Tag Archives: Sun

How Much of the Earth Can You See at Once?

VSauce does it again. Fascinating stuff.

Testing Flattards – Part 3

From the video description:

CORRECTION: At 5:56 the slide states the equinoxes are in June and December. This should of course say March and September! D’oh!

Part three in a series taking a wry look at the idiotic belief that the Earth is flat, and how that stacks up against reality. This part continues our investigation of the Flattard Flying Spotlight, and examines the implications of the Solstices for the inhabitants of Flattardia.

Guidance: Contains some mild language within a comedy context.

Top 10 Reasons to Believe That the EARTH IS FLAT

Yes, Apollo Flew Through the Van Allen Belts Going to the Moon

Conspiracists who believe the moon landings were faked like to claim the astronauts could not have survived the trip because of exposure to radiation from the Van Allen radiation belt (http://tinyurl.com/p7khram).

Of course, they are wrong. Again.

Related: Moon Landing Conspiracy Theory

Testing Flattards – Part 2

Part 1 in this series can be found here: Testing Flattards – Part 1

Spinning Solar -BUSTED!

How Earth Moves

VSauce (Michael Stevens) blows our minds . . . again.

What I Learned about Climate Change:

The Science is not Settled

David SiegelBy David Siegel via www.ClimateCurious.com

What is your position on the climate-change debate? What would it take to change your mind?

If the answer is It would take a ton of evidence to change my mind, because my understanding is that the science is settled, and we need to get going on this important issue, that’s what I thought, too. This is my story.

global warming consensus_250pxMore than thirty years ago, I became vegan because I believed it was healthier (it’s not), and I’ve stayed vegan because I believe it’s better for the environment (it is). I haven’t owned a car in ten years. I love animals; I’ll gladly fly halfway around the world to take photos of them in their natural habitats. I’m a Democrat: I think governments play a key role in helping preserve our environment for the future in the most cost-effective way possible. Over the years, I built a set of assumptions: that Al Gore was right about global warming, that he was the David going up against the industrial Goliath. In 1993, I even wrote a book about it.

Recently, a friend challenged those assumptions. At first, I was annoyed, because I thought the science really was settled. As I started to look at the data and read about climate science, I was surprised, then shocked. As I learned more, I changed my mind. I now think there probably is no climate crisis and that the focus on CO2 takes funding and attention from critical environmental problems. I’ll start by making ten short statements that should challenge your assumptions and then back them up with an essay.

1 • Weather is not climate. There are no studies showing a conclusive link between global warming and increased frequency or intensity of storms, droughts, floods, cold or heat waves.

2 • Natural variation in weather and climate is tremendous. Most of what people call “global warming” is natural, not man-made. The earth is warming, but not quickly, not much, and not lately.

3 • There is tremendous uncertainty as to how the climate really works. Climate models are not yet skillful; predictions are unresolved.

4 • New research shows fluctuations in energy from the sun correlate very strongly with changes in earth’s temperature, better than CO2 levels.

5CO2 has very little to do with it. All the decarbonization we can do isn’t going to change the climate much.

6 • There is no such thing as “carbon pollution.” Carbon dioxide is coming out of your nose right now; it is not a poisonous gas. CO2 concentrations in previous eras have been many times higher than they are today.

7 • Sea level will probably continue to rise — not quickly, and not much. Researchers have found no link between CO2 and sea level.

8 • The Arctic experiences natural variation as well, with some years warmer earlier than others. Polar bear numbers are up, not down. They have more to do with hunting permits than CO2*.

9 • No one has shown any damage to reef or marine systems. Additional man-made CO2 will not likely harm oceans, reef systems, or marine life. Fish are mostly threatened by people, who eat them.

10 • The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and others are pursuing a political agenda and a PR campaign, not scientific inquiry. There’s a tremendous amount of trickery going on under the surface*.

Could this possibly be right? Is it heresy, or critical thinking — or both? If I’ve upset or confused you, let me guide you through my journey.

