Harvard Scientists Doubt Planets Can Cause Doom

If you put off studying for today's hourly because you thought the world might come to an end, you'd better hit the books. The "Jupiter Effect" did not come.

In a book called "The Jupiter Effect," published in 1974, authors John E. Gribbin and Stephen Plageman predicted that a rare grouping of planets in the solar system occuring today would cause high winds and earth-quakes.

But yesterday, Harvard scientists and others said they didn't fear any world-wide catastrophes.

Most scientists don't take the theory seriously. John P. Huchra, lecturer on Astronomy said, adding that he would not have any undue concerns about the day unless the snow continued. "Then the southeast expressway will be a little icey," he said.

Not Unprecedented

Huchra explained that the event itself is not unprecedented: Every 13 years, the earth, moon, sun, Jupiter and Venus align similarly without significant effect on the earth.

The Astronomy Department is not interested in the phenomenon and will not undertake special observations, said Alastair G.W. Cameron, department chairman. "We're not a department of astrology," he added.

But the Harvard Observatory has been forced to take an interest in the event. Since Friday, the observatory has received 150 to 200 calls, from people wanting to know whether the world would end, said Mary Juliano, a secretary at the observatory who has fielded many of the inquiries.

The Hayden Planetarium at the Boston Museum of Science has also been flooded with calls. Monday they received more than 50, museum official Bob Burnston said. Museum workers taking the calls have explained that the planets, when most nearly aligned before dawn today, were grouped within a 98-degree quadrant around the sun and that even perfect alignment would cause only a one millimeter tide on the sun. Burnston said.

The theory behind the Jupiter effect should not be taken seriously said Owen J. Gingerich, who teaches Science A-17. "The Astronomical Perspective," with David W. Latham. "I think there will be another tomorrow and tomorrow and so on," he said. "The nuclear effect is much more worrisome than the Jupiter effect," he added.

One of the authors of the book retracted his thesis in a 1980 Omni magazine article, saying that it had been disproven. Interest has continued to increase since then, nevertheless.

The book was long and complicated in its argument, Burnston said, adding, "It was psuedo-science at best. Closer to none-sense." Nevertheless, Burston said, "People want to be a lot more worried about the world coming to an end than about crossing the street. Really there's more danger from a truck."