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Debunking Astrology: Mars Can’t Influence You

So you think the position of Mars in the sky at the time of your birth made you tall, dark, and handsome (or short, fair, and ugly)? Or lucky (or unlucky) in love? If you think believing in astrology is anywhere close to scientific, well, Dude, time to think again.

Pick two babies born within a minute of each other. One has two nurses and a doctor attending; the other, just a midwife. One is born in a brightly lit maternity ward in a downtown big city hospital; the other in a poorly lit room in a village 50 kilometers from the nearest big city. ‘Downtown’ is just a few meters above sea level; the village is situated on a 1000 meter high plateau. These local differences have far greater effects on the babies than Mars does. Let’s see how.

Nearly five centuries of physics have given us quite a few certainties, and among those are that the only long range forces in the universe are gravity and electromagnetism. And both of these, from Mars, are totally – and I mean totally – overwhelmed by those same forces that were produced by things near you when you were delivered. In a word, Mars can’t influence you.

Start with gravitation.

The gravitational force between you and Mars is greatest when Mars is closest to the Earth; let’s say that’s 56 million kilometers. Now Mars has a mass of 6.4 x 1023 kg, so the acceleration, here on Earth, due to Martian gravity would be 1.4 x 10-8 meters per second per second (m s-2).

How did I work that out? By using Newton’s law of universal gravitation:
F = Gm1m2/r2
F = ma
a = GmMars/distance-to-Mars2.

How does this compare with variations in gravitational force due to adults standing nearby (everyone has a mother, so we won’t count her)?

Let’s take 60 kg as an adult’s mass, and a distance of 1 meter; that gives a gravitational acceleration of 4 x 10-9 m s-2, so just three adults nearby would have the same gravitational effect on you as Mars!

How does this compare with variations in gravitational force we know people born at the same time – but elsewhere on Earth – experienced?

Let’s take a difference in altitude of 1000 m (lots of big cities have altitudes greater than this – Mexico City, for example, is at 2240 m – and lots are close to sea level), and calculate the difference in acceleration due to the Earth’s gravity (this ignores several important factors, such as the Earth’s rotation, and local differences in g). Well, it works out as 0.003 m s-2, or about 200,000 times greater than Martian gravity!

In fact, if you were born just half a centimeter higher, you’d be influenced to the same extent, gravitationally, as by Mars!

Next, electromagnetism.

You can be influenced, electromagnetically, in four separate ways: by a magnetic field, by an electric current, by an electric field, and by electromagnetic radiation. How powerful is Mars, electromagnetically?

There’s no electric current between Mars and Earth; the solar wind – which blows outward from the Sun (so Mars is ‘downstream’, and any electromagnetic influence carried by the solar wind would be from Earth to Mars) – is neutral, on balance, and carries no current.

The solar wind is a plasma, and any electric field there is in it will not be felt much more than a few Debye lengths’ away (basically, because electrons and ions are free to move in a plasma, they screen charges – the source of electric fields – quite effectively; the Debye length is about as far as an electric field can penetrate). Now the solar wind can be quite dynamic – meaning it can change a lot – but the Debye length in any part of it will rarely, if ever, be greater than a few tens of meters. Let’s be generous and say an electric field could be felt up to a kilometer away. But Mars never comes closer to the Earth than ~50 million km!

Well, that makes any electric field influence from Mars impossible, doesn’t it?!

While Mars does have a weak magnetic field, it has no influence on Earth, because the Earth’s own field creates a magnetosphere around us, one that screens out external magnetic fields. Besides, as Mars is downstream from us (the way the solar wind blows), and as the solar wind can carry (actually stretch) a magnetosphere only in the direction it blows, any magnetic influence would be from Earth to Mars, not Mars to Earth.

Three down, one to go.

The Earth’s atmosphere blocks all electromagnetic radiation except for that which we see by (and a bit on the UV side too), some infrared, and in the microwave and radio regions of the electromagnetic spectrum.

Mars is a very weak source of microwaves and radio waves, and even in the (radio) quietest places on Earth, electromagnetic radiation from (distant) radio stations, (distant) cellphone towers, TV satellites, airplanes overhead, etc totally, totally drowns out any Martian signals.

On a clear, moonless night, Mars may seem bright to your dark-adjusted eyes … but most likely you were born under quite bright lights, and indoors. No Martian influence here either.

So what do we have then?

Like I said, Mars can’t make you tall dark and handsome, nor can it influence your love life.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • perigee January 27, 2010, 6:48 PM

    [Andy F Says:
    January 27th, 2010 at 9:07 am

    As a practicising ophiuchan, who loves the number 13, astrology is up there with cosmetology, ufology, Apollo project and AGW denying, crop circles and alchemy as a field of study that has given so, so much to mankind…. in the process making so much money for those practicising it.