Continue Reading at ClimateCurious.com – – –

Also See: How a liberal vegan environmentalist made the switch from climate proponent to climate skeptic (wattsupwiththat)

no global warming 18 years

Solfeggio Frequencies

waves 738
Are certain, specific sonic frequencies the key to love, intuition, and spiritual order? Do the sounds we hear have a real physiological effect?

skeptoid eyeby Craig Good via skeptoid
Read transcript below or listen here

Proponents on the web speak of Solfeggio Frequencies, musical notes that have great healing power. They claim that these pure sounds from antiquity can liberate us from fear, awaken our intuition, and even repair our DNA. Do specific sounds have such power? Where did these mystical frequencies come from? And what can we learn from them?

tuning forks_300pxFirst, their claims. The idea is that certain notes found in ancient music have special uses. Pitches, or notes, are described in Hertz (abbreviated Hz), which is their frequency in cycles per second.

For example, one of the special Solfeggio frequencies is said to be 396 Hz. It sounds like this. [396 Hz] Named UT, it is supposed to be good for “liberating guilt and fear”.

Next is the one called RE, at 417 Hz. [417 Hz] This is good for “undoing situations and facilitating change”.

Impressed? Wait until you hear MI, at 528 Hz. It does “transformation and miracles”, including DNA repair. [528 Hz]

FA, at 629 Hz, is for “connecting and relationships”. [629 Hz]

SOL, at 741 Hz is for “awakening intuition”. [741 Hz]

And LA, at 852 Hz, is for “returning to spiritual order”. [852 Hz]

brainwaves 739_225pxNow, you may have noticed a couple of patterns. One is that, just like most other woo-y, New Age modalities, the claims are all very breezy and unspecific. If they remind you a little of Deepak Chopra that’s not exactly an accident. Some of the web pages promoting Solfeggio Frequencies use his confused misinterpretations of quantum physics for support.

You may recall from Skeptoid #431 how acupuncture proponents can’t even decide how many meridians exist, nor where they are. Similarly, when we dig into Solfeggio Frequencies there are disagreements. One proponent says that the key frequency is not 417, [417 Hz] but 432 Hz. [432 Hz] Further, he claims that this “purest” of sounds is the same frequency to which both the great pyramids of Giza and the Sun itself are tuned.

solfeggioo_250pxYet another proponent says 528 Hz [528 Hz] is the “love frequency” that not only repairs DNA but can “raise the vibration in our chakra system”. There’s no evidence for a chakra system, and this odd use of the word “vibration” resonates more with woo than science.

In fact, if I play the Solfeggio Frequencies as specified on most of the web sites, the scale sounds a little out of tune. [Solfeggio Mystic Hexachord]

As is typical of woo, proponents make an appeal to antiquity. What makes these notes special, you see, is that they come from a medieval Gregorian chant to John the Baptist. It’s one of those things the ancients “just understood.” But, in modern times, our music was retuned to 440 Hz [440] and the secret was lost. Or hidden on purpose, depending on who you read. Some even blame the change, darkly, on a Nazi plot.

Continue Reading – – –

Burn your way to better health

Gordon Bonnetby Gordon Bonnet via Skeptophilia

At what point does a publication become so filled with dangerous misinformation that the powers-that-be should step in and shut it down?

I’m all for freedom of speech, and everything, and definitely in favor of people educating themselves sufficiently that they won’t fall for ridiculous bullshit.  Natural News's Facebook page.But still: the media has a responsibility to police themselves, and failing that, to have the rug pulled out from under them.

If such a line does exist — and I am no expert in jurisprudence who could state the legality of such a move — then the site Natural News has surely crossed it.  They have become the prime source of bogus “health news,” promoting every form of medically-related lunacy, from detox to homeopathy to herbal cures for everything from cancer to depression.

Take a look at their latest salvo, entitled, “What They Won’t Tell You: The Sun Is a Full-Spectrum Medicine That Can Heal Cancer.”  In it, author Paul Fassa tells us that contrary to conventional wisdom, you are not putting yourself at risk by exposing your skin to the sun; you are giving yourself “healing medicine.”  “Truth is,” Fassa writes, “we’ve been systematically lied to about the sun and skin cancer for years…  How many know that there is no definitive proof that the sun alone causes skin cancer?”

sunburn 743_300pxOther than, of course, this exhaustive report from the National Cancer Institute.

