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Newsmen at the London Daily Express are baffled by reports of strange phenomena occurring all over the world, such as flooding in the Sahara, unseasonable blizzards in New York, and violent tornadoes in the Soviet Union. London is suffering from scorching temperatures and heavy mists. Though no official explanation of the events is given, the newspaper's science editor Bill Maguire and hard-drinking veteran reporter Peter Stenning discover that the disasters began after two simultaneous nuclear tests were made, one at the North Pole by the Soviet Union, the other at the South Pole by the United States. Stenning learns from Jeannie Craig, a telephone operator at the meteorological office, that the two explosions shifted the earth's orbit and set it hurling toward the sun. The Express prints this information and causes a sensation. As temperatures rise and water becomes scarce, governments take emergency measures to curb mounting hysteria, rampant looting, and rioting by teenagers. Scientists from many countries confer and conceive a proposal to explode simultaneously four large bombs to restore the earth's orbit. On detonation day, the populace goes underground, but Stenning waits in the newsroom for the results of the blasts; meanwhile, typesetters have prepared two front pages--one bearing the headline "World Saved," the other "World Doomed."