    To undertake a successful astrology practice, the only raw material required is a good supply of gullible people (oh, and keep the 13th sign of the Zociac hush hush!)

    [Perigee says:]

    On a technical point…

    There are only 12 SIGNS of the zodiac. You are instead refering to the CONSTELLATION Ophiuchus.

    Signs and constellations are NOT the same thing.

    Do your homework!

    The signs of the tropical zodiac (that astrologers use) is a purely geometric 12-fold construct covering the ENTIRE celestial sphere and anchored to the equinoxes/solstices that are subject to precession.

    So you cannot be an Ophiuchan in the astrological sense because constellations are not used in (Western) astrology.

  • perigee January 27, 2010, 7:12 PM

    # Uncle Fred Says:
    January 26th, 2010 at 5:33 pm

    I wonder if they run such questions through their mind:

    “What is this energy of the planets? What instruments can we use to scientifically measure this supposed energy? If our hypothesis is that there is indeed such energy, in what ways can we devise tests to disprove this notion (thereby eliminating all possible counter evidence?”

    etc etc…

    [Perigee says:]

    I appreciate that on a science forum these are the sort of questions we would like to get answers – if astrology worked in the first place. And that’s the real question – does it work? Does it perform? Otherwise these technical questions are moot.


  • Uncle Fred January 27, 2010, 7:59 PM

    I appreciate such insight as those who have posted about their experiences with predictions. I have felt in the past that I have had similar deja-vu and other phenomena.

    So being the inquisitive individual I am, I decided some time ago to see if I was really having deja-vu on the odd occasion.

    For a number of years I left a virtual journal of my day’s feelings and experiences and each morning recorded all the dreams I could remember.

    Finally, after about 6 years I felt I had a “OMG! deja-vu!” moment. I used the search tool to pick out all the references to feelings, places and people at the time of my deja-vu.

    Turns out my almost certain premonition was actually a deeply buried but remarkably similar experience I had years before.

    My subconscious and conscious mind tried to play a trick on me!

    As for medium/psychic predictions, I find that if you press people far enough on these predictions, often times you’ll find that what they really said was not what you remember.

    Like for the Earthquake example, did she actually specify that it would be an earthquake? I mean REALLY spell it out as a quake? Was there anybody else that was present when she described these events?

    Also, what are her beliefs? Was the prediction based on some fundamental aspect of a related concept? Ex. Strong Buddhist traditions? Or what about local factors? Did she predict a quake because she understands that such-and-such a region is prone to quakes?

    Sorry if I ruin the fun, but I feel more often then not, an answer can be found that makes logical sense. Sometimes you just have to dig for it. When I was a kid it was a community right of passage to explore this local abandoned house at night. I did so alone and could never understand why everyone was so afraid of it. The only thing I was afraid of was a wild animal, a structural failure, the cops, or someone hurting me in a prank.

  • Fermin Ortea January 27, 2010, 10:23 PM

    Boni64 sayst o Lluis:

    What Energy is that?
    There are only 3 Known Natural Energies for sure, posible 4 and 5,..in the Universe.

    “Energy” and “Force” are 2 words for the same thing.

    Religion, parapsicology, paranormal and pseudocientific people think in esoteric, supernatural or mataphysical energies unknown for the Natural Sciences,…it is a matter of belief or faith that those forces exist.

    The known Natural Energies or Forces are: Gravitation, Electroweak ( Electromagnetism unified with former Weak Nuclear force ) and the Strong Nuclear Force. Under study is “Dark Energy” an the one that keeps the Universe expanding and accelerating, if it is not the same.

    Astrology had been studied profusely by the best scientists in the last centuries all over the world, and declared false as a Science. This is not a matter of only one person’s opinion.

    He is assuming that the author doesn’t understand astrology,…and because that it is possible that it be valid. What a fallacy ! It is very well known its name is “Special Pleading” ( Carl Sagan’s Demon Haunted World book page. 213) .
    People of all religions and opinions, should say the same thing and not all of them could be right, if any.

    According with that anything could be possible and valid.

    Astrology is a belief not a Natural Science. A pseudoscience or a game with artifically man made rules like any sport or organized indoor entertainments as Monopoly, domino, checkers or backgammon.

    Really it is Astromancy, it uses astros as cards.

    Not because you don’t understand base ball, foot ball, o chess you can’t say that it has nothing to do with unknown universal forces, only with those already known and mentioned above,…and even then the odds are enormous depending on how you use them, and other factors natural and man made.

    What energies are you talking about ?

  • Lawrence B. Crowell January 28, 2010, 4:35 AM

    Energy is related to force as a force displaced through a distance. An increment of energy, or energy change &E, is determined by a force F through a distance or displacement &x

    &E = F&x..

    I find it amuzing this little topic, written to deflect ideas that physics can explain astrology, has garnered such attention and particularly by a fair number who defend astrology.

