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Passing Time and the Jug

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Published on: Nov. 2, 1998

Last revision: Nov. 2, 2010

were thought to have been driven insane by the moon. Even now we believe a full moon makes people act oddly and makes young lovers irrational.

What does science say about moon lore? Some cultures have long interpreted the tilt of the crescent moon as a predictor of rain or believed in sayings such as, "Clear moon, frost soon." Another belief is that if you see a halo around the moon, rain is on the way. Science now tells us that a "ring around the moon" is the result of ice crystals in the upper atmosphere, and the presence of such crystals often precedes a weather system-a good chance that rain is indeed on the way.

In New Zealand, statistics show that more rain falls at full moon than new moon. Likewise, U.S. scientists analyzed weather data here and discovered that rainfall was above average a few days after a new or full moon.

Sportsmen in Missouri are familiar with the "Solunar Tables," which allege that the positions of the sun and moon affect all living creatures and can predict when fish and wildlife are most active. Interestingly, the Solunar Theory agrees with the old saying that fish bite more during the dark of the moon.

"I know many anglers who swear by the Solunar Tables," says Kevin Richards, an angler, as well as fisheries section chief with the Conservation Department, "but others say there's no relation between the Tables and fishing success. . . . I don't think it's clear cut." Scientists view the Solunar Theory with skepticism.

Jim Pearson, who hunts and fishes in southwestern Missouri, does consult Solunar Tables and agrees that, in general, fishing is better during the dark of the moon. He also has noticed that deer hunting tends to improve during the moon's dark phase, though his common-sense theory is not related to the Solunar Theory: "When there's no moonlight, deer can't feed well because they can't see." So the deer venture out to forage in the daylight.

Scientists believe the moon was created millions of years ago when an object the size of Mars crashed into earth, spraying debris into orbit. Eventually, this debris collected to form the moon.

The gravitational relationship between earth and the moon may be more important than it appears. For example, scientists think tidal basins helped water-based life adapt to land. And the moon's gravity helped move the continents apart long ago, separating emerging gene

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