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Retro Fit

Many moons ago, I was researching news items for the podcast having to do with astrology. I went to one un-particular astrology site, and signed up for free readings – simply to collect data, I assure you. Ever since I signed up, I have been receiving weekly e-mails from them, spouting their astro-babble as one would expect. This week, I received from them this information:

Mercury, the planet of communication, goes retrograde — for the last time this year — in the sign of Libra on September 24, until it turns direct again on October 15. Mercury typically turns retrograde three times a year, but the effects of each period differ depending on the sign in which it happens.

Mercury rules thinking and perception, processing and disseminating information and all means of communication, commerce, education and transportation. Mercury retrograde periods gives rise to personal misunderstandings, as well as flawed, disrupted, or delayed communications, negotiations and trade glitches and breakdowns with phones, computers, cars, buses and trains.

There are several more paragraphs of generalities mixed with inanities, but I’ll spare you because you get the point.

The retrograde motion of Mercury, or any of the planets for that matter, is an observation that ancient astronomers once had great difficulty explaining. Thanks to real scientists such as Copernicus and Keppler, they discovered the truth about retrograde motions of the planets many centuries ago. Over the course of a single night, a planet will move from East to West across the sky, like any other celestial object near the ecliptic. If observed from one night to the next, however, a planet appears to move from West to East against the background stars most of the time. Occasionally, however, the planet’s motion will appear to reverse direction, and the planet will, for a short time, move from East to West against the background constellations. This link offers a good example of apparent retrograde motion.

But stop and think for a second about someone else, who received the same email that I did, who possibly might either be on the fence about full acceptance of astrology, or they have a willingness to accept it in addition to accepting real science. They might be naturally curious enough to want to learn more about the retrograde motions of Mercury. Chances are they will use internet search engines to try and get more information. If they happen to type in the words “Mercury retrograde” to the search engine, they will find themselves awash in an astrological maelstrom. Here is what they will get depending on their choice of search engine:




The first 10 results of three of the most widely used search engines yields astrology websites, or worse. However, a little perseverance goes a long way. Enter the words “retrograde motion” and the correct references to the scientific explanations of retrograde motions will come up. Interesting how the word “Mercury” triggers a bevy of astrological websites to come up. I guess in this respect, Mercury has been hijacked by the woo crowd. And in a strange way, it sort of makes sense that the astrological website that sends me my weekly email updates describes the Mercury retrograde periods as giving “rise to personal misunderstandings, as well as flawed, disrupted, or delayed communications, glitches, and breakdowns with computers,” amongst other things. Apparently, search engines are no exception to the astrological rules of retrograde motions.

3 comments to Retro Fit

  • “breakdowns with computers,”

    I work in the same office with a salesperson who believes so deeply in Astrology and the power of mercury when it goes retrograde that she will not use our CRM for entering her sales appointments, she sends me a warning (like a couple days ago) when Mercury is about to go retrograde (I work in IT) and all of her appointments are kept in a pen and paper journal and entered into our system after mercury has gone retrograde.

    She also plans surgery and dental work during fortuitous times and has rescheduled knee surgery because her surgery would happen during a full moon (i think) whichever one says never to put “blade to bone” during this time.

    I won’t even go into the Crystal Shop that is her office.

  • @skeptigator, Wow. Seems to me that probably schedules sales calls based on astrology too. If that’s the case, she must be a good sales person. If anyone like that worked for me and it affected their performance, they’d be consulting an astrologer to help them look for a job.

  • LittleGreenMan

    This is a problem that plagues all of skeptidom! We are loosing a war to get information out. Try researching any UFO incident. It will take several pages of believers sites before you get to any skeptical views. My theory is that some of the bigger organizations, JREF, SGU, etc. need to organize some sites that have factual information about each and every paranormal claim. Sort of a toe to toe response to each incident. There should be a single repository, or linked list of repositories for all skeptical responses. This will enable a TV viewer who sees the “in search of” side of the story to quickly get regrounded by reading the skeptical response. Just my 2 skeptical cents worth!

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