    Astrology is a supernatural scheme imposed on planetary motion as seen on the geocentric coordinate frame. It really is a form of religion at the end of the line.


  • Blad Hansen January 28, 2010, 9:41 AM

    There are some real mysteries that persist through time not because of human gullibility
    but because people find they work – for them.Though science never seems to crack the nut of why.
    And skepticism often seems to skew statistical attempt to verify or debunk or it biases the outcome through something akin to a negative placebo effect.

    4 mysteries come to mind as outstanding :
    Astrology, dowsing, homeopathy,and the placebo effect itself(though the last two may be somewhat intertwined.)

    With respect to astrology there has been quite a lot of recent progress, mainly through our ability to analyze for hormones and endorphins.

    The annual, perceived movement of the zodiac is the basis of the calendar and we have archeo-astronomical evidence of dial timekeeping going back well into the neolithic
    and even earlier. Notched bones, stone circles, various solstice alignments etc.

    There is a statistically proven relationship between lunar cycles, and human and animal behaviors. ( note our lexicon – lunatic, mooning around, etc etc)
    And of course there is menstruation.

    There was a fun piece on this by Rob Roy Britt, in Space.com :


    There is also a large body of contemporary knowledge relating human personality traits and physiology to season of birth.

    If you want to explore these subject – google -Seasonal birth traits. I got 1.5 million hits!

    This life-science spans from bacteria, through planktonic water fleas, to puppies, cows, sheep, and even human racial variations.

    In fact, even season of conception, can influence physiological outcomes!

    So there is clearly a link between the calendar, the zodiac, and birth traits and our ancestors were wise to this way back.

    Our awe of the heavens led us to confuse cause and effect,
    our awe of ‘wise men’ who could predict eclipses (probably back over 6000 yr/ago),
    and our awe of men who could dowse water ( origin of the the word sorcerer?) i.e. Moses
    can explain much of the mysticism out of which modern science emerged.

    We really do differ if we are born in November or May in all sorts of ways but not because of the planets, the moon and sun or their gravity or their electromagnetism (sorry EU), but because they were our first clocks, and calendars and we clearly have discrete personality traits and paths through life.

    Astrologers connected these dots for millennia, and have studied human nature sufficiently long to be able to tell us some very deep things that hugely influenced human history.

    Sadly, tabloid exploitation and charlatans have cheapened this strange psychology so we miss the remarkable insights that underlie it. On these pages, let’s not forget, the precise mathematics it developed, that gave us celestial navigation,Newtonian gravity and the path to modern astronomy . Not a bad record for a ‘pseudo’ science!!!

    • Jean Tate January 28, 2010, 10:29 AM

      When considering the history of astronomy and astrology, it’s important to remember that celestial phenomena were quite mysterious, and had no apparent connection with earthly phenomena, right up until Newton published his law of universal gravitation. Galileo prepared the ground, so to speak, for Newton, by discovering that the Moon apparently had mountains, and some understanding of the connection between meteors and meteorites probably existed before then too.

      Once the implications of Newton’s work sank in, astronomy and astrology became increasingly easily distinguishable.

  • Aqua January 28, 2010, 10:38 AM

    Uncle Fred – Take a look at Science of Mind

    THAT’s where me and the psychic basically differed. She chased after personal-ego based interpretations. Whereas SOM teaches that we are all ONE in SPIRIT… and have access to unlimited love, wisdom and knowledge when we let go of who we think we are, and listen in to our soul’s communion with the infinite.

    “Be Thee reborn, with the renewal of Thy mind!”

  • Aqua January 28, 2010, 11:01 AM

    Jean Tate – Yes, there is lightning on Mars.


    • Jean Tate January 28, 2010, 11:37 AM

      Thanks for that Aqua!

      The paper based on this research, in Geophysical Research Letters, is rather more cautious, than the story, about it being lightning, but it is indeed non-thermal (note that electrical discharges from Martian dust have been predicted for many years now).

  • Uncle Fred January 28, 2010, 1:40 PM

    Interesting. Blad Hansen’s comment was rather intelligent in tone, so I followed through with searches of some of his concepts.

    Astrology, dowsing, homeopathy,and the placebo effect

    In order of my findings:
    Astrology: Religious beliefs (see other’s)
    Dowsing: No scientific studies have ever verified this procedure is more than just chance. In fact, “diviners” when tested in a controlled experiment are just as likely to fail as succeed.
    [link removed]
    Placebo effect: Human intervention on their own health due to some effect of controlling the brain’s chemical and or electrical signals. Someone could clarify this was VERY technical.

    If you want to explore these subject – google -Seasonal birth traits. I got 1.5 million hits!

    Ok! I did.

    -How so? I found nothing on this other than the time of year has an influence on development. This is very easily explained! Seasons? Weather? Sunlight? Temperature? How much a mammal can be active during the daylight? The list goes on… and it has nothing to do with Astrology!?!

