End of the Month, End of the World: The Jupiter Effect

On the last Friday of every month, I look at an apocalyptic prophecy that failed miserably when the apocalypse didn’t happen in a feature called “End of the Month, End of the World.”

When people try to use the Bible to predict the end of the world, it seems funny to most seasoned internet-goers, who consider themselves more educated than those foolish religious plebes. (Go ahead, you can sneer if you want.) After all, doesn’t the Bible itself say that man will not know the date of the end times? Unless you think God pulled some Dan Brown shit and hid it deep within the text (and if you do, keep in mind that the Bible has been through several translations to make it what it is today) then, it could be argued, there’s no real way to figure it out from that direction anyway.

“Well, this is useless now. Guess I’ll hollow it out and keep porn inside.”

But what about when someone tries using science to predict the end of the world? Science has things like falsifiability and peer reviews. Science is generally pretty reliable, right? In a perfect world, of course, science would be absolutely reliable, assuming you had all the relevant facts. In reality, though, science can be used to reach a conclusion from valid data, or it can be used like a big stick to bludgeon facts into fitting with your already-chosen conclusion.


Let’s assume your conclusion is “Bad shit is gonna happen.” Now you take a fact. Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that your fact is “On March 10, 1982, all the planets (except Neptune and Uranus, but fuck them) are going to be perfectly aligned.” Now, you take that fact and you beat the ever-loving shit out of it with your conclusion-stick. You beat it until it stops moving. Then, you write a book about it and sell a fuckzillion copies. Congratulations, you’re Drs. John Gribbin and Stephen Plagemann.

“One Fuckzillion Copies Sold!”

“Wait a goddamn second, these guys were doctors?” Indeed they were. And not fake doctors with phony diploma mill credentials. They were trained astrophysicists from Cambridge University. Gribbin was also the editor of Nature magazine at the time of the book’s release in 1974, eight years before the purported disaster. (Kindly note that that gave them eight years to collect the royalty checks from their publisher before the end of the world was supposed to happen.) So what the hell? How did these guys come to this conclusion?

Quite simply, they worked backwards with their conclusion-stick, then beat the hell out of everything that could potentially be beaten by that stick and… okay, this metaphor’s getting stupid. Anyway, they took their conclusion and their initial fact and strung together the most improbable chain of events to make the two seem at least somewhat remotely related.

In reality, they’re about as related as this is to… anything at all.

What kind of chain of events are we talking about? The book claims that the combined gravitational effect of seven of nine planets (remember that Pluto actually counted back then) would cause increased tidal pull on the surface of the sun, causing eruptions and sunspots. This, in turn, increases solar winds, which, in large gusts, could affect the Earth’s axis. This, Gribbin and Plagemann said, would result in catastrophe that would most likely eliminate all life on the planet, since even a minor variation in the Earth’s rotation could cause earthquakes, tidal waves, volcanic eruptions, and possibly even polar magnetic shift.

So what really happened on March 10, 1982? Did those huge planetary masses all in a line really affect the Earth? Actually, they did, and measurably so. The effect of that mighty gravitational force? The tides were 0.04mm higher than usual.

Fuck. I’m terrified.

Gribbin and Plagemann’s book had already caused a stir, though. In the weeks and months leading up to the alignment, people began to panic, especially those in coastal areas. Observatories were inundated with calls from terrified residents and newspapers did their best to try to help contain the madness by publishing refutations from scientists who had known The Jupiter Effect was bad science for years.

“Bad Science. That’s very bad.”

But after the disaster didn’t happen, Gribbin and Plagemann weren’t done. Oh no. One year later, they released The Jupiter Effect Revisited. In it, they claimed that the event had actually happened in 1980, despite the lack of planetary alignment at that time, and had caused Mt. Saint Helens to erupt. That’s right, they threw away their entire premise, then pointed at some other shit and said, “Look, see! We were right all along, we were just wrong first!”

The Jupiter Effect Revisited also sold one fuckzillion copies.

“All’s well that ends well, wouldn’t you say, doctor?”
“Indeed, doctor! Let us stroke our villanous moustaches.”

Wikipedia (It’s on page 2)


End of the Month, End of the World: Millerites

Did you hear that the world is going to end? Holy shit! The sun will burn out and a meteor hits us and Jesus comes back and exotic diseases are gonna wipe us out… AT THE SAME TIME. That’s right, science has spoken, the world is going to turn into yet another hunk of dead rock… eventually. In fact, it already happened once, sort of. Ever heard of the Toba Event? That’s where this supervolcano (Kinda like Old Faithful) blew up and blackened the sky and killed all but about 5,000-10,000 humans. I think more people made it out alive at the end of The Stand. So this is totally a post-apocalyptic world, right?

Mad Max
And only a deranged Mel Gibson can save us. Except Jews, Hispanics, and Blacks. They’re on their own.