He quotes a “naturopathic doctor,” David Mihalovic, as support:  “Those that have attempted to convince the world that the Sun, the Earth’s primary source of energy and life causes cancer, have done so with malicious intent to deceive the masses into retreating from the one thing that can prevent disease.”  Righty-o.  So let me respond with a quote of my own, from the Wikipedia page on “naturopathy:” “Naturopathic medicine is replete with pseudoscientific, ineffective, unethical, and possibly dangerous practices…  Naturopathy lacks an adequate scientific basis, and it is rejected by the medical community…  The scope of practice varies widely between jurisdictions, and naturopaths in some unregulated jurisdictions may use the Naturopathic Doctor designation or other titles regardless of level of education.”

Which might seem like an ad hominem, but I don’t really care.

MORE – – –

Also See: The makers of Harmonized Water (a.k.a. drinkable sunscreen) do a “clinical trial.” Hilarity ensues (Respectful Insolence)

5 Things I’ve noticed about… Breatharianism

by The Locke via The Soap Box

breath 844_150pxBreatharianism is a New Age Movement belief that asserts that people don’t need food inorder to live, and only need clean air and sun light.

Now there are a lot of things I have noticed about this belief (mainly the body count) but I have narrowed it down to five main things.

So here are five things I’ve noticed about Breatharianism:

5. It’s a typical New Age Movement belief.

Breatharianism is a belief that is apart of, or at least viewed to be apart of the New Age Movement, and like most beliefs in the New Age Movement it’s mess-mass of several different beliefs all rolled into one.

prana_300pxPractitioners of Breatharianism believe it is possible to live off of prana (which is according to Hindu beliefs is a vital life force energy) and that the best source of this prana is from light and air, and with enough skill and knowledge they can somehow manipulate this prana to the point where they can live off of it forever and never need any food or water.

Another part about Breatharianism is the attainment of spiritual enlightenment, which apparently involves not eating. This sounds an awful lot like fasting, which is something that Abrahamic religions tend to do.

Basically Breatharianism is a combination of certain beliefs from Eastern and Western religions.

Also, like with many other New Age beliefs…

4. It’s Pseudoscience.

While Breatharianism is primarily based from Eastern and Western religious beliefs, everything about it is pseudoscience.

Like all pseudosciences it’s based off of a tiny scientific fact, and that fact is that we do need air and light inorder to live (well, not so much light, but we do need air) and that there is energy all around us… it’s just not prana. breatherian_300pxThis energy is either in the form photonic energy from light sources, or radio waves, or electromagnetic fields from electrical sources, or kinetic energy from air movement and the movement of the Earth.

Yes, there are many forms of energy that surrounds us. Prana is not one of them, and even if it was, it’s very probable that we couldn’t manipulate it with our minds.

The main claim about Breatharianism, as I stated before (and the one that doctors and scientists and people with common sense have a problem with) is that humans can live off of this prana and don’t need to ever eat or drink again, which is impossible.

I suppose with these beliefs it seems that…

3. They make it sound like humans are actually plants.

Now I’m sure that no person alive that claims to practice Breatharianism will actually say that humans are pretty much like plants, but it does sound an awful lot like that’s what they’re trying to get at with their insistence that people only need air and sun light to live, which is something that plants need inorder to live.

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Watershed! BBC Now Sees Sun Developing Into A Potent 21st Century Climate Factor As A Real Possibility!

Sleeping-Sun-on-cloudy-pillowBy P Gosselin via NoTricksZone

Slowly, almost imperceptibly, but surely, the once diehard the-science-is-settled mainstream media are conceding that the climate debate isn’t over after all – and likely not by a long shot. And if you pay attention, you can see them quietly opening that back door for the quick exit.

The cracking started long ago, and now chips and pieces of the global warming science are starting to fall on the floor around us.

Earlier today the BBC featured a short report “Has the Sun gone to sleep?”

