I think I might find out a bit more about astrology. Astrology something I've never really thought much about although I know many people who have, and even practice it. I'm certainly not a positive Skeptic of it at all. An astrology column can be found in every tabloid newspaper; however I'm sure most people know that that is not real astrology and that all seven million Britons born under the sign of Capricorn are not expected to watch their step when dealing with a situation involving transport or a pet cat... or they might not be "...celebrating too!" Astrology dates back the earliest known records of civilization and was practiced alongside astronomy; however in ancient times the attitude towards it was very different. Both astrology and astronomy are words that derive from the Greek asteri meaning "Star", yet their meanings are totally different in English. This says something profound about our modern culture, this division between exact scientific study and mystical belief. Some would even argue that you can be an astronomer or and astrologer, but you can't be both. However in the ancient civilizations like
there was no such contradiction. An astrologer once spoke at an Alternative
View conference, Helen Sewell, see: http://hpanwo.blogspot.co.uk/2009/06/alternative-view-ii-part-6.html.
Richard Dawkins is naturally a sceptic and Skeptic of astrology, see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dlMiKrwCRQ0.
It is intellectually dishonest of him to conflate newspaper astrology with
serious astrology, like I say above, but he does ask some legitimate questions.
If astrology is real how does it work? We know planets and stars influence each
other through their gravitational fields, but astrology can't be that. The
truth may lie in some fundamental operation of the working of the universe that
may be beyond our understanding. The litmus test is whether it has an effect
and many people say it does. I myself had a birth chart done by somebody who
doesn't know me and I was impressed at how perceptive it was.
What made me bring this up today is that this morning there was a solar eclipse where I live. Technically it was a partial eclipse because the entire sun was not covered, but over three quarters was. I was lucky because there was thin cloud which the sun could shine through, but it blocked out enough of the light not to be blinding; you should never look at the sun when it's at full brightness because it can damage your eyes. The sun shrank to a thin crescent, like the moon close to its new phase. The light around me changed; it became dimmer as if it were late evening, but it looked strange with the sun so high in the sky. The effect was altogether spooky. After about half an hour it brightened up again and things returned to normal. Solar eclipses happen when the moon moves between the sun and the Earth casting a shadow of itself onto the Earth. They happen every eighteen months or so, but not in the same place every time. This means that each part of the Earth will only experience it on about three or four occasions every century. The next partial eclipse in the
will be in 2026 and there will be no total one until 2090. I've experienced a
solar eclipse before in 1999 when there was once in Britain;
this time there was totality but only along the south coast of England.
Here in Oxford it was almost total
and it was clear weather so we got a better view of people in the
"umbra" where there was cloud. I went to an ancient burial mound in
the middle of a field with some friends. There were horses in the field and
they became agitated as the darkness closed in. One of my friends told me that
the eclipse marked the dawning of the "Age of Aquarius"; now of
course that's a famous song from the Sixties, but it refers to a real concept.
However the "Age" in this case refers to a period of over two
thousand years and its "dawn" cannot be pinpointed to a single day or
even a single decade (This person turned out to be a generally very dishonest
and harmful individual whom I should never have called a friend and a few years
later we fell out). These "Ages" are all a part of the
"precession of the equinoxes" a cycle that takes 26,000 years! You
see how astrology is far deeper and more complex than what you read under your
star sign in The Daily Express?
Apparently today is very important astrologically because the eclipse has
happened on the spring equinox and there's a "new moon in Pisces",
As you can see though, different astrologers interpret the data in different
ways. Here's the viewpoint of one of the most popular: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SXQEj5SbyWk.
Astrology is not an exact science; in fact when I said this to the lady who did
my birth chart she replied indigantly: "It's not a science at all, it's an
The media have covered the eclipse in detail and the BBC had a live broadcast. No prizes for guessing who presented it, see: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b05n2br2/stargazing-live-series-5-5-eclipse-live. There was no totality anywhere in the
and the best place in the country to see it was in Shetland (if Shetland counts
as part of the UK
at all, see: http://hpanwo-radio.blogspot.co.uk/2014/08/programme-98-podcast-stuart-hill.html).
The umbra of today's eclipse was mostly over the northern oceans and the best place
on land to see it was the Faroe Islands. All the planets
experience eclipses except Mercury. Sooner or later a planet's view of the sun
will be obscured by another planet or one of its own moons. This is really what
the transit of Venus was, see: http://hpanwo-tv.blogspot.co.uk/2012/06/venus-transit.html.
This situation on Earth is unique though because of an incredible cosmic
effect. The sun is of course far bigger than the moon, but it is much further
away. It is precisely four hundred times as far away as the moon; the moon's
diameter is exactly four hundred times smaller than that of the sun. This means
that Sun and the moon appear to be exactly the same size on the celestial
sphere. So when the moon eclipses the sun it does so with precision. If the
moon's apparent size were any smaller not all the sun would be covered and the
moon would just transit the sun in the same way Venus does. If the moon's
apparent size were a lot bigger then a solar eclipse would look more like a
lunar eclipse with the entire sun vanishing for an hour or more. It is only
when the two bodies are the exact same apparent size that you get the
magnificent effect of the photosphere of the sun being obscured but the solar corona
being visible. During totality it's possible to see the solar corona from the
Earth's surface, the only time ever that it's not washed out by the extreme
glare of the photosphere. Prof Brian Cox has a simple and very typical
explanation to this: "Absolute coincidence!" What he says is
symptomatic of the modern cultural issue I talked about above. It's is an
incredible coincidence considering the vastness of the solar system and the
fact that Earth is the only planet known to have life. But there's nothing I
can say in response because when a Skeptic cries "coincidence!"
nobody can prove them wrong. It's an unfalsifiable hypothesis, a
get-out-of-jail-free card. As I've explained before there is nothing physically
possible in the universe that is so unlikely that it can never happen.
Therefore the Skeptics need to get together with the rest of us and negotiate a
statistical ceiling which we can all agree on. Once that cut-off point is
decided upon we will all be able to say without any more fuss that anything
above that point cannot be coincidence and anything below it might be, see: http://hpanwo-voice.blogspot.co.uk/2014/04/pan-pareidolia.html.