    Menstral cycles = lunar cycles:

    – Where did you get this?

    [link removed]

    Cycles range between 25-35 days and vary in stage between women.

    “even human racial variations.”

    -huh? No such thing!
    [link removed]

    -We are far to genetically similar as a species to be able to classify our differences in terms of race.

    “Not a bad record for a ‘pseudo’ science”

    -Still looking for anything related to pseudo science that can’t be explained with critical thinking.

    I think this is getting nowhere. For whatever reasons that are beyond my understanding, a large segment of the population seems to anchor their thoughts in beliefs, whether they are traditional or new age (Science of Mind). I’m not saying there is anything wrong with it, It must bring them some sort of comfort. I just don’t understand it. Can anyone who believes in things tell me why they seek and hold on to such explanations?

  • Blad Hansen January 29, 2010, 9:58 AM

    @Jean and all
    Though this strand seems to have died a natural death,I
    hope you don’t think I’m a stubborn Taurus and kick me off the blog for verbosity but I’d like to clarify my last comment.

    I’m a hard core atheist. And a pretty hard core skeptic of the ‘show me’ school.

    I’m sure we are on the same page re: history of astrology and history of modern science and their divergence.
    Also we’d agree on the entire lack of physical forces of nature in the solar system carrying subtle influences or unknown weird psycho-physical
    energies which influence character or foretell destiny, as you explain in your article.

    But I find persistent mysteries fascinating. Not because they are magical but because beliefs that nevertheless have physical manifestations require investigation and explanation –
    debunking as ‘mere suggestion or gullibility’ isn’t good enough. For instance earlier comments mentioned voodoo (admittedly metaphorically as in ‘voodoo science’)

    However voodoo really can and does kill voodoo believers. There is a wealth of anthropological work on this from West Africa as well as Haiti.
    But there’s very little medical,neurological or psychological explanation of how this might work. Just saying ‘it’s merely the power of suggestion’ is
    actually very loaded by that word – power. It’s easy for Skeptical Inquirer to take down a mentalist, or a spoon bender but a lot harder to explain a real death at a distance by voodoo.

    Homeopathy is something we’d think would be easy to debunk and easy to forget as an interesting sidebar in old time medicine. But it just won’t go away though you’d think that if people tried it and it didn’t work for them, they’d forget it in a hurry. So what have we here? Evidenced based medicine proves that homeopathy absolutely cannot carry physiologically active molecules into the living body – period.
    But I’ve seen homeopathy really work many times in the everyday world, ( it’s amazed my hard core skepticism). I’m not saying homeopathy is medicine but it often makes something happen that is currently inexplicable.
    But put it in the hard light of clinical double blind trials and it’s a bust every time “no better than placebo”. But what then is placebo?
    Placebo is another little understood field often dissed as ‘merely’ suggestion. It been a useful statistical standard test for 50 years. And sometimes a wise ‘trick of the trade’ for practitioners. But lately it’s getting a lot of attention and research money because it’s effect seems to have doubled over the past decade, putting a lot of standard drug testing into question. (see via google: Placebo Response Drug Trials Survey. Or this well researched journalistic article: [link deleted])
    Some of the pathways of this response have been mapped and some very elegant psychological experiments have been performed offering clues
    to new science and new medical practice. It’s is deep and fascinating stuff. Voodoo magic under the knife so to speak.

    I’m sure all on this blog agree that ‘astrological advice’ or prophesy to a Libra or a Leo in the daily news papers is silliness in extreme.

    But there are known forces that subtly effect organisms. There are clearly, biological responses to terrestrial magnetism, (orientation of iron bacteria, navigation abilities of blinded migratory birds, disorientation of bats by resetting their bio magnetism by exposure to a powerful field ….. and many others) usually via neuro-receptors containing bio-magnetite. I’m talking of species such as Arctic Terns that migrate solo, 20 thousand kilometers with GPS precision.
    Even more remarkable is the implication that celestial star maps can be inherited in some bird and even fish species. Ironically this would be real bio astrology when it leads them to their mates!

    So it is from these perspectives that I am advocating for caution in debunking astrology just on the grounds that there are no signals linking life lines to the planets. I’m pretty sure most astrologers don’t practice with that in mind or think their field works like that at all. Indeed the whole business of the chart, rising sign, etc etc is perhaps an atavistic liturgy, whereby many of them are practicing a type of psychological counseling that many clients find helpful in managing their lives. I think the use of tables of ephemera, the nautical almanac, and circular geometic diagrams probably reassures the susceptible just like a religion as Lawrence Crowell points out. Whether any form of psychological counseling can be called science …I don’t think so, though it surely works. Doctors are only half joking when they say ‘white coat – black art’. And conversely priests would like us to believe “black-robe – white art…?

