WootBot


quality posts: 14 Private Messages WootBot

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In honor of the late Neil Armstrong and the Apollo astronauts, we’ve asked Jeopardy! champ Ken Jennings to run down some common misconceptions that lots of people still believe about the moon. Did you know it’s not even made out of green cheese? Science ruins everything.

Moon Myth #2: Human Behavior Gets Nuts During a Full Moon.

Fully 45 percent of American college students, according to one survey, believe the old saw that a full moon makes people a little wacky. This idea dates back to the ancient Greeks. They observed the near-correlation between the length of the lunar cycle and women’s menstrual cycles (a link that’s still controversial, but which many statisticians now believe to be an evolutionary coincidence), and they knew that the Moon’s orbit tugged at the ocean tides. In that case, why couldn’t it tug on the fluids in human brains and bodies as well? In fact, the Moon’s phases were so closely tied to the way the ancients saw mental illness that our word “lunatic” comes from the Latin “luna,” meaning Moon.

Occasionally some researcher will spot a rise in crime or hospital admissions correlated to the full moon, and the study will make headlines. But this malarkey was dispelled in 1985, when three scientists (two psychologists and one astronomer) collaborated on a meta-analysis for Psychological Bulletin, combining the data from 37 different studies of “moonstruck” humans. They found that the “full moon effect,” in short, doesn’t exist, and pointed out methodological errors in the studies that disagreed.

I know this is unlikely to convince those who have heard friend-of-a-friend stories of packed police precincts and emergency rooms on full moon nights, but there’s no evidence for the phenomenon. It’s mostly a result of confirmation bias: we’ve been conditioned by years of movies and myths to expect “full moon fever,” so when crazy stuff happens during a full moon, we remember that connection, and forget all the crazy stuff that happened at other times. As scientists have pointed out, the Moon’s gravity is a nonissue here: a wall six feet away or a mosquito both “pull” on you with more gravitational force than the Moon does. It’s possible, some scientists think, that in the days before modern lighting, a full moon could have been bright enough to change sleep patterns and cause some statistical rise in erratic behavior. But that hasn’t been true for centuries. Today, anyone who blames human problems on Luna is just loony.

Quick Quiz: What future star got an early break playing Cher’s one-handed love interest in the Oscar-winning 1987 movie Moonstruck?

Ken Jennings is the author of Brainiac, Ken Jennings's Trivia Almanac, and Maphead. He's also the proud owner of an underwhelming Bag o' Crap. Follow him at ken-jennings.com or on Twitter as @KenJennings.

Photo by Flickr member billbord99. Used under a Creative Commons License.

maxrfb


quality posts: 8 Private Messages maxrfb

Nicolas Coppola.
Though, I really must disagree with "big break"
with so many fine films he was in before that film.
Raising Arizona alone...

wow. I actually bought a Robot Elvis.
What was I thinking?

Jertyrael


quality posts: 21 Private Messages Jertyrael
maxrfb wrote:Nicolas Coppola.
Though, I really must disagree with "big break"
with so many fine films he was in before that film.
Raising Arizona alone...



I thought his name was Nicolas Cage?

"Woot and all our various sites will continue to be an independently operated company full of horrible, useless products and an untalented jerkface writing staff, same as it ever was." -- Matt Rutledge

ksutherland


quality posts: 0 Private Messages ksutherland

I disagree twice. As a nurse and wife of a paramedic, I still believe in the full moon thing. Even if it is power of suggestion, I won't let go. I've had way too many full moon night shifts for that.

And Raising Arizona was one of the best movies ever - and arguably ol' Nick's (born Nicolas Kim Coppola; January 7, 1964) best work before the horror. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1zdWC9rHWmk

photog7051


quality posts: 0 Private Messages photog7051

Did Ken write this during a full moon?

mirrorz


quality posts: 2 Private Messages mirrorz

I have to disagree too. Nicolas Cage is one of the worst actors in the world and should not be considered a star.

Even Sean Connery is better at doing believable accents.

I saw a turtle.

