HAVE you read any poppycock lately? Any baloney, tosh, or twaddle? There is a lot of it about, inspired, as it always is, by events beyond our control - by earthquakes in Japan, by floods in Holland and by the impending stiffing out of Deng Xiaoping. All have reasonable scientific explanations, but for dunderheads that is not enough. For dunderheads death is not something that happens indiscriminately, like a bad curry. It is, like everything else, from the price of tomatoes to the plot of Beverly Hills 90210, written in the stars. Most of us have known for a long time that the stars do not contain any truth. Confirmation has come from Dr Jacqueline Mitton of the Royal Astronomical Society in Britain, who says that star signs are largely 'out of sync'. This means that Virgos have become Leos, Cancerians Geminis and so on. None of us are the people we thought we were a week ago. I am no longer a caring, sensitive, deeply intelligent Aquarius who is likely to have a fun day on Thursday, but a level-headed and thrusting Pisces who is involved in advantageous business discussions and has a loved one who seems difficult to please. The ramifications are immense. Dr Mitton's revelation means that history will have to be re-considered. Jesus Christ is no longer a prudent, careful, pessimistic Capricorn, but an optimistic, unconventional and gregarious Sagittarius. If he were alive he would no longer be expecting a social invitation on Friday, but would be going out of his way to expand his social contacts. Hitler, mass-murderer and star of Hong Kong TV station advertising, would no longer be an Aries ('expect fireworks if an old affair is rekindled this week'), but a Taurus ('if you are planning a property deal, you may expect some delay'). Most interesting is a new star sign, a 13th, discovered by Dr Mitton for people born between November 30 and December 17. These people are Ophiuchus. They include Winston Churchill, Gary Lineker and my aunt Flora. Astrologers will have to do some fancy footwork if the life of my aunt Flora is to be reevaluated. For 64 years she has believed herself to be in for a small windfall next Wednesday. Now she has to suffer the ignominy of discovering that she has lived a life of false hope. All she has to look forward to is Venus moving into her love sector a week on Friday, 44 years too late. Astrology - in case you are not getting the message - is a load of old claptrap. The idea that a distant object like Pluto can exert a measurable effect on our miserable lives, and that astrologers can predict that effect, is bunkum of a most dangerous sort. Its success relies on what psychologists call the Barnum Effect, named after the showman Phineus T. Barnum, who rightly claimed that 'there's a sucker born every minute'. His formula for success was to give 'a little something for everybody'. It is the same formula used by astrologers. One of my first reporting jobs on the local newspaper I joined after leaving university was to subject myself to the scrutiny of a star-gazer, an old biddy who wore knitted cardigans. For six quid she told me many things that I already knew. 'There has been a sad event in your life.' This is the safe guess tactic. In most people's lives, there are events. Some of them, like the passing of a favourite cat, or the performance of the England cricket team, are sad. 'Yes.' 'Somebody has died.' I wasn't sure whether this was a question or a simple statement. 'Someone in your family?' This was definitely a question. The poor old dear was looking for help. Thank God the six quid was coming out of expenses. 'Yes.' She started the fortune-teller's age-old tactic of shooting in the dark. 'Was it your father? Was it your mother? A relative?' 'It was my grandmother.' 'That's tragic.' 'Not really. She was 98.' She told me my grandmother was happy on the Other Side. This was difficult to believe. On This Side my grandmother had always been a miserable old goat. 'Do you like cars?' This is the kind of general question astrologers enjoy. There is a good chance that a young male client will like cars. I was evidently meant to prostrate myself at her feet, incredulous at her powers of foresight and her gift for prophecy. 'No.' This almost threw her, but not quite. 'Do you have a car?' 'Yes.' 'Is it blue?' 'That's incredible. It is blue.' How could she have known this, other than by looking out of her front window, to where my car was parked? In times of uncertainty we seem to enjoy being told that some things are certain. My favourite forecast for the coming months came from an astrologer in a British magazine. He said: 'There will be severe flooding in Bangladesh.' I have a few predictions of my own. An urbane Englishman, a fan of Debbie Harry, will be going on a long journey on June 30, 1997. David Tang will always be a bore, and there will be nothing on the telly tonight.