    I think the physical sciences may be erecting a straw man when we demonstrate a lack of force at a distance underlying astrology. I’m most uncertain that astrologers actually claim this force exists.

    But where there is a physical link – of the the ‘astro’ suffix and our inner lives is here:
    The seasons and their varying solar irradiance are caused by axial inclination, and orbit around the sun, and the forces of tides and nocturnal light levels vary with lunar cycles and these have subtle but very real effects, entraining our physiology and psychology and this has been a fact of life for a very long time.
    Thus an issue that just won’t go away is that there seems to be some reality-based connection between ‘astrological sign’ on the calendar and aspects of some life outcomes. Strictly speaking since they occur in-utero, date of conception may be the controlling factor not birthday. These seem to be through neuro-plastic effects on the growing foetus, of seasonal changes in maternal hormones (lots of molecules), neurotransmitters (not so many molecules), and endorphins (staggeringly few molecules of some 40+ different ‘flavors’) which influence statistically validated links to genes effecting personality of the offspring, as well as vulnerability to certain physical and mental disorders, and even career paths and mating choices in later life!
    A couple of peer-reviewed refs:
    [links deleted]

    What I am saying is that however hard nosed we want to be, or how ever easily we think we can dismiss quirky observation as merely some well known manifestation, or the madness of crowds, be prepared to be surprised. Of course Carl Sagan is right “science is a candle in the demon haunted world”. But when I was undergraduate, ‘continental drift’ was dissed as Wagner’s crazy idea, and existence of endogenous magnetic compasses in organisms were considered ‘daft’. Plate Tectonics has become the paradigm unifying all geophysics, and bio-magnetism is an exciting emerging field. Our bio computer and its mentation and memory, function at levels way deeper than current loops on neurons. Though we have unravelled the genome and can watch brains think through MRI, we are only at the beginning of probing the ‘body-electric’ at the level of the cellular nucleus and the currents and fields that excite our RNA and DNA. And it’s all evolved from exquisitely organized photons and star dust. We really are the universe contemplating itself!

    [Blad: if you put more than one link in a comment, the system will not post it. Given the volume of spam we get, and how busy we are, few of us are willing to wade through all the "Pending" comments to let through the tiny minority that are not spam. I've deleted the links, so this should now be posted automatically - Jean Tate.]

  • AxelHarvey January 29, 2010, 12:21 PM

    -> Jean Tate, …. : You have shown that astrology is not explained by gravity. I shall recommend you to the Nobel committee.

    As for the idea that external magnetic fields cannot influence Earth because of Earth’s magnetosphere, that is putting matters upside-down. Surely it is the magnetosphere that can react to the magnetic environment, and the absence of a magnetosphere would make astrology very different from what it is (for example, the orientation of planets wrt the local meridian and horizon is taken into account in astrology, implying that external forces are mediated by Earth and that we are not zapped directly by planetary fields).

    -> ND, CrazyEddieBlogger, Uncle Fred, Fermin Ortea, Lawrence B. Crowell, and others: You all seem to believe firmly that astrology is a (mere) belief. In other words you are not non-believers, but rather believers in the negation of a hypothesis. Please learn the difference between a non-believer and a negative believer.

    -> Lawrence B. Crowell: “What intellectual basis astrology might have had [...] it has in the modern world evaporated.” Substitute Renaissance medicine or Renaissance alchemy for astrology in that sentence and you could make precisely the same statement; yet those congeries of barbaric superstitions (as some would have it) evolved gradually into our medicine and chemistry.

    -> Surak: “the fact that astrology failed to predict the existence of Neptune and Uranus.” As astrology stood circa 1700 (and to a great extent today) it is a technology rather than a deductive theoretical discipline. Besides, going through thousands of horoscopes, each associated with a personal biography, in order to deduce the position and orbit of an as-yet-unknown planet seems like an impossible task even with the help of computers and sophisticated mathematics. So astrologers apply rules based on known astronomical facts to come up with likely scenarios. You might as well blame physicians for not predicting AIDS in 1950.

    -> perigee: You may be on to something. Earth with its own magnetic field may be able to pick out very weak signals from other planets associated with each planet’s “beat”, but the question remains, why are animals attuned to particularly those beats? Some theoreticians (Dale Huckeby, Jacques Halbronn) conjecture an evolutionary process which favoured such animal-geomagnetic connections but so far there are too many gaps to make the conjectures plausible.

    And thank you for the phrase “gross forces model” – I shall use it in my next debate with negative believers.

    -> Blad Hansen: Thank you for your similarly careful approach.

  • ND January 29, 2010, 6:00 PM

    “-> ND, CrazyEddieBlogger, Uncle Fred, Fermin Ortea, Lawrence B. Crowell, and others: You all seem to believe firmly that astrology is a (mere) belief. In other words you are not non-believers, but rather believers in the negation of a hypothesis. Please learn the difference between a non-believer and a negative believer.”

