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Book Reviews

Countdown! Or, How Nigh is the End
Author: Patrick Moore

Publisher: The History Press

ISBN: 978-0-7524-5222-7

Price: £9.99 (Pb), 240pp

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This revised edition nearly didn’t appear! The end of the world was supposed to have taken place on 31st December 1999! But thankfully the world did not end due to any bite of the millennium bug or time warped sect and the book has appeared. Patrick takes hold of a run of stories concerning eccentrics, free thinkers and a host of chaotic bloomers and settles us down in our comfy armchair to read.

Of the headline acts, I have to highlight William Miller (1782 – 1849); and the crazy case of Solomon Eccles (1618 – 1683). Miller was a Baptist Minister who boldly predicted the second coming of Christ on 24th March 1843. The flaw in the argument lay of course in the Gregorian calendar versus the Roman influenced St Augustine’s calendar. Time just slipped by! Eccles in contrast, was a musician and composer by trade who somehow missed his beat and ended up being arrested and deported on a global scale for his wayward views and unusual personal behaviour. Although a Quaker, Eccles did not appear to voice his opinions based on any aspect of the Bible – he merely spoke from instinct. Sadly Eccles died a beleaguered and browbeaten man it seems.

Well known world-shattering crises are equally played out here. Orson Wells’ radio commentary of H G Wells’ War of the Worlds is mentioned, broadcast in October 1938 – surely the all-time hysteria classic? There is also a chapter entitled ‘Comets of Doom’ in which Patrick recalls Kohoutek’s Comet that was predicted to become the brightest Comet of the 20th Century. Observing wise, the Comet by Christmas 1973 was a damp squib but the media hype allowed the ‘...end of the worlders’ to get into full flow. Moses David’s pamphlet declared the Comet as “...a sign of divine vengeance.” A favourite is the explanation of Bode’s Law and how when all things looked mathematically good in terms of understanding the distances of planets from the Sun, along comes Neptune and the whole Law train is derailed!

What about how the end of the world was going to be administered by our own computer bug programming? We are blessed here by realising the bug’s origin lies at the beginning of man’s creation. Even the most sceptical will enjoy this book. Like its original, this new edition is an absolute scream!

Ian Welland

2009 Yearbook
This 132-page special edition features the ultimate observing guide for 2009, a review of all the biggest news stories of 2008, in depth articles covering all aspects of astronomy and space missions for 2009, previews of International Year of Astronomy events and much, much more.

Infinity Rising
This special publication features the photography of British astro-imager Nik Szymanek and covers a range of photographic methods from basic to advanced. Beautiful pictures of the night sky can be obtained with a simple camera and tripod before tackling more difficult projects, such as guided astrophotography through the telescope and CCD imaging.

Exploring Mars
Astronomy Now is pleased to announce the publication of Exploring Mars. The very best images of Mars taken by orbiting spacecraft and NASA's Spirit and Opportunity rovers fill up the 98 glossy pages of this special edition!

Mars rover poster
This new poster features some of the best pictures from NASA's amazing Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit and Opportunity.


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