Despite being a common phrase, and the name of Pink Floyd’s iconic 1973 album, the dark side of the moon doesn’t actually exist. What we call the dark side is actually just the far side, according to NASA.
Although it doesn't appear to spin from Earth's perspective, the moon does rotate, once about every 27 days. That's also approximately the same amount of time it takes the moon to orbit the Earth. All in all, about 59% of the moon is visible from Earth over the course of an orbit. While we don’t see the other 41%, this ‘dark’ side gets plenty of light from its perspective. So when we see a thin crescent, the far side is nearing fullness.
Some beliefs which we thought to be myths actually turned out to have a grain of truth in them. Chronobiologist and sleep researcher Christian Cajochen at the Psychiatric Hospital of the University of Basel in Switzerland was skeptical when people complained about poor sleep around the full moon. So naturally, he was very surprised when he and his team reviewed the results of a lab study and found "the lunar cycle seems to influence human sleep, even when one does not see the moon and is not aware of the actual moon phase”.
Over the course of four years, the researchers had monitored the brain activity, eye movements, and hormone secretions of 33 volunteers in the lab while the participants slept. According to the data, brain activity related to deep sleep dropped by 30% on full moon nights. People also took five minutes longer on average to fall asleep, and they slept for 20 minutes less overall. The scientists weren’t able to determine the exact connection between poorer sleep and the full moon, but they suggested that humans might experience ‘circalunar rhythms’ - natural cycles that roughly match the time between two full moons.
Some people, even some veterinarians, believe there is some kind of lunar force that taps into the psyche of cats and dogs and makes them freak out and behave strangely during a full moon. Studies do show that there is an increase in emergency room visits for cats and dogs in the days before, after, and during a full moon, so could the lunar cycle indeed be to blame?
There is no clear-cut evidence to support or debunk this claim. One possible theory is that people tend to take pets out more during the full moon because there is so much illumination, which naturally raises the odds for injuries.
The belief that a full moon makes kids more active is a widely held one throughout many cultures. But when scientists actually got around to testing this theory, they found that the activity levels of children do not rise in the full moon - they are just always active!
The research included 5,800 children aged 9-11, from 12 different countries around the world. Whether it was a new moon, full moon, half-moon, or crescent moon, kids maintained the same energy levels. According to the researchers, sleep was “1 percent less during the full moon,” which is not “clinically meaningful.”
There is a prevailing myth that surgeries should be scheduled according to your astrological forecast. At the time of a full moon, the sun, the Earth, and the moon itself are in alignment, which creates extremes in both high and low ocean tides. Some people believe the tides have an effect on your blood flow. Science, however, found no evidence to support this belief. A study that looked at the outcomes of 18,000 heart-related surgeries performed at the Cleveland Clinic between the years 1993 and 2006 found that the moon’s phase had zero effects on the outcomes.
"Our study found that the surgeries can be scheduled throughout the workday, any day of the workweek, or in any month of the year without compromising outcomes," saint Allen Bashour of the Cleveland Clinic.
The word ‘lunatic’ actually derives from the Latin word ‘luna’, also the name of the ancient moon goddess. The belief that a full moon drives people to madness is almost as old as time. Even Hippocrates, “the father of modern medicine,” blamed insanity on the moon goddess’s chariot ride across the sky. According to folklore, the full moon is the peak time for werewolves, and a favored time by vampires.
But what does modern science have to say about all this? In a study titled "The Moon Was Full and Nothing Happened", researchers Ivan Kelly, James Rotton, and Roger Culver examined more than 100 previous studies of alleged lunar effects and found no significant correlation between the phases of the moon and disasters, homicide rates, etc. Moreover, there is no known mechanism by which the moon would somehow influence a person’s mind. Similarly to the case with pets, people are simply more active when the moon is full. With more people out and about at night, it makes sense that more crimes, injuries, and accidents would take place.
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