    If you believe a hypothesis (astrology) is real then it’s up to you to back it up. It’s possible to test and show evidence that a phenomenon (astrology) is real without going into the mechanics of what makes that phenomenon tick. Proponents of astrology need to show this since the burden of proof is primarily on them. Once that’s done you can come up with new hypothesis to explain it. Since evidence is sorely lacking, astrology is a belief. I mean come on, it’s been how many centuries? The methodology for critically testing hypothesis is well developed and has a proven track record. Use them.

    As for the early origins of medicine, chemistry and astronomy, if you’ll notice, these fields have diverged and abandoned the old superstitions after overwhelming lack of evidence. Pointing out the ancient origins of these fields is simply trying to ride on the coattails of their successes.

  • Blad Hansen January 29, 2010, 11:51 PM

    @ Jean
    Sorry about the excessive references and thanks for letting the rest through.

    One correction – I meant (Alfred) Wegener not Wagner re continental drift.

    @ ND You put the rules of science very succinctly.

    As a skeptic I’d add this – contemporary astrology is dependent on belief in anecdotal evidence
    and because it involves magical thinking, Sagan’s Rule re ‘extra-ordinary evidence ‘ must apply.

    This picks up the very first thread of this blog from Nephish777

    I’ve expounded, above, about ongoing bio medical research relating birth season to several aspects of life outcomes – based on biographies from cohorts of thousands i.e. high level of confidence – that resonates loosely with the some of the claims of astrology, relating calendrial birthdate – via the horoscope to – life outcome.

    The first order hypothesis is that there is a link via maternal brain chemistry, to genes of the developing fetal neurons.

    Whether the Swedish data base to which I am referring is detailed enough for Axel Harvey, (whose feisty comments imply he is an astrologer)
    to do a statistically significant number of horoscopes from the biographies, to see if there is any correlation, I don’t know.
    But this sort of comparative test would bring the extra-ordinary claims within the compass of strict scientific protocols.
    And the outcome ( if significant) might be quite intriguing to ‘non -believers’……..
    I don’t know if astrologers have any academy that could fund an effort like this, but if the data base is public-access,
    maybe a team of astrologers could do the heavy lifting out-of-pocket.

    Here is my one allowed link to the abstract on the database (NIH has a pretty intense web index system ….. hope it gets through):


    Its references can link you onward if you want to go there.

  • AxelHarvey January 30, 2010, 11:21 AM

    -> ND: Hypotheses are not “real”, they are hypotheses. You are quite right, however; phenomena have to be demonstrated first and the explanatory models can come later. Imo there have been such demonstrations, as well as some successful debunkings (the testing of astrology in the 20th century has a rocky and contentious history – I have in mind, for example, Shawn Carlson’s “double-blind” test of the 1980s which was devastatingly criticized by Hans Eysenck, unfortunately in an astrological journal which nobody reads outside the field). The difference between astrology and chemistry, say, is that if a chemical hypothesis is proven faulty no-one says that all of chemistry is debunked.

    But the word that catches my eye in your last post is still “real”. It shows that you are in the realm of belief, albeit negative belief. I don’t think a good chemist or a good geologist “believes” in chemistry or geology, they practice their disciplines and if ambitious will try to improve them. The same applies to astrology, but lacking any academic beacons the astrologer has to navigate by a combination of traditional methods and inspiration – the price society pays for its neglect of the discipline.

    “As for the early origins of medicine, chemistry and astronomy, if you’ll notice,” I mentioned them precisely because they have diverged from their faulty origins and hope that astrology can do likewise. It’s a more interesting challenge than sitting on my seat and believing whatever the authorities say.

  • Fermin Ortea January 30, 2010, 11:53 AM

    “-> ND, CrazyEddieBlogger, Uncle Fred, Fermin Ortea, Lawrence B. Crowell, and others: You all seem to believe firmly that astrology is a (mere) belief. In other words you are not non-believers, but rather believers in the negation of a hypothesis. Please learn the difference between a non-believer and a negative believer.”

    Ok ! , when you learn the difference between a believer and the positive believer.

    Many years ago I stop using the word “believe” and use instead “think”,…”thinking” because thinking is a lot more than believing. “Believe” stops,…Thinking continues. Beliefs love dogmas, thinking no,…( I didn’t said “hate” either, just that do not love dogmas,…and don’t use and follow them ).

    I do not believe that Astrology is a belief, I think that Astrology is a belief. Why?…

    Take in consideration these two things. :

    1) The Zodiac 12 constelllations are not, repeat ARE NOT the only ones that cut the ecliptic, there are others, but in top of that: Why only 12 when there are 88 constellations?,..Even in Ptolomy times they knew much more than 12. But when the South Hemisphere was discovered those too enter in the list of Astrology ignored constellations.

