To: All Jan-31-94 02:48AM Subject: Re: Is Gauquelin's Mars effect real? In article +lt;CKF

Master Index Current Directory Index Go to SkepticTank Go to Human Rights activist Keith Henson Go to Scientology cult

Skeptic Tank!

From: Jan Willem Nienhuys To: All Jan-31-94 02:48AM Subject: Re: Is Gauquelin's Mars effect real? Organization: Eindhoven University of Technology, The Netherlands From: (Jan Willem Nienhuys) Message-ID: <2iinlb$> Newsgroups: sci.skeptic In article ad201@FreeNet.Carleton.CA (Donald Phillipson) writes: > >Jim Lippard's account of CSICOP activities does not make plain whether >verification of Gauquelin's thesis about the planetary cause was >attempted. This question came up when Gauquelin started, about 1970, in >association with Mensa, and was not answered then. Gauquelin (to my knowledge) never claimed anything more than a remarkable correlation for which an explanation was lacking. >The point is that, even if you have freakishly high correlation between >performance XX and birth under planetary influence YY, that by itself >offers no evidence the planet influences the performance. YY is (in the >northern hemisphere) associated with a time of year, e.g. month March, and >we have no less reason to believe that babies born in March, who learn to >walk when the outdoors weather is ZZ, later in adult life walk and run >better than those born in another month. This has been brought up over and over again. The above comment suggests that the author is not quite aware of the astronomical nature of Gauquelin's correlation. Mars describes roughly every 24 hours a full circle on the sky, just as the Sun does, every planet does, the Moon does (the Moon takes 24 hours and 50 minutes) and every star does. In particular, Mars rises every day once, and culminates (in the South) every day once. These moments of Mars Rise rotate through the day and in the long run they are unrelated to the time of the year. So it's defintely NOT so that a morning Mars rise will occur in spring or something like that. The only thing that can be said is that seen from Earth, Mars is slightly more often near the Sun than elsewhere. This can be understod as follows. When one sees Mars in the direction of the Sun, Mars is in "conjunction", and the actual position of Mars is far away from Earth, five times as far as when Mars is opposite the Sun (as seen from Earth). So in conjunction Mars moves slowly with respect to the apparent postion of the Sun. This effect was accounted for by Gauquelin. Because in the early morning more children are born, and because a Mars rise will be slightly more often coincident with Sun rise than a random time, the number of people born "under Mars" (i.e. around Mars rise and Mars culmination) will not be 16.7 percent, but 17.2 percent, according to Gauquelin's computation. Now it is not entirely clear that future Sports Champions follow the same daily birth rhythm as "ordinary" people. First borns are born later in the morning than later borns. Birth frequencies during the year are also not constant, and might show a more pronounced oscillation than in the case of "ordinary" people. In the time Gauquelin's champions were born, these daily and annual rhythms might have been not exactly the same. Long term rhythms might give rise to spurious correlations, because of the short time basis of the observations. There might be systematic errors in the time that is noted down or reported for births, and these systematic errors might differ in big cities from those in villages. So there can be some doubt as to whether this 17.2 percent is correct. One might object that this is irrelevant, because Gauquelin claimed that among sports champions one will find around 22 percent. On the other hand, he had in his files birthdays of 2038 French champs, and the overall "Mars percentage" was only 19.4 %. Among those athletes he didn't think worthwhile to publish for whatever reason, (683 of them) the "Mars percentage" was only 13.0%. Among the published athletes the "Mars percentage" was 22.5%. This may be considered as an indication of how well Gauquelin was able to distinguish truly outstanding athletes from pseudo-invalids, but a more plausible explanation is that his judgement played to big a part in his data handling. This judgemental ambiguity is clearly visible in his criticism of the American test. Because the 33 basketball players in his 1970 survey showed only a Mars effect of 15%, he thought that the Mars effect didn't apply to basketball players. When the American test had initially not enough data, a lot of basketball players were added. This is what Gauquelin objected to. He more or less implied that the Americans on purpose had watered down their list of champions. Altogether, the "Mars percentage" among the French in Gauquelin's files was only 19.4 percent. This is significantly above 17.2 percent. The question of the correctness of this 17.2 percent is not so academic as it seems. Actually the 19.4 percent is too high, because Gauquelin recalculated by computer all his data and found that the "Mars effect" went down by about 5 percent. If this decline is evenly spread over all his files, French and foreign alike, it would mean that the overall Mars effect in his files is only 18.5% (for the French). The Dutch skeptics have tried to establish whether the Mars effect might be some spurious correlation caused by a combination of short time basis, seasonal and daily rhythms (that differ for extremely fit people from ordinary people) but nothing came out. JWN


E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank