Exposing PseudoAstronomy

August 18, 2016

Has Yahoo! Finally Hit Rock Bottom, with Horoscopes in its Science Feed?

Jerry Coyne reports today that Yahoo!’s science news feed is reporting on astrology. Not that it’s Taurus excrement, but an article with the headline, “Tonight’s full moon and upcoming lunar eclipse are going to bring about some CHANGE” is full of astrological bull crap.

Not only that, but the picture they use is of an annular solar eclipse. Notice that a “solar eclipse” does not equal a “lunar eclipse.” An annular solar eclipse is when the moon is near apogee (farthest point from Earth) so it appears smaller than the sun’s disk and therefore cannot completely cover it, leaving a ring of solar illumination around it.

Not only that, but the “eclipse” this month is not a lunar eclipse at all, and the one next month is a penumbral eclipse — unless you have a camera and are very carefully looking at the brightness, you will not notice any change.

Fortunately, the vast majority of the 250+ comments (as of the time of this writing) take Yahoo! to task over this.

Though I will let an astrologer have the last word. To the currently highest-rated comment, by “Tia” with 104 up-votes and two down-votes, and 15 replies, “gypsyshookar” (which I originally read as “gypsyhooker”) wrote:

“While I agree with you, as a very experienced and certified astrologer, we have it on our own authority that this qualifies astrologically as an eclipse with eclipse effects. However, it is NOT astronomy which focuses mainly on the observable physical phenomena of rocks in space. Astrology, on the other hand, is based on the observable correlation of life and events on Earth with the placement of the planets. FYI, astronomy is based on the earlier astrology and not the other way around. And before you pooh-pooh astrology, I suggest you take a course in it from an accredited astrologer such as myself, whose name is followed by something like BA,MCL, or better yet PhD. When scorned by a colleague for his belief in astrology, Sir Isaac Newton replied: “I have studied it, Sir. You have NOT.””



  1. 8 18 2016 Hello and good day, Good luck with informing the “true-believers” concering astrology. I am stickin to astronomy. Be well-happy gazing. v

    Comment by Virginia L. Tyree — August 18, 2016 @ 12:06 pm | Reply

  2. I’d have to say “not yet”. There’s plenty of room at the bottom (to steal a Feynmanism): imagine, if you will, a comments argument between “PhD astronomers” and artificial planet cranks over whether the position of things (with or without precession considered, and according to today’s date as it may translate to various calendars of antiquity) govern life on Earth, or whether things going on hereon the pale blue dot are causing the planet pilots to alter their course to get a better look.

    Comment by Stan Rogers — August 20, 2016 @ 12:17 am | Reply

    • That was, of course, meant to read “‘PhD atrologers'” (quoting the scare quotes). I have a good brain; the connections between it and its peripheral equipment (hands, eyes, ears, etc.) are dodgy at best, and rarely even get up to dodgy these days. I blame advancing age and Parkinsonism, since that’s easier than blaming myself.

      Comment by Stan Rogers — August 22, 2016 @ 3:59 am | Reply

      • Who awards PhD’s in astrology? It’s like a PhD in phrenology or dowsing.

        Comment by Daniel Anthony Gautreau — August 22, 2016 @ 4:15 am

      • Believe it or not, they exist. And I mean accredited exist. For realz. Yes, there are diploma mills that will hand ’em out for a price, but you can actually put in the post-secondary time in undergrad and grad studies of something that is about as valid as the Magic 8-Ball (and not just in India, either). But then, there are accredited schools offering doctorates in all manner of medical quackery as well, so…

        Comment by Stan Rogers — August 23, 2016 @ 6:29 am

  3. Everyone knows that a full moon affects the majority of the population…just ask the cops.

    Comment by Terrance — August 20, 2016 @ 9:03 am | Reply

  4. It must be especially galling to a professional astronomer to hear an astrologist say thar astronomy is “based on” astrology. That is like saying that mathematics is based on numerology.

    Comment by Daniel Anthony Gautreau — August 20, 2016 @ 10:26 am | Reply

    • Doesn’t bother me.

      Comment by Stuart Robbins — August 20, 2016 @ 10:58 am | Reply

    • That’s kinda true in the same way, though. Both the Pythagoreans and the Platonists made considerable advances in mathematics because they believed the numbers were magical. Let’s not forget that Tycho Brahe was an astrologer, and that his immaculately detailed observations on Hven (granted to him because of his lucky guesses and a bit of a coincidence) were made in order to make him the greatest astrologer EVAR – until things started falling apart, what with the comets not shattering any spheres and novae stellae popping up and stuff. And chemistry and metallurgy both sort of fell sideways out of alchemy. It’s perfectly fine to reflect on the idea that we started out looking in all of the wrong places, and began advancing because things didn’t quite turn out the way we expected they would. As Isaac Asimov said: “(t)he most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not ‘Eureka’ but ‘That’s funny…'” On the other hand, it’s not perfectly fine to keep insisting that the ancients were right even after all of the scaffolding on which they built their philosophies are torn down.

      Comment by Stan Rogers — August 23, 2016 @ 6:43 am | Reply

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