    2) The Earth Axis, as you know, rotates, 30 ang. degrees each 2,000 years , exactly 1/12 of the circunference, ( 30° for each in the zodiac) This is known as Precession of the Equinoxes, as you also for shure know.

    Ptolomy knew that very well too, when he founded Astrology, 2000 years ago.So the heavens have rotated 30 Degrees exactly since then, the distance that occupies one and each Zodiac constellation, those that astrology use.

    So if you were Gemini 2,000 years ago, for example, now you are Taurus, because Taurus moved to where Gemini were before. And if you think you are Aries you are Pisces now, and Capricornus, Aquarius, etc.

    But the practitioners and followers of today astrology ignore that.

    They ignore Precession of the equinoxes !
    But they also ignore that it is continuous and gradual,…it is not jumping suddenly. Adjustments should be done ( 30 ÷ 2,000 ) = 0.015° for each year, let say, 1. 5 ° each 100 years,…and chance the dates of each sign, accordingly. Was it done ?,… Is it being done today? , …Who keeps the counting and calculations?.

    Astrology evades and avoids mathematics too,… and that is believing not thinkink to say the less. Belief not Science.

    They failed to make the adjustments, they betray Ptolomy, they ridicule him.

    That is negligence not science, ignorance not knowledge, treason no respect to the founder, and a game with a body of rules invented, more or less organized and relativey “rationalized” to fit the purpose, same as you do with base ball, foot ball, Chess, cards, etc., any other table game.

    Astronomy is Astromancy , no Astrology: the name is inappropiate, and for today knowledge of Astronomy, it became a plagiarism.

    In the Chess, why the horse jump in “L” , the bishops move in diagonals, the “peones” move forward but eat to the sides, and the Queen do any thing ( but jumping) a any distance?,…Some body ( o bodies ) invented that. Same as astrology,… they use astros like cards.

    I am a Bachelor in Sciences graduated in College in Cuba and 75 years old, retired as Enginering Tehcnician 10 years ago, but studiying Astronomy /cosmology and Sciences in general ( you need all for that ), enthusiastic and perhaps qualifiying as amaterur Astronomer, in the low level,…thanks to this computer and y the Intenet, with the best Telescopes of the World to my fingers,and a lot of books, videos, and essays from the best of the best.

    Carl Sagan, Hawking, Weinberg, Penrose, Feyman, Reese, Guth, Harris, Sten Odenwald ( APOD ), Plait ( Bad Astronomy), Ned Wright’s cosmology, Allan Sandage, Einstein, Planck, Heisenberg, Bohr, Schödinger…etc.

    Who are you going to listen and “think”, that they are better informed and closer to the truths than those ( and others more ) with better credentials ?,…

    Astrologers ?… Bah !.

    I have more than 1,000 books and dedicated publications. And subscribed to Nat. Geog,., Planetary Soc. Universe today, and SETI. I do not believe in UFOS , I look for Extra Terrestial Intelligence and think, along with many others and offered for long time my computer to SETI. You can do that too.

    I do no’t believe, my friend, …I think !

    A hug any way.

    My email is Boni 64 @aol.com.

    ( English is not my maternal language so excuse me )

  • perigee January 30, 2010, 9:38 PM


    I’m nor sure whether you are setting up the straw-man thing here.

    I indicated in an earlier post which you may have missed that astrologers use a TROPICAL zodiac of SIGNS that is not based on any constellations, other than their inherited zodiacal names .

    I suspect the ancient Greeks set it up this way because it made astrology amenable to mathematical analysis and easier to construct ephemerides. So using a tropical zodiac necessarily requires it to run with precession. So precession is not “ignored” out of ignorance as you implicate.

  • Uncle Fred January 31, 2010, 6:29 AM

    On the issue of: “negative believers”

    It has been a long time since I believed in anything at all. I prefer to see the world as a changing construct of facts and interpretations. I prefer a genuine plasticity in knowledge.

    Unfortunately, the burden of this way of thinking is that I require as Carl Sagan put it: “extraordinary evidence to back up extraordinary claims.”

    If for example, the Neuropsychobiology study mentioned above comes up with some verifiable, reproducible evidence of the subject matter then this is indeed interesting and worth further study! Yet, all approaches must be analyzed. What are all possible explanations for this variety (assuming a statistically significant result)? Have all the environmental explanations been accounted for? What ways could the test be modified to bring out possible environmental explanations? etc etc.

    Once all areas for interpretations are taken into account then yes, this is VERY interesting! … and my own thoughts will be changed (until something else changes them again).

    Like others have said, the burden of proof lies with those who make the claims. I have no beliefs myself, just thoughts that can be changed. Others have beliefs. If you feel so strongly one way, come forth with proof Astrologers!

  • Fermin Ortea February 3, 2010, 12:46 AM


    “Tropical Zodiac Signs” ?,… What is the difference?,…Can you explain that.?