So why didn’t anyone warn us of these obviously impending disasters that could strike us dead at any moment? Well, if you wanna get technical, lots of people have warned us about the impending end of the world. Except, well, they were dead fucking wrong each time, weren’t they? And so, that’s why the Weird Shit Blog has decided to begin a new feature. On the last Friday of every month, we’re going to showcase an apocalyptic prediction that went horribly wrong when the apocalypse didn’t happen. I’m calling it “End of the Month, End of the World.” Enjoy!

William Miller was born a Baptist, but converted to Deism after he met some friends who convinced him to change his mind. He joined the Freemasons, got very high in the ranks and, when the War of 1812 broke out, he got a band of volunteer soldiers together and marched his ass to the nearest post to join up. After several years as a recruiter, Miller finally saw action at the Battle of Plattsburgh in 1814, where an artillery shell exploded no more than 2 feet from him, killing 2 of his fellow soldiers and leaving him without a scratch.


Miller had a crisis of faith after the explosion. Since Deism espouses a detached God who doesn’t meddle in human affairs and Miller felt that he had been miraculously saved, he converted back to his old Baptist ways. When his Deist friends asked him to explain his re-conversion, Miller hit the Bible, reading it cover to cover. But instead of finding justification for his new/old faith, he found what he believed was a timeline for the end of the world.

Daniel 8:14 reads, “Unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed.” Miller read “the sanctuary” as the entire world and “two thousand and three hundred days” as 2,300 years. Wait, what? This is what’s known as the Day-Year Principle. Essentially, when reading the Bible as a more abstract piece, one can read “days” as years, or whatever makes more sense to you. This is generally okay by most Biblical scholars when talking about, say, the Creation, but not so much when talking about something like, oh, Methuselah.

“I’m gettin’ too old for this shit.” – Methuselah

Miller calculated the 2,300 years starting with the decree to rebuild Jerusalem in 457 B.C., meaning the whole sanctuary cleansing thing would go down in 1843, 25 years in the future from when he made the calculation. (SPOILER ALERT: Didn’t fucking happen.) He took another 5 years, just to be absolutely certain. When he decided that there was no other possible interpretation, Miller published an article about his findings.

A few years afterward, he began a kind of preaching tour, holding revivals around New England. He then published another, longer article, and after overwhelming response, a 64 page tract. Within weeks, William Miller had his own full-blown religious movement. They called themselves Millerites.

“Can our slogan be, ‘It’s Millerite time?’ No?”

After mounting pressure from his followers, Miller was asked to provide an exact date for the Second Coming, something he had previously refused to give. Finally, he declared that, based on the Jewish calendar, the year 1843 began March 21st and ended on the same day the following year. When the entirety of 1843 , and then March 21st, 1844 came and went without event, the date was adjusted to the beginning of the Karaite Jewish calendar, which had the year ending on April 18th, 1844.

When that date also passed, some Millerites became upset, and demanded an explanation from Miller and the rest of the leaders of the group. Finally, Samuel Snow delivered what was called the “True Midnight Cry” in August of 1844. The leaders of the Millerite movement had studied the Bible thoroughly and had finally discovered a mistake in their calculations. They could now firmly announce that God would return on the 10th day of the 7th month of the year 1844. This, according to the Karaite Jewish calendar, was October 22, 1844. (MAJOR SPOILERS: Shit still didn’t fucking happen.)

Millerites waited anxiously. Some sold their worldly possessions and moved cross-country to be near Miller when the day finally arrived. Some men and women left their non-believer spouses and children behind, wanting to be first in line for the Rapture. Finally, October 22 arrived. Now, this might sound crazy to you folks reading at home, but can you believe it? The world didn’t end. Not even a little.

“Boy, is my face red.”

Millerites declared it the “Great Disappointment.” (Personally, I saved that for Star Wars prequels, ZING!) Miller became a laughingstock in the press and he quietly lived out the rest of his days waiting for the world to end. He died in 1849. The public mocked and abused the devastated sect. Basically, they had a really shitty time. Not only did they not get to heaven, but now everyone on Earth was laughing at them and being dicks.

A few remaining leaders tried to predict new dates in April, July, and October, 1845, but each came and went with no sign of Jesus. Other, smaller sub-sects went to more… extreme means. Some theorized that, based on Mark 10:15, “Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it,” they should begin acting like children.

“This plan cannot fail.”

Another group believed that God came invisibly on the day of the Great Disappointment and only took virgins to heaven, but since no one could actually name anyone who disappeared on that day, it kinda fell apart. Finally, a theory arose that October 22, 1844 had been a heavenly event, preparing the world for the coming Rapture, but that humans on Earth would still not know the date, only that it came “soon”.

This final group began their own church that eventually moved away from the whole “predicting the end of the world” thing. They became a popular protestant denomination in New England and spread their way through the United States. In fact, they’re still around today. You might have heard of them: The Seventh Day Adventists.

Not even kidding.

Wikipedia (An obvious sign of the apocalypse.)