Editor’s note: Two weeks ago, we published a brand new segment on the life page. Calling it the “anti-horoscope”, we made the predictions extremely specific to satirize the ridiculousness of astrology. And even though we really are on the side of science, Mr. van Bemmel has submitted the following letter to set the record straight. At first, we thought he had missed the joke, that he thinks we really were predicting that all Garneauians born between 22 November and 21 December will be saving hamsters named Rocky from house fires. However, our friendly neighbourhood physics teacher insisted that the joke was not lost on him, and that his response is meant to carry a tone of humour as well.
So without further ado, here is the response of Mr. van Bemmel, who definitely understood the joke.
Upon the morn of 18 April I eagerly anticipated the next edition of our school’s august newspaper “The Reckoner” Whilst learning about the loss of a vice Principal and other such timely matters I was distressed to find a significant amount of revenue generating space was dedicated to the pseudoscience of … sigh … astrology. The Reckoner’s staff indicated in their preamble that they had consulted the most up to date mathematical models and other such folderol to generate this drivel. As one who combats such nonsense as astrology on a daily (hourly) basis it is my scholarly duty to set the record straight and preserve the honour of our school or at least the physics department.
Astrology has no basis in science … whatsoever.
If you choose to follow astrology please do not use devices such as elevators or automobiles as they are mutually exclusive with the tenets of this pseudoscience. Below permit me to submit the following reasons to buttress my claim.
1. The times of the month when the sun’s position on our sky is projected onto a given constellation are published in calendars and are typically bounded around the 20th of each month. However, these times were established in 4713 BC (beginning of the Julian calendar) and since the Earth wobbles on its axis (precession of the equinoxes) with a period of 22000 years these projections are radically altered for our current sky. In general, they are shifted about one month (so if you were ‘born’ an Aries you are actually a Pisces!) and some signs are facing elimination (Scorpio is down to about 4 days at the end of November) and there is now a 13th sign … Ophiuchus (serpent bearer) Perhaps you know someone who would fit this. Serpens Caput will join in a few years … I wonder who will want to be one of these?
2. The prime tenet of astrology is the gravitational forces of the planets and the sun, tug gently on our body fluids and decide the differences in our character making us Mother Teresa or perhaps a Physics teacher. However, to move our fluids requires a difference in force (actually pressure) in one area to another in our bodies (called a tidal force). Since the sun is 150 million km distant the difference between how hard it pulls on our front compared to our rear is smaller than the marks on some of my AP Physics C tests. Let us consider the events of birth, when a baby arrives it is collected by a nurse who carries the wiggling new addition over to an area where it can be cleaned up and massed (not weighed … to be clear). In the effort of carrying the baby the nurse (of any dimension or gender) will produce more than 20 TIMES the tidal force exerted by any planet! Yet I have yet to see an astrology forecast with a consideration for the circumstances of how your maternity nurse handled your first few moments after birth!
3. If these tidal forces acted as suggested by astrology, then the orientation of the bed of your mother should make a radical change in your character. Perhaps you can use this as a justification for your physics marks! It seems silly beyond consideration that your character would be altered by the direction the bed is oriented or if you were born a few days earlier or late all other things being reasonably equal.
4. In numerous double blind studies the forecasts of astrology have been shown to be no better than random. Actually, between forecasts of different astrologers can be found wide divergence.
I do appreciate the Reckoner attempting to appeal to the common demand. However, as an excellent publication it should consider this space for a more meaningful content such as explanations for the futility of Toronto’s sports teams or why winter has to last so long during global warming, covering the trial for the ground hog Punxsutawney Phil or why the school elevator breaks on days when I really need my cart upstairs or why it rained yesterday or even a winning column such as ‘Physics Problem of the Day’!
Mr. van Bemmel teaches physics and astronomy at MGCI.