Lunacy?

Inspired by a Fox News item with provocative infographics, flawed logic and a crack geologist “predicting” the West-Coast earthquake that everyone knows is coming, I set out to plot earthquake activity against the lunar cycle. The theory, is that the moon causes earthquakes, or at least, that it’s gravity can trigger them.

Using data from the US Geological Survey (via NinePointFive.org), I created a moon phase map, which allows users to click a moon phase and see every earthquake that happened during that moon phase between 2006-2010. This failed to illustrate any correlation, so I resort to a standard histogram to debunk the theory (in my own mind).

Moving on, I was interested in another pseudoscientific theory – “Lunar Effect” is the theory that human behaviour is altered or becomes erratic around the time of the full moon.

Police departments report a rise in crime while hospitals note an increase in admissions for certain conditions. I took the NYTimes homicide data (which is incredibly complete, right down to the weapon used!) and again used a histogram to plot the homicides against their moon phase. Again, no correlation was apparent.

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