(Submitted January 03, 1997)
I'm wondering if you have an opinion about whether or not the Moon's
phases affect the crime rate. Please write back as soon as you
possibly can. If you have no opinion or knowledge on the subject
could you please refer me to someone who does.
This question is outside of our area of expertise, but we can help you out.
Cecil Adams (a popular columnist of the "why does this
covers topics such as this in his books The Straight Dope or
More of the Straight Dope by Cecil Adams. The gist of his
answer (from More of the Straight Dope) is as follows:
Scientists have looked for a correlation between phase of the Moon and
such things as murders, violent crime, or births. In particular, many
police officers or emergency room personnel have noted a seeming rise
in activity in their line of work during full Moons. Scientific studies
done to isolate this have, however, shown *no* correlation, contrary to
the beliefs of those involved. In other words, the Moon's phase doesn't
seem to have any affect on the number of crimes committed and babies born.
So why do people seem to notice an increase in these things around the time
of the full Moon? Social scientists speculate it's because people are more
likely to notice, and remember, a full Moon, rather than the Moon at other
phases. Thus, if a strange murder is committed when the Moon's a crescent,
people covering the crime may not remember the phase of the Moon that night.
If, however, the Moon is full, a police officer might be more likely to
remember the phase of the Moon that night, since the full Moon is bright and
very obvious. Thus, crimes, births, and strange occurrences happen all month
long, but only those on the full Moon are associated with the Moon's phase
when people talk about them.
Andy Ptak and Gail Rohrbach
for the Ask an Astrophysicist team
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