Rolyatcire


quality posts: 1 Private Messages Rolyatcire

Ken Jennings is only famous not for his intelligence but being lucky, as being one of the first people allowed by Jeopardy to play more than 5 consecutive games. Bring back the past champions for a showdown and then see how he stacks up. He's as bad as that Marilyn Vos Savant hack in Parade Magazine. Hey, where's that cure for cancer, or new shuttle to Mars? Oh right, you're all too busy with your media columns and celebrity to bother with real issues that perhaps you could help resolve. The fact that they're each in the same business as Snooki only less successful at it should tell you a lot about IQ tests versus applied intelligence.

dcobranchi


quality posts: 0 Private Messages dcobranchi

Next you'll be telling us there's no such thing as werewolves.

mjc613


quality posts: 48 Private Messages mjc613

At least he didn't say that garlic can't keep werewolves away. I know for a fact that there are no werewolves near my house, and I am positive it's because we grow garlic

richardbrust


quality posts: 0 Private Messages richardbrust
Rolyatcire wrote:...He's as bad as that Marilyn Vos Savant hack in Parade Magazine. ...



Best quote this month...

jai151


quality posts: 8 Private Messages jai151
mirrorz wrote:I have to disagree too. Nicolas Cage is one of the worst actors in the world and should not be considered a star.



For his next myth, Ken will debunk that acting ability and stardom are in any way related.

warflea


quality posts: 0 Private Messages warflea

A mosquito's gravitational pull is greater than than the moon's?

Let us consider a 2.5mg mosquito at 0.5 meters versus a 7.3*10^22 kg moon at 384400 km. I choose 0.5 meters since a mosquito sitting on your head is reasonably that far away from your center of mass. Consider also a 70kg wooter. (reasonable yes? we've all visited sport.woot right?)

We use Newton's Law of Gravitation: G*m1*m2/r^2

Where G is the gravitational constant, m1 is the mass of the wooter, m2 is the mass of the mosquito/moon, and r is the distance from the wooter to the mosquito/moon.

Moon's pull: 0.002 N
Mosquito's pull: 4.7*10^-14 N

Not even close.

babiblue


quality posts: 0 Private Messages babiblue

Of course they do, Can you name any other phenomena that they can use as a "PROVEN" excuse? case closed lol

MikeW2


quality posts: 0 Private Messages MikeW2
warflea wrote:A mosquito's gravitational pull is greater than than the moon's?

Let us consider a 2.5mg mosquito at 0.5 meters versus a 7.3*10^22 kg moon at 384400 km. I choose 0.5 meters since a mosquito sitting on your head is reasonably that far away from your center of mass. Consider also a 70kg wooter. (reasonable yes? we've all visited sport.woot right?)

We use Newton's Law of Gravitation: G*m1*m2/r^2

Where G is the gravitational constant, m1 is the mass of the wooter, m2 is the mass of the mosquito/moon, and r is the distance from the wooter to the mosquito/moon.

Moon's pull: 0.002 N
Mosquito's pull: 4.7*10^-14 N

Not even close.



Boy's Howdy. I commend you on your work, no I really do I just wish I understood the answer. Guess I should have paid more attention in grade school.

O and yes I'm one of those that tend to get a little crazed duering the full moon.

MikeW

tslothrop


quality posts: 12 Private Messages tslothrop
warflea wrote:A mosquito's gravitational pull is greater than than the moon's?

Let us consider a 2.5mg mosquito at 0.5 meters versus a 7.3*10^22 kg moon at 384400 km. I choose 0.5 meters since a mosquito sitting on your head is reasonably that far away from your center of mass. Consider also a 70kg wooter. (reasonable yes? we've all visited sport.woot right?)

We use Newton's Law of Gravitation: G*m1*m2/r^2

Where G is the gravitational constant, m1 is the mass of the wooter, m2 is the mass of the mosquito/moon, and r is the distance from the wooter to the mosquito/moon.

Moon's pull: 0.002 N
Mosquito's pull: 4.7*10^-14 N

Not even close.



