AN ASTRONOMER WAXES SCIENTIFIC ABOUT THE MOON

By Jon Hancuff – Associated Press Newswires

23 April 2001 – MARTINSVILLE, Ind.

 

 

From the homicide rate to potato planting, vampirism to emergency room bedlam, casino payouts to epilepsy, it would appear there is no event in life that at least one person won’t attribute to the moon, especially a full moon.  So what’s the truth?  As with many debates of this type, there are two or three possible camps:  the scientists, the man in the street and some who straddle the fine line in between.

            Dan Goins, astronomy teacher atMartinsvilleHigh Schooland past president of the Indiana Astronomical Society, sits firmly in the scientist camp when it comes to discussing full moons.  “Most people think that full moons last a week,” Goins said, “They actually only last 24 hours, so a lot of events that people attribute to full moons don’t happen during a full moon.”

            Goins has heard his share of strange claims concerning the powers of the moon.  “I once got a call from a woman who wanted to know when the full moon was so she could put her pickles in brine,” Goins laughed.  “My father would only put fence posts in during a certain phase of the moon otherwise they would work loose.”  When planting things during a full moon, people need to take in other factors, said Goins.  “In controlled experiments the phase of the moon made no difference if the soil and temperature were right for planting.”

            The full moon does offer at least one benefit to those who choose to go out – more light.

            Martinsville Assistant Police Chief Dennis Nail believes that it is the extra illumination, not extraterrestrial suggestion, that causes people to be more active during full moons.  “It’s like with wildlife,” said Nail, who is an avid hunter.  “If there is a full moon, deer will be on the move all night.  People are the same.  It’s not folklore; it’s more available light.  We’re no busier on those nights, though.”  The hospitals are no busier, either.

            “We all talk about the moon having an effect,” said Dr. Rick Eisenhut, and emergency room physician atMorganCountyMemorialHospital.  “The number of patients we see on any given night fluctuates a lot.  People want to blame it on something, so they blame it on the moon.  There have been studies done, though, that show the moon has no effect on emergency room admissions.”

            Mooresville Fire Chief Les Farmer agrees that some people might use the full moon as an excuse to behave less rationally than they normally would.  “People think the full moon has an effect, so they act stupid,” Farmer said.  “Statistically I can’t say that we get any more runs during full moons.  I’ve heard people talk about some off-the-wall stuff but nothing really stands out.  I know the past couple of full moons have been pretty quiet.”

            Although scientists may disprove the legend of “full moon fever,” the beautiful, luminescent full moon has been the subject of many myths through the ages and continues to bring a sense of mystery to the night, whenever it appears.