This report looks at the implications of a protracted quiet solar period, potentially lasting decades. Global cooling is turning out to be a real possibility, now even at the BBC!

Today we know a huge body of historical observations shows there is a pronounced relationship between cold winters in Europe and low solar activity. Moreover there’s a huge body of persuasive evidence, comprising mainly proxy datasets, that show the phenomenon is not regional, but global. As much as the BBC tries to play that down, the video holds a couple of big surprises.

Mirrors the Maunder Minimum!

The BBC starts by telling its viewers that the current solar maximum “is eerily quiet“. Solar physicist Professor Richard Harrison says the sun hasn’t been this quiet in 100 years and that the current activity mirrors the activity of the 17th century – the Maunder Minimum, the time of the dreadful Little Ice Age. What we have here is the BBC telling viewers to associate low solar activity with potential cold.

At the 3-minute mark, the BBC reporter asks the key question: “Does a decline in solar activity mean plunging temperatures for decades to come?” For an answer the BBC interviews three scientists.

The Maunder Minimum (Little Ice Age)

The Maunder Minimum (Little Ice Age)

Could impact the climate – “not fully understood”

Scientist Dr Lucie Green actually thinks that low solar activity could affect the climate, but she isn’t sure “to what extent“, and then even points out that varying amounts of solar radiation impact the globe’s upper atmosphere and that this is something scientists “don’t fully understand“. Therefore, don’t rule anything out.

“Fastest solar decline in 10,000 years”!

At the 4:17 mark, Mike Lockwood says we are witnessing the fastest decline in 10,000 years. He then claims that there’s a close to 20% chance that we may be actually entering a Maunder-like minimum. As one of the scientists who is more than 95% sure that man is now causing the climate change, 20% seems to be a very high figure and so we might suspect Lockwood’s true probability figure to be much higher than 20%.

Note how Lockwood does his best to portray solar impacts on climate as being regional phenomena, affecting the Jet Stream and Europe’s climate, but not the global mean climate. Lockwood here is not being completely forthcoming.

Sun now on par with human activity?

MORE – – –

RELATED: BBC’s six-year cover-up of secret ‘green propaganda’ training for top executives | Mail Online

ALSO SEE: Video – Has the Sun gone to sleep?.

11 Ways to REALLY destroy the Earth

End times
By via The Soap Box

For years and years everyone from science fiction writers to scientists have been talking about all of these scenarios and what not about how the world will end (be it by our own hands, or a random act of nature).

While I find many of these scenarios interesting, many of them have a common flaw: they don’t actually end the Earth, just human civilization, and perhaps the human species.

So, how exactly could the Earth REALLY be destroyed (as in cease to exist)?

Well I’ve thought about it, and I’ve come up with about 11 different ways of how it could happen.

So if you don’t mind possibly being scared to death, below are those 11 possible scenarios:

• Planetary impact

planet-impact_250pxWe all know the dangers that a direct impact from either a comet or meteor poses to the Earth as it has been the subject of several movies and books, and is a legitimate threat because it has happened before, and it has wiped out entire species and caused major damage to the Earth throughout our planet’s history.

While some people might believe that it would be the end of the world if a large meteor or comet was to hit us today, it wouldn’t be. It might be the end of human civilization, maybe even our species, but the world will still exist… unless something really big, or really heavy was to hit us…

Lets say something nearly the size of the Earth, or bigger, was to hit us, or something very heavy like a neutron star. The fact is that there would be no way for the Earth to survive an impact by something close to, or larger, or heavier than the Earth. Our world would be broken apart and probably turned into an asteroid field by such an impact.

• High speed impact

The amount of damage a object can do not only depends on how large an object is, but also by how fast said object is going.

A one mile wide meteor hitting the Earth would be devastating. If that one mile wide meteor was to hit the Earth while traveling nearly the speed of light, the amount of kinetic energy released from such an impact would rip the Earth apart, and we wouldn’t even know it until it actually happened (assuming we survived long enough) because such an object would most likely be impossible to find, let alone track.

von Neumann machine

terminator_250pxA von Neumann machine is a type of robot first conceived of by John von Neumann (hence the name) that can basically self replicate, and could even manufacture materials on it’s own in order to do so. It would even be possible for it to seek out the resources it needs to manufacture those materials.

