The Dark Side of the Moon

Earth's Moon as seen from the North Pole

Earth's Moon as seen from the North Pole

The Moon. What a wonderful thing it is. We, as humans, have developed somewhat of a bond to our Moon, and this is understandable. After all, it has a profound effect on life on Earth, most of this is positive, although there are suspicions that there are some effects of the Moon which have lead to less-than favourable outcomes, as we will explore.


The most commonly known effect of the Moon has to be Tidal Force. We are all aware that tides change twice a day, and that this is as a result of the Moon. More specifically, it is a result of both the Moon and the Sun, though the effect that the Sun has on our tides is dramatically less than that of the Moon, due to the Sun’s relative distance from Earth.

In simple terms, since the Moon is 400 times closer to us than the Sun, and even though the Sun is more massive than the Moon and thus has more gravity, the much closer distance of the Moon makes its tidal forces on the Earth much larger than the Sun’s. The tidal effect of the Sun is just under one half the tidal effect of the Moon” – 365 Days of Astronomy

The gravitational pull of the Sun and Moon cause ‘tidal bulges’ to form in the oceans of the Earth which are closest to the Sun or Moon. This will naturally result in high sea levels in areas close to the bulges, and lower sea levels elsewhere. I don’t want to dwell on tides too much in this article,  so I will move on.


The word ‘Lunacy’ is derived from the Roman word ‘Luna’, meaning ‘Moon’. The Romans had Goddesses, Diana and Luna, who were Moon Goddesses.



Luna: An ancient moon Goddess, the namesake for the Latin word luna meaning ‘moon’. Her name also forms the root of the English words ‘lunar’ and ‘lunatic’.

Diana: The Goddess of the hunt and wild animals. She later took over from Luna as the Roman Goddess of the moon, responsible for fertility and childbirth.Goddess Guide

So we can see that the word ‘lunacy’ refers to madness as a result of the full Moon. There have been many reports published and many stories heard about the Moon being the cause for an increase in activity across a wide range of areas, such as:

  • Murder rate
  • Traffic accidents
  • Crisis calls to police or fire stations
  • Domestic violence
  • Births of babies
  • Suicide
  • Kidnappings
  • Violence in prisons
  • Psychiatric admissions [one study found admissions were lowest during a full moon]
  • Agitated behavior by nursing home residents
  • Assaults
  • Gunshot wounds
  • Stabbings
  • Emergency room admissions
  • Behavioral outbursts of psychologically challenged rural adults
  • Lycanthropy
  • Vampirism
  • Alcoholism
  • Sleep walking
  • Epilepsy
'Werewolf' boy

'Werewolf' boy

We are all familiar with at least a few of the points listed above. But why is that? Is could be because these things really occur, or perhaps because people often make out as though weird things occur when the Moon is fat . We are regularly exposed to references of the Moon’s influence on Humans in the media, though various depictions of lycanthropy and other such matters; through folklore, which often states that women are fertile according to the Moon; through misconceptions over the Moons effects on Earth’s t ides and its subsequent effect on Humans and through stories of the Moon, madness and suicide. Has this just affected our perceptions? What better to refer to than the thoughts of two great minds…

Greek philosopher Aristotle and Roman historian Pliny the Elder suggested that the brain was the “moistest” organ in the body and thereby most susceptible to the pernicious influences of the moon, which triggers the tides.”Scientific American

This may sound a little obscure, but the logic is there. We know that the Moon affects the tides on Earth, and as Humans we are made up of over 80% water, so is it that ludicrous to suggest that the Moon could also be affecting us? Well, as it turns out…yes.

“As the late astronomer George Abell of the University of California, Los Angeles, noted, a mosquito sitting on our arm exerts a more powerful gravitational pull on us than the moon does. Yet to the best of our knowledge, there have been no reports of a “mosquito lunacy effect.” Second, the moon’s gravitational force affects only open bodies of water, such as oceans and lakes, but not contained sources of water, such as the human brain. Third, the gravitational effect of the moon is just as potent during new moons—when the moon is invisible to us—as it is during full moons.”National Geographic

Phases of the Moon

Phases of the Moon

There have been many tests conducted to try and establish whether the Moon is responsible for the increase in odd activities we sometimes witness around the time of the full Moon. In a lot of the cases, the verdict was that there was a positive correlation between them. However, many of the studies that have been carried out have been picked apart by other scientists and it has been discovered that the suspected positive correlation between the moon and the oddities is actually non-existent. Some of the original studies were negligent to some key factors, while others seem to ignore the fact that other studies contradict the results.

