Blog Archives

Who believes in astrology?

Participants judged contemporary personality descriptions of odd-numbered astrological Sun signs to be more favorable than descriptions of even-numbered signs. Those born with the Sun in an odd-numbered sign expressed more belief in astrology than those born under an even-numbered Sun sign. These findings suggest that one determinant of acceptance of astrology is the favorableness of the character analysis it offers. Implications for previous research on belief in astrology are discussed.

Posted in Free Research Abstract

Seasonal changes in immune function

Winter is energetically demanding. Physiological and behavioural adaptations have evolved among nontropical animals to cope with winter because thermoregulatory demands increase when food availability decreases. Seasonal breeding is central within the suite of winter adaptations among small animals. Presumably, reproductive inhibition during winter conserves energy at a time when the odds of producing viable young are low. In addition to the well-studied seasonal cycles of mating and birth, there are also significant seasonal cycles of illness and death among many populations of mammas and birds in the field. Challenging winter conditions, such as low ambient temperatures and decreased food availability, can directly induce death via hypothermia, starvation or shock. In some cases, survival in demanding winter conditions puts individuals under great physiological stress, defined here as an adaptive process that results in elevated blood levels of glucocorticoids. The stress of coping with energetically demanding conditions can also indirectly cause illness and death by compromising immune function. Presumably, the increased blood concentrations of adrenocortical steroids in response to winter stressors compromise immune function and accelerate catabolic mechanisms in the field, although the physiological effects of elevated glucocorticoids induced by artificial stressors have been investigated primarily in the laboratory. However, recurrent environmental stressors could reduce survival if they evoke persistent glucocorticoid secretion. The working hypothesis of this article is that mechanisms have evolved in some animals to combat season stress-induced immunocompromise as a temporal adaptation to promote survival. Furthermore, we hypothesise that mechanisms have evolved that allow individuals to anticipate periods of immunologically challenging conditions. A review of the effects of photoperiod on immune system function in laboratory studies reveals that exposure to short day lengths enhances immune function in every species examined. Short day exposure in small mammals cause reproductive inhibition and concomitant reduction in plasma levels of prolactin and steroid hormones as well as alterations in the temporal pattern of pineal melatonin secretion. Conclusion: day length appears to affect immune function in many species, including animals that typically do not exhibit reproductive responsiveness to day length.

Posted in Free Research Abstract

Michael Psellos and Byzantine Astrology in the Eleventh Century

The following work forms the first chapter of my doctoral thesis which uses the writing of one of the most outstanding personalities of the Byzantine Empire, Michael Psellos, as a conduit into the world of Byzantine astrology. The focus of the chapter is his celebrated chronicle, The Chronographia, which documents his life and experiences as an influential courtier at the Byzantine court in the eleventh century. Psellos was at the forefront of political life in the Empire and its fluctuating fortunes but somehow managed to combine these duties with a prodigious scholarly vocation. He taught extensively in both public and private capacities – he was appointed Consul of the Philosophers at the University of Constantinople – and was at the forefront of intellectual activity, touching on everything from theology to law, military strategy to esoterica.

Psellos’ writings on esoteric subjects of all sorts, including astrology and other related divinatory practices, are a true treasure trove of information for historians of astrology and practising astrologers alike. This chapter looks at a number of astrological and divinatory episodes in The Chronographia before the investigation broadens out to consider Psellos’ relationship to astrology in detail in a variety of other sources. This context is very important because The Chronographia is an imperial commission and, like many of his contemporaries both before and after, Psellos had to toe the line of official disapproval of astrology. It is quite clear, however, that Psellos’ curiosity and attraction to the subject is barely concealed beneath the surface text.

For those who are unfamiliar with Byzantine history, the astrological episodes in The Chronographia throw much light on the niche occupied by astrology and astrologers in Byzantine culture. It may well surprise those readers who are accustomed to hearing of the achievements and activities of astrologers in the adjoining Arabic empire to be introduced to astrological activity in a Byzantine context which, if not as equally prolific, is never devoid of interest and relevance for historians of astrology. This work aims to offer a small corrective to the accepted notion of a moribund astrological culture in Byzantium. For all the work done by their Arabic counterparts in the Abbasid Dynasty, it still remains true that Hellenistic astrology was preserved and transmitted to posterity by the Byzantines.

Posted in Free Research Abstract

Women, medicine and life in the MIddle Ages (500-1500 AD

The status of women in the Middle Ages was ambiguous, because although they had great responsibility and expertise in practical affairs they were viewed as chattel and inferior to men. They were skilled in cookery, often of highly spiced didshes using a variety of ingredients and flavorings, and they were taught the use of medicinal herbs. They were often skilled in simple first aid, though they were not allowed to practise outside the home. An important exception to this was Hildegarde von Bingen, whose Physica brought her great renown. In it she became the first woman to discuss plants in relation to their medicinal properties. For most people in the Middle Ages, treatment revolved around herbs and diet, together with faith and holy relics and the use of (forbidden) pagan incantation and ritual. Astrology was often a necesssary adjunct to treatment. In Salerno, however, medicine had been practised from classical times, and medical training could last for 7 years or more. One of the greatest medieval medical texts is the Taculnum Sanitatis, which describes in detail the 6 essentials for the preservation of man’s health. Several vegetables and herbs are mentioned in connection with the kidneys, the picking and preparation of which are imbued with magic.

