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Dawn of a new millennium – What millennium?

For people intending to celebrate the arrival of 2000: Lay in those supplies of champagne and order the caviar. For those who are looking forward to see in the beginning of the next 1000 years: Put away those Millennium Magnums – it is not happening.

This content was published on December 31, 1999 - 08:12

For people intending to celebrate the arrival of Y2K, or Year 2000, on December 31st: Lay in those supplies of champagne and order the caviar. For those who are looking forward to see in the beginning of the next 1000 years: Put away those Millennium Magnums – it is not happening.

This is not the dire prediction of a doomsayer. It is just simple mathematics.

Pierre Thomann, the assistant director of the Neuchâtel Observatory, says that planned millennium celebrations are a year too early. December 31, 1999 will be just a run-of-the-mill New Year's Eve. It has nothing to do with the millennium beginning or end.

He explains that counting millennia is the same as counting the decades in the age of a person, i.e. by starting at one and ending at a digit with zero.

So, this millenium ends on December 31, 2000.

However, Thomann says that is no reason not to celebrate since the year 2000 is a big occasion, even though he points out that next year will be even bigger.

Thomann says he is surprised by the number of people who still think the millennium begins in 2000. At the beginning of the year, he says, many people -- including media representatives -- called up to clarify the situation but, "somehow, this information disappeared."

"The general feeling that the millennium ends this year has been so overwhelming that rational thinking was defeated," he says.

Thomann says he does not like to insist on telling people that they are wrong because it makes him look like someone who wants to kill the pleasure of those preparing to celebrate.

In any case, he intends to party, too. This year and next.

From staff member Paul Sufrin.

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