While such a machine would be an extraordinary leap forward in terms of robotics and manufacturing, some people fear that one day one of those robots could go haywire (or someone could build one for the purpose of unregulated self replicating) and continue to self replicate without knowing when to shut off, and ultimately end up destroying the Earth a small part at a time until there is nothing left.

While a larger machine might not actually be able to do this before we stopped it, a small machine like a nano-probe might just be able to do this.

• Knocked into the sun

Lets say a very large object (like a star) was to pass through our solar system, what do you think would happen?

The answer is that the Earth would be knocked out of orbit.

After that one of two things would then happen: The Earth would be knocked away from the sun and become a rogue planet (as well as a giant ball of ice), or we would get knocked into the sun and be burnt into nothing.

Super Laser

DeathStarLaser_300pxIf you’ve ever seen Star Wars then you probably know what I’m talking about, if you don’t then I’ll explain (although I do still recommend seeing Star Wars).

laser is a device that creates a focused beam of light that can actually be quiet destructive, and depending on how much energy you put into the laser, it’s destructive power can range from being harmless (unless you look directly into the beam) to being used to take out a vehicle. Taking this in mind it is theoretically possible to build a laser powerful to destroy the Earth.

Fortunately we don’t have to worry about this one right now due to the fact that the total amount of energy produced world wide is no where near enough to power a laser that would be capable of doing so.

MORE . . .

Magnet People: How Do They Work?

By Kyle Hill via The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry – CSI

. .. never mind that there is no evidence for these gaussy guys and gals, what would the world be like if people really did generate a noticeable or even intense magnetic field?


hill-magnet-people

Strip club patrons would get quite a show, more so than usual, if people really were magnetic.

Amid the dollar bills and drunk-at-noon businessmen, a magnetic stripper, if she spun fast enough around the poll, would melt it. At the very least she would shock herself before shocking the crowd. When a conductor like metal meets a changing magnetic field, the magic of reality induces an electric current in it. Flip-flop this current around enough, and the metal heats up to the point of melting.

If people really were magnetic, they would be terrible navigators. Taking to their smart phones and computers, their screens would blur out and become unusable. Going back to the old methods, a compass wouldn’t help much either. It would be more likely to find you than Earth’s magnetic north.

Barrell MagnetLike all interesting human qualities, magnetic people would have a range of field strengths. Perhaps there would even be schools and universities dedicated to harnessing or improving your output. In any case, the strength of the field matters quite a bit. It’s the difference between being a glorified refrigerator magnet and being able to free fall down a metal tube without dying.

Magnetic people with the strength of refrigerator magnets would produce a field 100 times stronger than the Earth’s. But if any fortunate “Magnetos” existed, perhaps with MRI-like output, they would have one million times the field strength of Earth. For the refrigerator-strength people, you wouldn’t have to change much. But a public warning would have to go out whenever those Magnetos were about. Entire houses, entire cities, would have to be shielded; all metal objects not tied down turn into deadly projectiles. In fact, a rogue oxygen tank once proved this danger, killing a patient during an MRI scan after rocketing across the room, drawn by the monstrous amount of teslas. (You can see the incident re-created here.) And at this strength, you better avoid your friend’s stack of old floppy disks and unshielded hard drives, as you could shuffle their bits into blurry oblivion.

But it wouldn’t be all bad. Magnetic craftsmen would find that every part of their body has become a convenient tool and nail holder. Salmon fishermen could experience a huge boom. As salmon navigate their way home according to the Earth’s magnetic fields, a giant magnet in the form of a fisherman could disorient or even attract the fish. Magnetic lifeguards could take to the ocean as shark repellants.

Lovers might find it annoying however, as there is no telling when your poles, so to speak, would line up.

If people really were magnetic, it would eliminate the need for elevators, at least as a way down. A strong enough magnet can . . .

