Ignorance is not bliss

‘The World’s Most Respected Astrologer’ Jonathan Cainer spouts ignorance in this month’s edition of ‘Reveal’ (picture by author)

Above is a picture I took (apologies for the poor quality) of astrologer and charlatan Jonathan Cainer’s contribution to ensuring that the general public, and in this case readers of the UK woman’s magazine ‘Reveal’, remain startlingly ignorant in regards to the scientific and objective reality of our existence. Here is a man, who it is claimed has 7 million readers (evidence pending, naturally), postulating on the causes on one of the most destructive natural disasters in recent times in such a unbelievably ridiculous way that I was unsure as to whether I had finally succumbed to the influence of the ‘supermoon’ and had delved uncontrollably into the blackened void of insanity.

This short introduction to this week’s star signs is so jam-packed with an unusually high density of such intolerable bullshit that I was worried that my head might explode upon reading it. Where do I start? I suppose I could start by giving credit where it is due, even if in this case it is due to a quack who is under the impression that our monthly perception of the relative positions of distant stars is somehow and inexplicably an omen for the cyclical decreasing and increasing of the sexual and financial fortunes of particular individuals of a single primate species on a single, isolated planet in the corner of the universe. He is correct however in stating that the Moon is not a fixed distance from the Earth, its orbit is elliptical and occasionally it is several thousand miles (an actual scientist would use the S.I. unit, metres or kilometres in this case) closer. Whilst the lunar perigee does have some affect on tides, its total force is still very weak and there is currently no evidence to suggest that the current orbital configuration had any affect whatsoever on the intensity, timing or severity of the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami, or in fact any other large earthquake since records began. The gravitational affect of the Moon cannot affect the viscous contents of the mantle, or contribute to the increased subduction or shear of the tectonic plates.
The science behind this is sound, and relatively basic. The affect that any celestial body exerts on the Earth is proportional to its mass, and inversely proportional to the third power of its distance. The moon, at lunar perigee is just over 5% closer to the Earth than on average (semi-major axis) which would increase the gravitational field gradient between the Moon and the Earth by around 125%. For those interested I have carried out the relevant calculations, and the values of the gravitational field gradient, and these can be found here. Although this sounds like a large amount, the gravitational field gradient is so small that this is a barely imperceptible change. More information can be found at the USGS or at the Seismic Laboratory of the University of California in Berkeley.
Mr Cainer is also right about that fact that we are reaching the peak of the solar flare cycle, but he is fundamentally and irrevocably wrong when he states that this cycle would have anything at all to do with the frequency of earthquakes. Increasing solar flare activity may cause disruption to electrical distribution networks and satellite communications, but there is no increased gravitational affect associated with solar flares and no one has ever stated anything to the contrary. I am uncertain as to what research he is referring to when he states that “Research suggests that such times bring more natural disasters” as helpfully and unsurprisingly he fails to mention his sources.

As his editorial descends into the inarticulate, ridiculous and absurd Mr Cainer mentions the opposition of Saturn and Jupiter and the ‘T-sqaure’ that ‘formed in’ Pluto. To analyse the affect on the tiny gravitational field gradient between the Earth and these planets, please refer to the link to UC Berkeley. Pluto is not mentioned as everybody is now aware that it is no longer a planet, but rather a dwarf planet within the minor planet category, along with Ceres, Haumea, Makemake and Eris. There are also a further 269,644 minor planets, all outlined here, so to suggest that one of these bodies would have any affect on what is already a very weak gravitational gradient is patently absurd.

Just to top everything off, ‘The World’s Most Respected Astrologer’ finishes with a snide comment regarding our ‘dangerous addition’ to nuclear ‘fuel’, despite the exemplary performance of the Fukushima nuclear plant in the wake of a natural disaster well outside of its design and engineering limit.

I think that this article is perhaps one of the more upsetting examples of of this kind of pseudo-scientific astrological mumbo-jumbo. Instead of preying on his normal victims, including the grieving, naive, destitute and desperate, Mr Cainer has turned his unfocussed attention to the science regarding the dynamics of our planet, and has chosen an insensitive and offensive time to do it. Just out of shot to the left in the picture above is an image of a woman sat on the ground, sobbing amongst the wreckage of her home and country. She doesn’t need an explanation of the disaster that has cost the lives of tens of thousands, especially not one that is written in the stars or caused by Pluto and postulated by an ignorant man in a weekly magazine. This is a man who knowingly profiteers on the naivety of the unquestioning and scientifically illiterate populace of our country, who for some reason look to him to provide them with answers to the unanswerable and solutions to the unpredictability and indifference of the universe. Statistics dictate that no matter what unfounded rubbish he chooses to spout this week, with an apparent readership of 7 million, at least some of it will prove to be true for a few people, and if he keeps it ambiguous and vague enough the number of happy customers seeking order amongst the chaos increases further still. Perhaps because science cannot provide all the answers yet, and makes no claims to the contrary, people desperate for assurance or guidance in the face of unrelenting unfairness turn to astrology, like grasping at straws in the sea of the unknown. I would remain very sceptical of any individual who claimed that they could provide solutions to the stochasticity of our existence, especially if those answers are based on lies spun out weekly for profit.

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