When you see a HEART on a t-shirt, Americans immediately think of love. A smiley face generates a feeling of light-heartedness, playfulness, or happiness.
But on Oct 3rd, 2005, observers across the Iberian Peninsula (Spain) and parts of the Mediterranean Sea and Africa experienced a much different sensation ”“ wonder or awe and mild anxiety ”“ when then watched the daytime sky become shrouded in darkness during an annular solar eclipse. To all but those who were in its path, the event passed almost without notice unless you read parts of the newspaper or your favorite news website other than the front page.
On October 17th, 2005, yet another dark icon of the heavens will cause an even eerier feeling for those in the western North and Central American communities and out in the Northern Pacific as the moon turns blood red!
(See NASA 2005 Oct 17: Partial Lunar Eclipse http://sunearth.gsfc.nasa.gov/eclipse/OH/OH2005.html#LE2005Oct17P)
These astronomical events and the phases of the lunar cycle have long been associated with many rituals, evils, and creatures in folklore and mythology. The myths and gruesome tales of horrific monsters and villains spawned by the eerie sensations experienced by man (and other animals) during these events, may have more than a little foundation in scientific fact!
The full moon is credited for a lycanthropic man’s moonlight metamorphosis into a dangerous howling beast ”“ the werewolf (in North American cultures, or a horse or goat in Brazil, or a tiger in India, and so on). In a less Anthropomorphic vain, many believe that the full moon is responsible for an increase in abnormal psychological behaviors such as suicides and violent crimes. As I shared the introduction of this article to this point with the nurse at my doctor’s appointment today, she told me, as many medical professionals will, that she KNOWS it!
While there are many studies, offered by proponents of such theories, that suggest a correlation between the full moon and such phenomenon, there are an equal number of studies by skeptics that portend to refute any association. Before you jump on either band-wagon, consider the following paragraphs.
We all know werewolves are imaginary beasts, right? In fact, medicine has even given a name to those who believe they transform by the light of the moon. The name is a mental disorder called lycanthropy (Lycanthropy http://www.the-cma.org.uk/HTML/werewolf.htm). Yet, while these believers are classified as mental patients, medicine also provides the foundations for the possibility of such anomalous phenomena with the identification of several other very rare diseases such as Porphyria, (see Porphyria http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/porphyria/ ) that caused a Mexican family to recluse from society and another to make a living as a Werewolf attraction in a traveling circus. They have also identified rare blood diseases that interfere with the normal enzyme production and cause failures or abnormalities of red blood cells and leads to craving for red meats ”“ for the blood. One disease is even named after the wolf man ”“ Congenital hypertrichosis universalis is also known as human werewolf syndrome and is manifested by abnormal hair growth NOT mental irregularities!
On a corollary, other animals have the ability to regenerate body parts lost as the result of trauma. Everyone knows that if you cut an earthworm into two pieces, both pieces will regenerate a new tail. Salamanders have long been know to regenerate tails and some species found in sub oceanic caverns in western Central America also regenerate legs, while other species are known to inhabit caves in total darkness and their eyes never developed until they were extracted from the caves ”“ then they grow eyes ! Chameleons are well-known for their metamorphic ability to adapt to the color of their environment. Not so well known, are species of squid and octopi that exhibit the same abilities. But this is a path for another discussion.
The studies I referred to earlier examined the type of visits the hospital emergency rooms and the behavioral changes observed in psychiatric wards of institutions. They all attempt to correlate the full moon with behavioral changes or reject that premise by looking at the type and number of violent crimes, suicides, or general changes in behavior and are all flawed in the same basic way. The studies all attempt to correlate data from the “night of” the full moon and thereby narrow the sampling to such a narrow window that the results can not possibly be anything but inconsistent between studies.
Only recently has anyone taken a more logical approach to the problem and tried to explain the association between lunar phases and psychological disorders in terms of the gravitational changes that occur with the full moon. Again, we have very observable foundations in fact for this effect ”“ we see the tides roll in an out every day!
Although the studies so far have come up far short and the researchers inevitably conclude that there is no correlation, I have to disagree. The studies still focus on too narrow a window for analysis. To look at the emergency room visits or psychiatric patients on the night of a full moon and compare those to the other days of the month fails to recognize several key factors.
First, the earth-moon is a subsystem of two much larger environments ”“ our solar system and the universe. Both bodies, along with a myriad of others including the sun, are in constant motion. (For simplicity I’ll only consider the sun-earth-moon interaction.) Gravity, while I challenge you to find ANYONE who can define its cause, is without question a force of astonishing magnitude ”“ so astonishing we can’t measure it directly.
The gravity of a body (our sun) 93,000,000 miles away is strong enough to hold an object 8000 miles in diameter moving over 66,000 mph and weighing in at 5,978,000,000,000,000,000,000 tons (planet earth) in its grasp, and that body holds the moon (a mere 250,000 miles and 81,000,000,000,000,000,000 tons) firmly in orbit as well for at least millions of years that we know of. Try holding a gallon of milk (about 8 pounds my cardiologist tells me) with one arm extended and parallel to the floor and spinning around for 10 minutes. Assuming you survive that if you try it, now try to extrapolate the energy it took do that to the gravitation force needed to keep us from ricocheting around the universe like a pinball bearing until we tilt!
Now realize that you are only 8000 miles closer to the sun (and further from the moon) at noon on the day of (or the day after) a full moon. That represents a change in distance of 3.2% relative to the moon or 0.00009 % relative to the sun. Neither number would be considered statistically significant in terms of election exit polls; however, applied to a fragile 3 pound mass (the average human brain) even a 0.00009% change in the force described in the preceding paragraph that holds a 6000 trillion trillion ton planet in orbit or an 81 trillion trillion ton moon in orbit would be significant.
So, back to our studies, it is reasonable to assume that a human brain that can not withstand the force of 10g’s (ten times the force of gravity) without suffering blackout and possibly death (see https://www.unexplainable.net/artman/publish/article_2102.shtml) or survive a pressure change of more than a few millibars of pressure in the spine or cranium, would be affected by even a 0.00009% change in the gravitation force exerted on it?
At the very least, we have probable cause to suggest that abnormal behavior can be related to the lunar cycle, particularly the full moon phase, when the moon is on the opposite side of the earth from the sun (thus partially negating the gravitational effects of the sun), and the new moon phase, when the moon is on the same side of the earth as the sun (thus increasing the gravitational effects of the sun).
Now bring all three corollaries together – abnormal behavior during full moons, metamorphic traits, and rare genetic diseases. Suddenly, werewolves and raving lunatics during a full moon don’t sound so incredible.