Posted in Free Research Abstract

New zodiacal influences on Chinese family formation: Taiwan 1976

Although Chinese folklore holds that the Dragon Year is an auspicious time to have a birth, notable increases in Chinese fertility in Dragon Years did not occur before 1976. Demographic explanations for the belated occurence of this phenomenon rely on the notion of natural fertility: that is, couples’ lack of modern contraception had kept such decisions outside the realm of choice. The analysis presented in this article, however, shows that the bulk of the 1976 Dragon Year baby boom on Taiwan was due to strategies that had always been available: marriage timing, abortion, and coital behavior. The natural fertility paradigm thus is insufficent in explaining the motivation for this behavior and should be copmlemented by Insitutional approaches.

Posted in Free Research Abstract

Mental health care in rural India: a study of existing patterns and their implications for future policy

Three separate studies were carried out to examine the patterns of mental health care in an Indian village. The first examined the conceptual frameworks of the various traditional and modern healers. The second was an attitude study inquiring about the type of healer favoured for psychiatric consultation. The third was a population survey in which every person with one or more symptoms was asked if he or she had consulted anyone for relief of distress. Besides the modern doctors thre were three types of traditional healers: Vaids, practising an empircal system of indigenous medicine; Mantarwardis, curing through astrology and charms; and Patris, who acted as mediums for spirits and emons. It was found that a large majority (59%) of those with symptoms had consulted someone. The consultaiton was determined more by the severity of illness than by socio-demographic factors. Modern doctors were morepopular, but most people consulted both traditional and modern healers without regard to the latter’s contradictory coneptual framework. Literacy and other socio-demographic factdors had no influence on the type of consultation. A conclusion was reached that any scheme for introducing modern psychiatry into rural areas should make use of the locally popular healers, both traditional or modern.

Posted in Free Research Abstract

Solar activity, revolutions and cultural prime in the history of mankind

BACKGROIUND: Russion astronomer A.L. Tchijevsky published in the 1920s, a study comparing the approximately 11-year cycling of “sunspot activity” and “historical process”, analysed globally since the 5th Century BC to the 19th Cenutury AD. According to him, phenomena of societal “excitation”, as revolutions occurred synchronously with the solar maxima, and, oppositely, those of peaceful activities of masses, as science and arts, with the solar minima. Recently, Slovak philosopher E. Pales describes periodic fluctuation of historical events in mutually distant geographic areas during more than three millennia. The period lengths, however, are longer, one of the most pronounced being around 500 years. THE QUESTION was therefore posed: does a similar correlation with sunspot activity, as found for 11 year cycles, exist also in the 500 year cycling? MATERIAL AND METHODS; The historical data consisted of two time series concerning revolutions in Europe and China, and of eight time series from activities in science and arts registered from five geographic areas. For the comparison, parallel time series of sunspot (Wolf) numbers, available since the 2nd Century BC, were constructed. Using perodic regression function, the times of peaking were estimated for each dataset. RESULTS; In agreement with Tchijevsky’s hypothesis, revolutions culminated near to solar maxima while cultural flourishing was seen usually distinctly near to solar minima. This conclusion is based on the level of statistical significance a =0.05 CONCLUSION; The solar impact on the geomagnetic field could be one of elucidating mechanisms. Recently, electromagnetic influencing of brain function has been realised artificially.

Posted in Free Research Abstract

U-turn in Carlson’s Astrology test?

In 1985, Nature, one of the world’s most prestigious scientific journals, published “A Double Blind Test of Astrology”, now known as the ‘Carlson experiment’. The conclusion was that natal astrology as practised by reputable astrologers was no better than chance. For astrology, it was a landmark experiment that continues to undermine the credibility of every astrological consultant, researcher and school. Recent research shows not only that Carlson’s conclusions were wrong (Vidmar 2008), but also that his experiment produced evidence that the tested astrologers performed their tasks successfully to a level that could not be explained by chance (Ertel 2009).

This article attempts to synthesise the evidence from different sources with some additional observations. It seeks to clarify how Carlson imported the results of one test into another separate test. This led to sampling errors that disguised results that favoured the astrologers – results that were later discovered by Professor Ertel. To balance this, an attempt is made, here, to present the sceptical reaction to this new evidence. Graphics have been compiled to display the astrologer’s predicted rating of their matches weighted by the frequency and to show how enabling astrologers to make these confidence judgements with the data amplifies the precision.

Posted in Free Research Abstract

Astrology – it’s a riot! (Editorial)

Eleven prison riot dates were examined to see if there were any associations between phases of the moon and incidence of riots. In this small exploratory study findings suggest a possible relationship between certain degree areas of the lunar cycle and incidence of rioting. Further research on larger samples is recommended.

Posted in Free Research Abstract

The golden fabric of Time or “phi in the sky”

The relevance of the golden ratio is presented in relation to the solar-llunar periods and the Jupiter Saturn cycles.

Posted in Free Research Abstract