The math checks. Perhaps, even though it was not capitalized, Ken meant a Mosquito. At 7000kg or thereabouts, it would exert the same gravitational pull as the moon at a distance of about 6", in other words you would have to be inside it. Then, of course, the pull would be in all directions, not quite the same result.

Perhaps Ken was right about the wall. It would have to be a 2000 Ton wall at 2 meters to have the same gravitational effect as the moon. A lead wall, maybe.

dsmmrm


quality posts: 7 Private Messages dsmmrm

just a couple observations...

You point out that a wall or a fly has more gravitational pull on a human body than the moon but not that the moon's phase has nothing to do with it. The fact that how lit up the moon is has nothing to do with its gravitational pull seems to me to be more germain than comparing its effect to other objects.

You note that the increase in nightime illumination has not applied for centuries while also pointing out that the belief is centuries old. Being able to do more outside during a full moon has influenced harvests, festivals and many other activities in the way back invariably leading to its own set of Bad Things Happening that otherwise would not if everyone were in bed. The full moon closest to the autumnal equinox is called the harvest moon for a reason. Old ideas die hard and believing a thing is tantamount to making it true as placebo effect continues to demonstrate.

It may well be that more wierdness occurs with a full moon, there's a lot of anecdotal evidence to support this. There is just no evidence the moon is actually at fault. That's not the same thing as saying there is no connection.

Just sayin...

dsmmrm


quality posts: 7 Private Messages dsmmrm
dsmmrm wrote:just a couple observations...

You point out that a wall or a fly has more gravitational pull on a human body than the moon but not that the moon's phase has nothing to do with it. The fact that how lit up the moon is has nothing to do with its gravitational pull seems to me to be more germain than comparing its effect to other objects.

You note that the increase in nightime illumination has not applied for centuries while also pointing out that the belief is centuries old. Being able to do more outside during a full moon has influenced harvests, festivals and many other activities in the way back invariably leading to its own set of Bad Things Happening that otherwise would not if everyone were in bed. The full moon closest to the autumnal equinox is called the harvest moon for a reason. Old ideas die hard and believing a thing is tantamount to making it true as placebo effect continues to demonstrate.

It may well be that more wierdness occurs with a full moon, there's a lot of anecdotal evidence to support this. There is just no evidence the moon is actually at fault. That's not the same thing as saying there is no connection.

Just sayin...



And another thing. The study you cite that debunks the loony myth studied 37 people. Obviously when studying individuals no physiological effects will be seen. We're talking about behavior in a population not a person.

sconlan04


quality posts: 0 Private Messages sconlan04
dsmmrm wrote:just a couple observations...

You point out that a wall or a fly has more gravitational pull on a human body than the moon but not that the moon's phase has nothing to do with it. The fact that how lit up the moon is has nothing to do with its gravitational pull seems to me to be more germain than comparing its effect to other objects.

You note that the increase in nightime illumination has not applied for centuries while also pointing out that the belief is centuries old. Being able to do more outside during a full moon has influenced harvests, festivals and many other activities in the way back invariably leading to its own set of Bad Things Happening that otherwise would not if everyone were in bed. The full moon closest to the autumnal equinox is called the harvest moon for a reason. Old ideas die hard and believing a thing is tantamount to making it true as placebo effect continues to demonstrate.

It may well be that more wierdness occurs with a full moon, there's a lot of anecdotal evidence to support this. There is just no evidence the moon is actually at fault. That's not the same thing as saying there is no connection.

Just sayin...



The moon is at fault and should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. A good prosecutor will turn this anecdotal evidence into a conviction.

mgodawski


quality posts: 0 Private Messages mgodawski

Ken, I often agree with you but here I have to ask that you interview folks who work in an Emergency Room. On the nights of full moons, they will tell you more shootings occur and more of the "crazies" come out of the woodwork. I don't have proof for you but I lived with an ER nurse for years and I've heard stories that would curl your hair.

