Add Homonym Attacks! #8

Add Homonym Attacks! #7

Ad Hominem: Appealing to personal considerations rather than to logic or reason.
Ad Hominem Attack: An argument that focuses on a personal attack as opposed to the subject in question.
Add Homonym Attacks!: The process by which one inserts a homophone and it bites you.
(It also serves as the title to Inside Pulse’s representative column in the world of Critical Thinking, Science and Skepticism.)

The Horror of Horoscopes

Why are there horoscopes in newspapers? I’ve never been able to figure this thing out. I can figure out the comics, the crypto-quip, the Jumble, crossword puzzles, those annoyingly trendy sudoku things, but not the horoscope.

They aren’t a game. They aren’t a mind-puzzle. They aren’t intentionally funny.

They certainly aren’t news.

Linda C. Black is the astrologer in the comics section of the Chicago Tribune. In addition to the normal inane ramblings, and vague predicition, she also gives out numbers.

Today is a 7 for Leo.

She has this whole 0-10 scale worked out based on how hard your day is going to be. 0 is the hardest and 10 is the easiest. Black has this weird trend though, where she rarely gives out numbers lower than 4. Most days most of the signs get a 7. Everybody’s average day is easier than the average average day.

It’s almost like she can’t do math. What kind of scientist cannot do math? Oh wait, astrology isn’t science, it’s bullshit. I forgot.

Stop reading this for a minute and check out this site. I’ll wait.

Hilarious isn’t it?

I never believed in Astrology myself. But I think I did have something in my life that killed dead any notion that, “there might be something to it.” You see, I met this girl. I worked with her. I noticed that our “punch in” numbers were only 4 digits off.

“Punch in” numbers were the last 4 digits of one’s social security number.

It turns out that she was born on the same day as me, at almost exactly the same time. In the same hospital.

You could not find two people more different than she and I. In terms of personality, we were nigh opposites. Often, she had good days, when I had bad days and vice versa.

One day I was influenced by a tall dark stranger and she was influenced by a short hairy friend.

Turns out there is a paper that covers such things by Geoffrey Dean and Ivan Kelly.

an excerpt:

Many tests of astrologers have been made since the 1950s but only recently has a coherent review been possible. A large-scale test of persons born less than five minutes apart found no hint of the similarities predicted by astrology. Meta-analysis of more than forty controlled studies suggests that astrologers are unable to perform significantly better than chance even on the more basic tasks such as predicting extraversion [sociability]. More specifically, astrologers who claim to use psychic ability perform no better than those who do not.

To save my lazy ass from extra typing, I copy and pasted that from Plaitt’s page on the same subject. Good reading, especially the section that delves into the 4 fundamental forces of nature.

Anywho, let’s check out what else the scientific community has on astrology.

Dr. Karl says

To describe the positions of these stars more easily, the Babylonians divided the sky into 12 slices (they had a numbering system based on 12, not 10 as we have). Today, we call these 12 slices the 12 Houses of the Zodiac – eg, Aries, Pisces, Aquarius. The Babylonian astronomers/astrologers closely observed the sky, decade after decade. They noticed that these seven stars seemed to move through the Houses of the Zodiac in totally repeatable ways – coming back to the same location in the same house at the same time, year after year.

But this is where the big problem is.

The constellations shift by about 1o every 72 years, thanks to the drifting of the Earth’s spin. The Earth spins around an imaginary spin axis that runs through the North and South Geographic Poles. But it doesn’t spin true. If you have ever spun a top, you’ll see that this spin axis soon begins to wobble. The spin axis will slowly sweep out a complete circle.

The same thing happens with the spin axis of the Earth – except that it takes about 26,000 years to sweep out a complete circle. So roughly every 2,000-and-a-bit years (26,000 years divided by 12 Houses), the star signs get shifted by one House. The horoscopes you read in the daily newspapers (and that are often written by the most junior journalist on that shift) are wrong by one House. You should be reading the star sign before.

Not that it would be any more accurate.

Of course, the most logical and scientific article on astrology belongs to Maddox.

That’s all for now. Does anybody out there treat horoscopes with credibility? They are just so damned silly.

Oh well, I’ll be back in two weeks with AHA! #8. It should be good. 8 is my lucky number.