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.