The Lunar Effect: Real or Fake?

Posted by Katie L. Carroll on October 14, 2008 in Language, Nature |

As the full moon approaches, I can’t help but wonder about the old myth of the Lunar Effect. Does the full moon really cause erratic behavior in humans? A scientist would probably say no (see articles here and here for more). The logical side of me (and yes, there is a logical side of me…I was a logic puzzle editor!) certainly believes there’s no proof of the Lunar Effect, but the creative side of me thinks maybe there is some truth to the myth.

After all, the word “lunar,” which means pertaining to the moon, (stick with me here; I’ll try not to get too wordy on you), is derived from the word “luna,” which when capitalized is the name of the Roman Goddess of the moon and when lower-cased is the Latin word for moon. (Okay, take a breath!) Now, the Latin word “luna” gives us the Late Latin word “lunaticus,” which means moonstruck. In the romantic sense, moonstruck means dreamily bemused, but a more literal interpretation gives us the meaning of struck crazy by the moon. (I swear we’re almost done!) So the word “lunaticus,” i.e. moonstruck, brings us to the word “lunatic,” which in a not-so-politically-correct definition is a crazy person. (Are you still with me?)

Beyond the simple (!!!) word associations, I have my own empirical evidence to suggest a connection between erratic behavior and the full moon. Just spend a few minutes on the road and you’ll see how crazy drivers get during the full moon…oh wait, people drive like lunatics everyday. Well, there was this one time I saw Professor Lupin turn into a werewolf when he caught sight of the full moon…oh wait, I only read about that in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Okay, so maybe I don’t really have any empirical evidence.

Still, scientifically the moon does affect the tides, which in turn affects climate. And in literature, the English Romantic poets were inspired (and possibly driven crazy) by the magic of the moon. When in doubt, I often find it helpful to look to children for the simple answer. My little niece and nephew are always excited to spot the moon, especially during the daytime, so there must be something special about it. Maybe we just can’t scientifically observe its impact on us, much like we can’t verify the existence of the soul in a quantifiable way; we can only feel it.

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