovered in the U.S. in 1993. Spread initially by rodent droppings, and also highly infectious while airborne along with dust particles, the rapidly mutating HANTAVIRUSES will soon provide some very real end-of-the-millennium fireworks, we assure you. Enjoy the show!