Mystic moons and lunatic legends
May 30, 2012 5 Comments
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.
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
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.