--its the Shendy principle

pomero1


quality posts: 0 Private Messages pomero1

I was a reservationist for a major airline a few years ago and I can tell you that crazies do come out during a full moon. We even had a pop-up on our Sabre System that told us when it was a full moon. Some of the best airline stories are from events that happen on full moon nights! Maybe we should ask "Watson" what he thinks. After all, he won the contest, making it the real expert.

Jessara


quality posts: 7 Private Messages Jessara
mjc613 wrote:At least he didn't say that garlic can't keep werewolves away. I know for a fact that there are no werewolves near my house, and I am positive it's because we grow garlic



If you lived near my ex-mother-in-law, you couldn't say that!

tslothrop


quality posts: 12 Private Messages tslothrop
dsmmrm wrote:And another thing. The study you cite that debunks the loony myth studied 37 people. Obviously when studying individuals no physiological effects will be seen. We're talking about behavior in a population not a person.



37 Studies were cited, not 37 people. The total number of humans in the 37 studies was not mentioned.

jcolag


quality posts: 8 Private Messages jcolag

The simplest hypothesis (hinted at by a few people above) is that--prior to cheap artificial lighting--the full Moon meant you could go outside with less trouble.

More people outside, more crazy people outside.

Nonsense, maybe, but I believe that the change in plant chlorophyll production (the leaves changing colors) is a result of the duration of sunlight. If I remember correctly, that's also the trigger for hibernation in mammals, rather than temperature. So it could be even more subtle than just people going out.

Anybody know if that's been tested? Should be fairly straightforward.

Fourbyracer


quality posts: 0 Private Messages Fourbyracer

As a 911 dispatcher for the past 14 years, there is no question people go crazy during a full moon. I dont understand it, but time after time the full moon myth proves itself to be true for whatever reason. Hard to argue with results!

ennisd


quality posts: 0 Private Messages ennisd

I think people even get a little weider during a new moon. and Yes I am one of those people that you won't be able to convionce otherwise.

dsmmrm


quality posts: 7 Private Messages dsmmrm
tslothrop wrote:37 Studies were cited, not 37 people. The total number of humans in the 37 studies was not mentioned.



Yup, my bad. Apologies. I will be taking remedial reading comprehension classes asap. It did say the studies were of moonstruck humans, not groups or societies in general, so my point still applies.

ddispensa


quality posts: 1 Private Messages ddispensa
dsmmrm wrote:Yup, my bad. Apologies. I will be taking remedial reading comprehension classes asap. It did say the studies were of moonstruck humans, not groups or societies in general, so my point still applies.


I think you are confusing his artistic license for wanting to throw in "Moonstruck" and his distinction of Humans versus other animal studies for something more specific to the study. The study is

Rotton, J., & Kelly, I. (1985). Much ado about the full moon: A meta-analysis of lunar-lunacy research.Psychological Bulletin, 97 (2), 286-306 DOI: 10.1037//0033-2909.97.2.286

and appears to be quoted in many stories (see google).
Though your first post was spot on. Ken made a big mistake trying to argue against a common belief that it is "pull of the moon" by using equally bad science.
For all the anecdotal doubters, ask yourself, "did I ever say wow we are busy is it a full moon.... and it wasn't?". Bet you have a lot. Then you have to question if you are considering all the busy times that are not full moons and that there is really no correllation to the full moon. Maybe busy ERs happen once a week. Weekends perhaps. Some fall on full moons.
But Ken is right in his statement that this is not likely to convince you.

whoiskenjennings


quality posts: 7 Private Messages whoiskenjennings

Guest Blogger

warflea wrote:A mosquito's gravitational pull is greater than than the moon's?

Let us consider a 2.5mg mosquito at 0.5 meters versus a 7.3*10^22 kg moon at 384400 km. I choose 0.5 meters since a mosquito sitting on your head is reasonably that far away from your center of mass. Consider also a 70kg wooter. (reasonable yes? we've all visited sport.woot right?)

We use Newton's Law of Gravitation: G*m1*m2/r^2

Where G is the gravitational constant, m1 is the mass of the wooter, m2 is the mass of the mosquito/moon, and r is the distance from the wooter to the mosquito/moon.

