Geophysics: A New Doomsday?

Throughout history, prophets of doomsday have compiled a notoriously bad record. Now two scientists, influenced more by precise data than by intuition, have picked a date when life on earth may be seriously threatened if not doomed. By A.D. 3991, they say, the earth's magnetic field may have substantially disappeared. The result, some scientists think, could be catastrophic mutation of plant and animal life and widespread climatic changes.

Using magnetic-field data ranging back to A.D. 1670, Physicist Keith McDonald of the Environmental Science Services Administration and Robert Gunst of the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey have calculated that the field's...

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