“My own opinion is that the case for full moon effects has not been made. The studies are not consistent. For every positive study, there is a negative study” says Ivan Kelly, a psychologist at the University of Saskatchewan. Kelly has published 15 papers on the topic and reviewed more than 50 others, including one that covered some 200 studies. He concludes that there is not strong evidence of an effect.

“Two separate studies published in the December 23, 2000 issue of the British Medical Journal contradict each other on the question of whether animals bite people more during a full moon.

“Chanchall Bhattacharjee and colleagues at the Bradford Royal Infirmary in Bradford, England, reviewed 1,621 patients admitted to the infirmary’s emergency room between 1997 and 1999 for animal bites and found that the chances of being bitten were twice as high on or around full-moon days.

“But Simon Chapman at the University of Sydney in Australia compared dates of admission for dog bites to public hospitals in Australia with dates of the full moon over a 12-month period and found no positive relation between the full moon and dog bites.” National Geographic



That last quote would suggest that the link between a full Moon and Human behaviour is meaningless. So is that it? There are still plenty of contradicting arguments, but will we really get any closer to an answer when all of the evidence clashes? It seems unlikely. So, we can still be objective about this and ask that if the Moon does not affect Human behaviour, is it possible for the Moon to affect any other creature? There was a study conducted by the British Medical Journal in 2006 to determine whether or not the number of dog bites requiring hospital admissions rises at the time of a full Moon. Here is an abstract from their study.

Objective: To assess whether dog bites requiring hospital admission occur more at the full moon.
Review of dates of admission for dog bites to accident and emergency departments, June 1997 to June 1998, compared with dates of the full moon.
All public hospitals in Australia.
Main outcome measures:
Admissions for dog bites.
12 peak clusters of admissions were unrelated to the time of the full moon.
Dog bites are no more frequent on full moons than at any other time of the month. Sceptics rejoice.” – British Medical Journal

So, there we have it. It seems that the dogs are no more affected by the full Moon than Humans. Personally, I find the idea of the Moon affecting us every month to be an interesting idea, one that I would like to believe. Yet it seems difficult to believe such a notion when there is only contradicting evidence out there, I’d need clear-cut evidence in supoport of the theory to satisfy my mind.

The Moon

The Moon

“…spooky effects have been ascribed to the phases of the moon….But when the statistics are redone properly, the correlation with lunar phase always evaporates….Yet many sensible people—including police officers and emergency room staff—continue to believe otherwise.” – Steven Strogatz

At this stage it seems that such evidence is unlikely to arise anytime soon. So for now I shall remain skeptical that the Moon does indeed have a profound effect on us, but I shall also remain hopeful that it does, because for me, that would be a fantastic feat of physics!

Pink Floyd - Dark Side of the Moon

Pink Floyd - Dark Side of the Moon

It seems likely that the discussion will rage on for some time.Please post your own thoughts on the topic if you have any you’d like to share. I shall leave on a more musical note by including some appropriate lyrics by Pink Floyd. Brain Damage, from their fantastic album The Dark Side of the Moon.

“The lunatic is on the grass.
The lunatic is on the grass.
Remembering games and daisy chains and laughs.
Got to keep the loonies on the path.

The lunatic is in the hall.
The lunatics are in my hall.
The paper holds their folded faces to the floor
And every day the paper boy brings more.

And if the dam breaks open many years too soon
And if there is no room upon the hill
And if your head explodes with dark forebodings too
I’ll see you on the dark side of the moon.

The lunatic is in my head.
The lunatic is in my head
You raise the blade, you make the change
You re-arrange me ’til I’m sane.
You lock the door
And throw away the key
There’s someone in my head but it’s not me.

And if the cloud bursts, thunder in your ear
You shout and no one seems to hear.
And if the band you’re in starts playing different tunes
I’ll see you on the dark side of the moon.”
– Roger Waters

  1. Michael Markie

    Interesting I struggle to understand this one it would be nice if their was solid evidence, but I think it could just simply be a myth. ❓

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