Moon's pull: 0.002 N
Mosquito's pull: 4.7*10^-14 N

Not even close.



Wow, your math checks out. I got the claim from Scientific American, but it looks like they didn't fact-check closely enough.

I totally called it on the outraged ER nurses/first responders/etc. who I expected to come at me here. So weird how everyone in your field knows this obvious statistical fact that science has been unable to prove! Look, there's acres of data on police arrests, 911 calls, hospital admissions, etc. If there was a lunar correlation with ANY of these things, finding it would be cake. It's just not there.

whoiskenjennings


quality posts: 7 Private Messages whoiskenjennings

Guest Blogger

(But I am definitely on board with the Nicolas Cage skepticism. What a weird guy.)

AdamCahill


quality posts: 2 Private Messages AdamCahill

While I don't believe in the gravitational malarkey, I believe the corresponding rise in crime and other "crazy stuff" can be attributed to light.


No, I'm not saying moon light turns people crazy. I'm saying the people are already crazy and the light is just a facilitator. Being able to see makes it much easier to get out of the house and be stupid.

jcolag


quality posts: 8 Private Messages jcolag
whoiskenjennings wrote:Wow, your math checks out. I got the claim from Scientific American, but it looks like they didn't fact-check closely enough.

I totally called it on the outraged ER nurses/first responders/etc. who I expected to come at me here. So weird how everyone in your field knows this obvious statistical fact that science has been unable to prove! Look, there's acres of data on police arrests, 911 calls, hospital admissions, etc. If there was a lunar correlation with ANY of these things, finding it would be cake. It's just not there.



Perhaps Scientific American assumed that the victim and mosquito were both compressed to point masses and set afew angstroms from each other...

Correlation-wise, though, you might think it'd be easy, but (tinfoil hat firmly on) that's what the tobacco companies said about health problems. If it was addictive, if it caused cancer, well, someone would have found the link.

I'm not implying there's a vast Lunatic conspiracy (yeah, yeah, "that's my band's name")hiding evidence and engaging massive public relations campaigns to strongarm professional skeptics into denying the evidence, but...actually, no, that's exactly what I'm going to imply, because, really, that's pretty close to the best idea ever!

OK, really, my point is "we haven't found evidence to support it" doesn't equate with "it doesn't exist." Logical leaps like that are what get us people who still believe that bumblebees are magic because science says they can't fly. Sometimes, it means less pixie dust and more "German engineer doing the math too soon after a couple of cocktails."

If the issue is moonlight instead of gravity or homonymic correlation (the magic driving half the plots of Bewitched), the rise of artificial lighting would muddy the data beyond recognition. And when do the really good records start...?

Personally, I [i]don't[i] believe in a correlation, because I've never seen evidence for it. However, dismissing it as false because one unlikely hypothesis is blatantly false seems as silly as taking it for granted as true because it hasn't been disproven. Similarly, "people did math" isn't exactly compelling, considering all the math that goes into making an astrological chart--effort and even education don't make the results right.

whoiskenjennings


quality posts: 7 Private Messages whoiskenjennings

Guest Blogger

jcolag wrote:
OK, really, my point is "we haven't found evidence to support it" doesn't equate with "it doesn't exist."



FYI, this argument is made virtually every week and it's dumb. Actually, yes, "This hypothesis has been tested repeatedly and thoroughly and there is no evidence for it" IS the same as "This hypothesis is false" for the purposes of reasonable experts and of this column. That's pretty much the definition of the scientific method. How would you write about scientific findings otherwise?

You sound like some "but evolution is JUST A THEORY!" crackpot when you play the "Science has no evidence yet but maybe they'll come around!" card.

whoiskenjennings


quality posts: 7 Private Messages whoiskenjennings

Guest Blogger

AdamCahill wrote:While I don't believe in the gravitational malarkey, I believe the corresponding rise in crime and other "crazy stuff" can be attributed to light.



Agreed...if statistical correlations were shown to exist, I would look at the additional light as the only possible explanation.

Unfortunately, no such statistical correlation has been shown to exist.