Here’s a lovely little story to end the year on a proper note.
Readers of yesterday’s edition of the Herald-Mail (which, as local residents and longtime frequenters of this blog know well, is the closest approximation of a newspaper Washington County has yet been able to manage) opened the Lifestyle section to find the following article, accompanied by a color photograph:
Local astrologer predicts what 2011 will bring
W.Va. astrologer says work on your relationships and welcome back your money next year
BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. —
To ask a local astrologer to lay out predictions for 2011 is to ask for a quick lesson in how to read the sky.
[. . .]
[Jeanne] Mozier, who helps coordinate the Festival of Light, a two-day psychic fair and alternative-healing expo in November in Berkeley Springs, is an astrologer. Her crystal ball is the sky. She derives predictions noting the way planets align with signs of the Zodiac. Then she compares astrological alignments against what happened the last time the stars and planets crossed paths.
It helps that she has a background in hard-data trends research to draw from. She matriculated in political and historical research at Cornell and Columbia universities and has worked for the federal government.
Lately, Mozier has been giving presentations throughout the Tri-State region in which she forecasts 2011 trends.
“The cycle of Uranus, which starts this year, will define the 21st-century life,” Mozier said. “Lots of innovative, inventive ideas will be pouring out, particularly in the spring. Then people will start grounding some of these ideas and making them real.” Nowhere in the article, which you can read in full by following the linked headline, does writer Tiffany Arnold mention that astrology is an utterly discredited and useless pseudoscience with no power to predict the future or to be of much good for anything other than enriching the astrologer. She is good enough not only to plug Jeanne Mozier’s “psychic fair and alternative healing festival” without so much as raising an eyebrow, but to describe her methods in terms of uncritical respect. Note how she describes the way in which Mozier “derives predictions” rather than “makes shit up.”
Mozier is said to note the alignments of planets with zodiacal constellations, and then reckon them with what happened “the last time the stars and planets crossed paths.” Nevermind questions of how or why stars and planets crossing paths ought to have the slightest influence over the everyday events of human life — I have a much more basic objection to this astrologer’s technique. The stars and planets are not “crossing paths.” They are nowhere near each other. They are tens, hundreds, and thousands of light-years apart in space. Their positions in our sky are only apparent, determined just as much by our own planet’s position as those of the other planets and stars.
Later in the article Mozier makes a prediction about love in the upcoming year by informing us that “Saturn is in Libra.” Yet, despite its apparent position in our sky, Saturn is nowhere close to Libra, whose nearest star, Gliese 570, is over 19 light-years away. Not only that — the stars of which Libra is comprised are hundreds of light-years apart. The appearance of proximity is an illusion created by their apparent positions in our sky.
(As a quick aside, Mozier calls Libra “the sign of relationships,” and uses it to make fearless predictions for the coming year like “Expect continuing dialogue around whether the institution of marriage is dead, further debates around gay marriage.” If you want to know something of actual interest about Libra, try this: one of its stars is Gliese 581, a red dwarf approximately 20 light-years from Earth. Gliese 581 supports a planetary system of at least six planets, including Gliese 581 c, the first terrestrial exoplanet located within its star’s habitable zone. Tiffany Arnold’s article doesn’t mention any of this, either.)
Right at this very moment there is a display at the Smithsburg Library titled Visions of the Universe. It’s a traveling exhibit partially sponsored by NASA. (There’s going to be an opening reception for it next week — you should totally go.) It presents the (extremely compressed and abbreviated) story of the last 400 years of astronomy. Take a walk through it and learn a thing or two about the Sun, about the planets and other objects that orbit the Sun alongside us, about the immense and beautiful universe of stars and galaxies beyond, and about how we came to know what we know. It’s something everyone, regardless of age, should come to see. It’s something our county should be proud to host.
And it’s something you haven’t heard about in the Herald-Mail, even though the exhibit has been on display at Smithsburg for several weeks already. But shit, I shouldn’t blame the Herald-Mail, should I? Space in a newspaper is a valuable thing, afterall. They’ve obviously got better things to do with it.
. . .
Happy New Year!
(The hell with this astrologer and her phony predictions — if you want to take a real look at the sky, read Our Friendly Skies, the astronomy feature written by the great Rod Martin, whose likeness is borne by an inexplicably small number of statues in our area — zero at my last count. And if you’re not too busy some Tuesday night, pay Rod a visit and take in a program at the William M. Brish Planetarium, another local treasure that gets next to no coverage while the paper is busy publicizing astrologers and churches and every other pusher of superstition in the four-state area.)