    But in avance let me tell you what I suppose it is.

    Tropical because in reference to Tropical zone of Earth between Cancer and Capricornio Tropics: 23.5 ° North and 23.5 South. ( 47 degrees latitude. )?,… Right or Wrong?

    There are many Constellations in there. But you say it is not based in Constellations,,,,, In what is based then ?

    And why Tropical ?

    And why the word Zodiac then?

    And what you mean by “signs”?.

    Dictionary says: Sign =”Something that suggests the presence or existence of a fact, condition, or quality”

    Which are they?,…Facts, conditions or qualities ?…. ¿ Fisically or invented ?,..and based in what?

    No need to take in consideration the equinox precession you say ,…it means that it rotates as a whole together with the Earth axis ?.
    OK. but what about the dates of the year for each “Sign”?,…

    Some day Aquarius ( now bet. Jan 20 -Feb-18 ) ) is going to be where Leo ( bet. July-22-Aug-23 ) is today. ( 6 × 2,000 – 12,000 years from now. )

    The Precession of the Equinoxes is not , repeat, is not only an Earth to Earth phenomenon, due to axis change in position, ( it is not the same as axis tilt ,( angle) that also occurs and change positions of bodies in heaven too, but is different than precession).

    Both “move” positions of bodies with respect to Earth, the Sun, other planets and the Stars. It is a physical natural ocurrence not to be used for esoteric non physical considerations like the fate of individuals born under one or other “Sign”.

    The entire heaven rotates ( apparently of course, beause what rotates or tilt is the axis ). Same thing happen when a top ( toy) when diminishes rotation speed, it “Wobble” in English ( “Bambolea” in Spanish ) , but very slow, 30° every 2,000 years. Someday will be faster because the Earth is loosing rotation speed.

    So what you say sounds as a game,…with very convenient signs and rules, moving with the heavens,…but again: What about the dates ?.

    Stars and Planets relative to Earth positions won’t be the same for the year 4,010 but of course nobody is going to be here to complain,…the Signs and the belief moves with the heavens not the other way around. Same as sports games move from city to city or country,and Chess game could be played in a table or a floor.

    The Universe doesn’t know any thing about astrology. People on Earth worse,…neither astrology neither astronomy.

    “So precession is not “ignored” out of ignorance” but out of known deliberated convenience,…¡ worst !.

    To be used as a game for entertainment is OK, but as a serious belief, no.

    Let alone Science.

    Go to here:

    Zodiac – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    In astronomy, the zodiac is the ring of constellations that lines the ecliptic, which is the apparent path of the Sun across the sky over the course of the …

    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zodiac –

    Thanks for answering me, I appreciate,…you can contatct me at Boni64 @ aol.com. if you want,and discuss this better.

    Thank you.

  • perigee February 8, 2010, 1:36 AM

    Apologies for the delay in responding.

    I guess what I get here is that like every one else we are wondering why did they choose the tropical zodiac, and why Hindus use the (non- precessing) sidereal zodiac – why do they no longer use the constellations of the zodiac? Why name the signs after constellations when they have precessed along the way?

    Well, I wasn’t there when the ancient Greeks and Ptolemy made those decisions. Perhaps they realised the tropical zodiac and its ecliptic coordinate system is more amenable to mathematical treatment, after all it is used as the as the coordinate system by which the Keplerian elements are applied to calculate planetary positions before converting to RA Dec. (see Meeus, Duffet-Smith, JPL-Horizons etc).

    Perhaps the the Sun and seasons took on more importance than the Moon used to, and it was more appropriate to use a precessing tropical zodiac so that the Sun’s entry into the signs will always be in step with the calendar.

    From the modern view point it all seems illogical and easily to dismiss it as absurd but back then they had their own cultural, magical and “scientific’ and reasons for constructing astrology the way they did.

  • Paul Eaton-Jones February 8, 2010, 3:02 AM

    When the ‘ancients’ used the passing of the seasons, the rising, setting and passage of constellations across the sky they did so, initially, as a guide to planting crops. It’s well known that the ancient Egyptians waited for the rising of Sirius and th eflooding of the Nile before planting certain crops. Not because the gods told them to but because the surrounding fields were inundated with nutrient-rich sediment. No doubt when a god-system was established gods were ascribed to fertility, the annual flood etc etc. It is relatively easy to see how these cultures came to believe the gods favoured them and how certain star-patterns, stars or planets were ‘good or ‘bad’. These people weren’t stupid, uncultured, unlettered or unscientific. They didn’t know exactly what they were seeing and called on the most obvious explanation i.e. the gods. All perfectly understandable back then. However for us today to believe a chance alignment of stars or Jupiter hoving into view at a specific time and you personally being influenced or having your personality determined is off in the realms of fairies, goblins, hobgoblins and hobbits.