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Breatharianism: One of the dumbest (and most dangerous) things of the New Age Movement

Via The Soap Box

Breatharianism_400px_250pxBreatharianism. It’s a belief in the New Age Movement that people can live off of air and sunlight alone, and do not need food (and for some, water) to live, and that people can convert air and sunlight into prana, or life energy, with according to practitioners is all a person needs to live.

Now many skeptics are in debate about breatharianism. The debate of course isn’t about whether it works or not, as all agree that it doesn’t. The debate is about whether it one of the dumbest things to come from the New Age Movement, or if it’s one of the craziest. The one thing that all skeptics will agree upon is that it is definitely one of the most dangerous.
No organism on the planet can live off of sunlight and air alone, be it either animal, or plant, or microbe. All lifeforms on this planet require at the very least water and nutrients in order to live. In fact for many lifeforms sunlight and air isn’t even required in order to live, just water and nutrients.
Now we of course need air to live (although sunlight isn’t really needed, it is a good thing to get, so as soon as you finish reading this, I recommend you go outside and get some sun) we can not live on air alone, because air does not contain any nutrients and other substances we need to live other than oxygen. Sunlight has the same problem with not having any nutrients and substances either, and thus cannot be used as a source of energy for the human body. The only the way to get nutrients and substances into our bodies that can be converted into energy is through food.
BreatharianismThe amount of energy we can get from food (via digesting it) is measured in calories. The amount of calories a person needs is on average is around 2400 (this of course varies from person to person, depending on the person’s size, how active they are, and their metabolic rate). Of course what you eat is also important as well, as a well balanced diet is necessary for a healthy life (getting 2400 calories a day in just cake and ice cream is not healthy no matter what). Air and sunlight does not contain anything that can be measured as calories, thus it cannot be converted into energy inside the human body.

Of course there is the claim that air and sunlight can . . .

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British tabloid apologizes to aliens for linking them to Scientology

cccc

[“Stock Photo: E.T.” on Shutterstock.]


By Stephen C. Webster via The Raw Story
H/T: Thomas J. Proffit

After being contacted by attorneys for the Church of Scientology, a British tabloid newspaper apologized this week to any alien life forms they may have offended by linking them to the paranormal group.

It started when The Sun featured a doctored photo depicting numerous flying saucers over the Scientology headquarters in Sussex, with an image of famous Scientologist Tom Cruise asking, “Are they Cruise missiles?” The caption read: “Space oddity … Scientology HQ in Suxxex, and Tom Cruise.”

“My name is Xenu”

The church’s lawyers were apparently nonplussed by the depiction, sending The Sun‘s editors a strongly-worded letter that was not released to the public.

In a snide jab back at the church, The Sun published an apology on Thursday seeking forgiveness from any alien life forms who may have been upset at the paper.

“In an article on Saturday headlined ‘Flying saucers over British Scientology HQ’, we stated ‘two flat silver discs’ were seen ‘above the Church of Scientology HQ’,” the paper explained. “Following a letter from lawyers for the Church, we apologize to any alien life-forms for linking them to Scientologists.”

While the church adamantly denies that Scientology doctrine is based on the belief in ancient aliens that inhabit human souls and prevent people from reaching their full potential, Pulitzer-winning author Lawrence Wright claimed earlier this year in his book “Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood & the Prison of Belief” that Cruise believes he’s on a mission to rid the world of these aliens, which Scientologists call “thetans.”

The book also claims Cruise believes he has supernatural powers that the religion has helped unlock, which the church and celeb have adamantly denied.

Via The Raw Story

Surface of the Sun As You’ve Never Seen It (Geek Alert!)

Yes. I am geeking out. 🙂

To help you appreciate the sheer awesomeness of the following video, consider just how large the Sun is compared to our humble earth. Do note this image only compares the sizes of the Earth and the Sun, it does not depict how close the Earth is to the Sun. If we were actually this close to the sun our popcorn would be popping whether we wanted it to or not.

If the Sun were hollow, it would take approximately 1,000,000 Earths to fill the Sun!
[Source: NASA]
(Click image for larger view)
Click here for another great comparison image.

