Is there such a thing as a ‘lunar syndrome’ The common belief is that the moon’s effect destabilizes people so that they are more violent during certain times of the lunar cycle. Homicides, road accidents, accidental poisonings, suicides, and emergency-room admittances are all thought to increase during full and new moons.
In New York in the 1970s, five of the notorious killer Son of Sam’s eight shootings and all but one of the murders had occurred during full or new moons.
Psychiatric effects are supposed to follow the opposite ebb and flow – highest during a new moon and lowest when the moon is full. Suicides also follow suit: among emergency calls to suicide-prevention centers tracked over a two-year period, the highest number occurred during the new moon, not the full moon.
The received wisdom has been that any lunar influence is due to the gravitational effect of the sun and moon, as it is with the tides — that is, since we are 75 per cent water, the moon affects us just as it does the ocean.
However, the tides are predictable, occurring every 12 hours, whereas lunar effects are seen only once or twice a month.
The most likely explanation is a subtle geomagnetic effect, or some influence of the moon on the sun’s well-established geomagnetic pull. During a full moon, the Earth sits between the moon and the sun so that both enter our geomagnetic field.
During a new moon, the places are reversed; the moon sits between the sun and the Earth and is farthest away from our geomagnetic field.
It’s likely that the placement of the moon actually amplifies or muffles the geomagnetic pull of the sun and the Earth’s geomagnetic field, making it stronger or weaker.
It’s also helpful to remember that the lunar synodic month (29.5 days) is approximately the same length of time as the full rotation of the sun.
All this makes sense if you regard the moon as a giant magnet that modifies solar geomagnetic influence.
In fact, it may physically be a magnet. Studies of lunar samples brought back from the Apollo flights show evidence of strong magnetic fields in the rock. If the moon has its own strong magnetic pull, it could cause a magnetic shift when the moon passes through the Earth’s geomagnetic ‘tail’, as happens at every new moon.
The moon is not the only planet with an effect upon our physical and mental health. But the gravitational pull of any particular planet is extraordinarily small, and many scientists don’t believe that, on its own, it would have much of an effect on the Earth’s geomagnetic field.
However, the late biologist Franz Halberg and his colleagues at the University of Minnesota believed that a planet’s pull can create “tidal” effects, in which the gravitational forces of the various planets also interact with the magnetic fields of the sun and moon as well as the solar wind.
This, then, would have a cumulative effect on the earth’s magnetosphere, which ultimately can have profound effects both on climate and biology.
But the story of planetary effects may be even more complex: all planets may exert gravitational effects on each other, which is likely to have a non-linear, or chaotic, effect.
Carl Murray, an astronomer at Queen Mary College, University of London, has carried out research showing that the reason that planets orbit in an elliptical shape or rotate on their axes with a particular degree of tilt has to do with gravitational effects.
A resonance effect can also be established between two planets when the time periods of their rotations around each other lock into a regular mathematical relationship. For instance, the moon rotates around the Earth for the same amount of time as it rotates on its own axis.
Other planets may circle around each other at a regular interval – say, at two to three times what it takes them to rotate on their own axes.
Although the relationships between planets can slow down or speed up a rotation only slightly, even the subtlest of changes may have a large effect upon weather or biological life. These kinds of gravitational effects are magnified when a variety of planets are in alignment, as occurs during an eclipse.
Besides the chaotic effects of gravity, the electromagnetic effect of the fields created by each solar body can interact with each other and affect the sun, the moon, and, of course, the Earth. Indeed, some scientists believe that the influence of planetary fields from the Earth and other planets triggers solar activity like sunspots, and not the reverse.
When the Earth is positioned at a particular angle to one of the major planets, such as Saturn, Jupiter, or Venus, this, too, will affect the formation of sunspots or bursts of solar plasma.
It’s also known that the interplanetary magnetic field (the space between the Earth and the sun) and the Earth’s geomagnetic envelope interact more during the equinoxes, largely due to the Earth’s spin on its axis.
Scientists have long known that, when planets are at major angles to each other (at 90 or 180 degrees, for instance), they will affect reception of radio signals – the same kind of effects, but in a more minor way, caused by unsettled geomagnetic solar activity.
These subtle interrelationships could all add up to large effects on Earth.
This all may sound extraordinarily dense and complex, and a bit like a scientific version of astrology, but it’s not difficult to understand if we alter our perception of what we are – part of a larger planetary system.
We have to develop greater appreciation of the fact that we live within a cosmic Bond of complex interrelationship and constant flux. Rather than a discrete entity, living things and the Earth itself are part of an energetic system dependent upon other outer forces – gravitational and geomagnetic.
Halberg regarded this effect poetically. The living organism, he once said, must be viewed as ‘a dynamo and a magnet, living on the Earth, a larger magnet, in the atmosphere of the sun. . . with magnetic storms causing blackouts in cities and . . . in human hearts.’