The Science of Halloween: ‘Lunacy’ and the Full Moon
The Moon takes approximately 28 days to orbit the Earth, and it appears to goes through phases as it moves in relation to the light of the sun. Folk wisdom says that people act crazier than usual during a full Moon, and indeed the word “lunacy” is actually derived from the latin word for Moon, Luna. People claim that at full moons, not only do werewolves come out to play, but also depression, suicides, stabbings, traffic accidents and criminal activity rates rise. Surveys have found that over a third of the US population believe that the phase of the Moon affects human behaviour, and this percentage is even higher among mental health professionals (eighty!). But opinion counts for nothing when 99 percent of the evidence points the opposite way. Thousands of studies over the last half-century have looked into this issue, and although occasionally some have shown a correlation between phases and human behaviour, thorough follow-ups always disprove it. The main theory for why the Moon would affect humans is its grativational pull: it has an enormous effect on the tides, and since humans are about 80% water, it’s been suggested that the Moon must have a “biological-tide” effect on us too. This is doesn’t hold water at all, because the amount of water inside of us is so tiny compared to the oceans that a mosquito sitting on our arm literally exerts a more powerful gravitational pull on us than the Moon. But there is a more plausible theory that could explain the origin of this myth: a full moon means more light. The night is 250 times brighter with a full moon than no moon at all, so in times when there were no artificial lights, people would likely stay up later when there was a full moon. If more people are out, then clearly there’s a far greater chance of mischief and things going wrong.