I recommend viewing fullscreen in HD. Enjoy 🙂

This extraordinary video looks back on the 3rd year of operation of NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory. Since its launch in 2010, SDO’s data and imagery have exceeded everyone’s hopes and expectations, providing stunningly detailed views of the sun. The observatory has continued to return breathtaking pictures and movies of eruptive events on the sun. These images are more than just pretty. By highlighting different wavelengths of light, scientists can track how material on the sun moves. Such movement, in turn, holds clues as to what causes these giant explosions.

SDO is the first mission in a NASA’s Living With a Star program, the goal of which is to develop the scientific understanding necessary to address those aspects of the sun-Earth system that directly affect our lives and society.

On YouTube: Surface of the Sun As You’ve Never Seen It.

Astrology

via Mysteries and Science – The Skeptic’s Dictionary

«In a nutshell: Astrology is the idea that the stars, planets, and other objects in the sky shape who you are and what your life will be like. The science doesn’t favor this idea.»

astrology_854_300pxAstrology is a kind of fortune telling based on the positions of stars, planets, and other objects in the deep sky (called celestial objects). Astrologers believe that the position of celestial objects affect what kind of personality you have and also cause such things as forest fires, floods, volcanoes, earthquakes, hurricanes, and tornadoes.

Astrology is sometimes confused with astronomy, which is the scientific study of planets, the Sun, stars, comets, galaxies, and other things outside of the Earth’s atmosphere. Astronomers know that celestial objects like the Moon and the Sun affect the ocean tides but have nothing to do with what kind of personality you have. Astronomers also know that the position of celestial objects has nothing to do with such things as forest fires, floods, volcanoes, earthquakes, hurricanes, and tornadoes.

[…]

Thousands of years ago in Babylon (now in modern Iraq) astrologers charted out the path that the Sun seems to make around the Earth. They divided the path into twelve equal parts. The stars in some of the twelve parts of the sky looked like the outlines of animals to them. The chart is called a zodiac (Greek for circle of animals). I was born when the Sun was in a part of the sky where the stars looked sort of like the outline of a bull’s head to those who were charting the zodiac. According to Sun sign astrology, I am a Taurus. The bull has a reputation for being stubborn. Sun sign astrologers believe that those born under the sign of the bull will have bull-like qualities. Scientific skeptics think this idea is a bunch of bull. When I’m asked what sign I was born under, I say “St. Joseph’s Hospital.”

[…]

In addition to Sun sign astrology, there are several other astrologies, but none of them are scientific. All systems of astrology make unscientific claims about the effects on people or things on Earth by the positions of planets, comets, and other things in the sky.

Confirmation bias: Selective thinking whereby one tends to notice and to look for what confirms one's beliefs, and to ignore, not look for, or undervalue the relevance of what contradicts one's beliefs.

Confirmation bias: Selective thinking whereby one tends to notice and to look for what confirms one’s beliefs, and to ignore, not look for, or undervalue the relevance of what contradicts one’s beliefs.

Some of these systems are very complicated and involve making charts that connect the positions of many different celestial objects. With many charts covering many different possibilities, it is easy to find one that matches something on Earth like a forest fire, an earthquake, or a tragedy in some famous person’s life.

It is also easier than most people think to find evidence in support of a strong belief. We pay attention to what agrees with our beliefs and ignore what goes against them. If you believe that people born under the sign of Taurus are stubborn, you might pay more attention to stubborn behavior by someone born under that sign. You might even call that person stubborn for not doing something, while calling another person firm for not doing the same thing. You might not pay attention to or remember a Taurus when she isn’t stubborn. Psychologists call this natural bias we have to confirm our beliefs confirmation bias.

Astrologers sometimes make accurate predictions that are really nothing more than lucky guesses. Many astrologers believe that comets, the alignment of planets, or an eclipse are omens that something terrible is going to happen on Earth. Since something terrible happens on this planet every day, it is always easy to find something after the fact that the astrologer can say was predicted.

MORE . . .

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