Mystic moons and lunatic legends

There is a difference between being a fool, and just simply ignorant. Ignorance isn’t a bad thing, it just means there’s a gap in your knowledge and we all have those. Being a fool is a little more challenging. Generally I consider foolish people to be unable or uninterested in getting past their own ignorance.

Why am I bringing this up now? Because today’s post is about pointing out one of my own pieces of ignorance.

I haven’t been playing too much Skyrim. Who told you such!?

For many years I’ve thought that crime does in fact increase during a full moon. On more than one occasion I’m pretty sure I’ve even told people this one was true. For the life of me I can’t remember where I heard the idea, but I thought it was from pretty reliable sources. Naturally I’ve been pretty skeptical most of my life and never thought it was because the moon had any sort of mystical power. There was a correlation, not a causation. In other words people acted strangely on the full moon not because the moon had some sort of power over them, but because of all the stories which made odd behaviour more acceptable during this time.

There’s a wonderful line in Tim Minchin’s beat poem ‘Storm’ that goes “…you’d rather stand in the fog of your inability to Google”.

So rather than just continuing to spread a myth that I was no longer sure was true, I decided to push aside the fog and see for myself.

Truly for all its woes and naysayers out there, the Internet is the greatest tool man has ever built. In no more than 5 minutes of searching and reading I was onto what I thought was the correct answer. After half an hour I no longer have any doubts.

Increased crime during full moons is bullshit. In fact the full moon doesn’t appear to have any significant effect on…well anything. Except maybe our ability to see.

 

As per usual, if all you’re after is a quite bite of information I recommend the Wikipedia entry ‘Lunar effect‘, which briefly outlines the history and the lack of evidence for such claims.

For anyone after something a little more substantial or more reliable, I’d recommend an article done by the ABC – Bad moon rising: The myth of the full moon.

Scientific American also has a good article ‘Lunacy and the full Moon’.

The most common explanation for why the full moon might have an effect on human behaviour is that its gravitational pull affects the oceans tides, and due to the human body being made mostly of water, perhaps there is a similar effect that could explain lunacy. Being the most common I thought I’d tackle this one and leave further investigation to the readers.

The article in Scientific American lays it out quite nicely.

1. The gravitational pull of the moon is far too weak to affect humans. The reason it affects the oceans so much is because the oceans are so large.

2. This one I found quite interesting. The gravitational force only affects open bodies of water such as oceans and lakes. It doesn’t affect contained bodies of water, such as the water found in the human

body.

3. This is the one I find to be the myth killer. The gravitational pull of the moon is just as potent during a new moon. The new moon is when the moon is not visible at all.

 

 

These days, knowing what causes a full moon, why should we expect it to have any power? Seriously, ‘moonlight’ isn’t actually the light of the moon. It’s the light of the sun being reflected off the moon. Keeping that in mind, why should we expect moonlight to behave any differently than sunlight? It just doesn’t make sense.

I’m afraid this is just another myth to drop into the bunked pile.

 

– Ignorance is not bliss. Stay inquisitive.

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About Jamie D
I'm an entrepreneur and small business owner working in 3D animation and multimedia. I also have a keen interest in technology and education.

5 Responses to Mystic moons and lunatic legends

  1. ChrisThaLedg says:

    You’re right..

  2. ChrisThaLedg says:

    Nice work mate.. haven’t had the time to read it all because I have to run pretty quickly.. will read it properly when I get the chance.. I’ve heard this one before, more so recently and I’ve only heard it to be true.. people in the police force and ambulance sector have said that they dread a full moon because it happens to bring out all the ‘crazys’.. I’ve heard from a number of sources who have worked in the industry of either for over 20 years and they say the same thing.. my explanation for it would be (you may have covered this).. is that when the full moon is out.. the tides are stronger.. and given that we are 80 percent water.. it could raise the energy levels in our body that are made of water.. like a mega dose of caffeine or sugar.. you may have debunked this theory.. the fact that more incidences and accidents are reported by police and ambo’s during these times could be a mere coincidence but the fact that people in this industry are more aware and alert in higher numbers during these times suggests that their could be truth to it L(

    • archdragon87 says:

      Hey man, probably not a lot of point going over your post in too much detail as the original post does cover a lot of what you brought up. Check out the numbered points near the end for a brief overview of why the tide theory doesn’t work. The ‘Scientific American’ article covers this in a little more detail.

      But I would like to draw you back to the comment about hospital and police workers reporting more ‘crazies’, because it’s an extremely important point and one that in hindsight I should have included in the main post.
      First off, you’re absolutely right. One of the articles I read said that something amazing like 80% of nurses believe in the lunar effect. I didn’t get a percentage on police officers, but they’re also really high in believers.
      The thing is, the studies that have been done on the lunar effect use the reports written by hospitals and the police to generate their results!
      What this means is that the people who are more likely to believe in the power of the moon are in fact providing the evidence to disprove it. It is their reports that demonstrate there is no significant difference between crazies on a full moon compared to any other night.

      This is a rather fascinating phenomenon. There are probably a few explanations for it, but the most common and the one I think is the most likely is ‘confirmation bias’. We remember the hits and forget the misses.
      What this means is that on the night of a full moon there may be a large number of people admitted to hospital and the nurses will blame the lunar effect. A week or two later the same thing might happen, but because it’s not a full moon it doesn’t set off a spark in our heads and it gets forgotten much easier. The human brain is extremely good at picking up connections, but when they connection is absent it gets subconsciously ignored.

      The lesson we need to take away from this is that you can’t always trust anecdotal evidence. What’s really interesting is that the people who help spread this myth have in fact, as some point, physically written the reports that disprove the myth. They are living a life that actively demonstrates their belief is wrong. It goes to show just how powerful a belief can be, and how it needs to be treated with care.

      • ChrisThaLedg says:

        You’ve made some great points there my good man.. the articles that you’ve included are very insightful.. I still find that my only real experience in the matter, recently in fact.. is talking to those who have been in the profession and they’ve mentioned their recounts.. as you said, the belief system is a big thing.. the concept of this is a big thing.. from my knowledge, outside any articles and my general conversations is that nurses, doctors etc keep track of when the next full moon is and they are delibrately extra staffed on that date.. these staff are given more of a work load.. and its bigger than any night.. my understanding from these few locations is that it is a planned thing because of it .. whether they believe in the hype or not is anyone’s guess.. it could be coincidence that on the night of a full moon that more activity happened.. I just think that given it has been more wildly reported in many places that I wouldn’t rule any slight possibility in it.. again, studies and reports and the like can only provide part of the story.. speaking to people living the experience adds a bit more weight.. its interesting though..

        • archdragon87 says:

          speaking to people living the experience adds a bit more weight

          No, it doesn’t. It absolutely doesn’t. Talking to people is the trap that leads to these kinds of myths developing in the first place.
          Why would you give more weight to a story told months later, when you have data (by the same person) from the night in question? It’s akin to asking someone if they were at the chemist last Tuesday, they tell you ‘no’, then you produce a video tape showing they were in fact there. But then for some reason you’re saying the story they’re telling you has more weight than the video. What possible reason would you rely on someones memory of an event, when you have perfectly good data you could use.

          I didn’t include this comic in the original post because I was worried it was a little heavy handed, but this really does sum up confirmation bias on this lunar effect this perfectly.
          lunar effect: confirmation bias

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