Horoscopes entertaining but not trustworthy

by By Hannah

(U-WIRE) BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Do you read your horoscope?
I do occasionally. I’m a Scorpio, so my horoscope usually says something about how I’m overly intelligent, insanely jealous and quite likely to sneak up on you while you’re sleeping and kill you with a meat cleaver. But it usually doesn’t offer anything terribly concrete about what’s going to happen to me in the future. It might say something to the effect of, “nothing really bad is going to happen to you tomorrow, but we might be wrong. So don’t go outside without a lead suit.” Not terribly helpful.
To make it worse, my dad is an astronomer. Not an astrologer, as the uneducated call him when they introduce him at conferences, but someone who really studies the stars, knows where they are, where they’re supposed to be and all about the radioactive particles they emit. It’s hard to believe in horoscopes with him around.
First of all, take your astrological sign. You know it. Everyone knows it. (OK, they only know it if you tell them, but still.) It’s even become a bad pick-up line. Unfortunately, it’s wrong. Off. Skewed. When it was named and diagrammed, way back when the Greeks were still running around naked at the Olympics, the pole star wasn’t Polaris, the North Star, as it is today. Because the dates corresponding to your horoscope sign depend on which constellation the sun is in on the first day of spring, and because the pole star has since shifted due to the procession of the earth’s rotation, your actual sign, the one corresponding to where the sun was on the day you were born, is one off. I’m not really a Scorpio. I’m a Libra. I’m still just as likely to kill you with a meat cleaver in your sleep, but my horoscope no longer gives me any justifying reasons.
But, you argue that some branches of astrology take this change into account. This is true. I don’t know which branches they are, but they claim to base their predictions on where the stars actually were when you were born, not on where the outdated naked Greek system says they were. I am way too uninformed to debate the relative merits and accuracies of the two systems. All I can say is that I believe neither.
Until last week, I was even willing to let others believe what they would. But then I read something so absolutely wrong, so off, that it was no longer possible to ignore the silliness of it all. It was time to go to war.
The horoscope, as written by Linda C. Black of Tribune Media Services, said July 30 that in at least one out of every three horoscope signs the moon was moving from Leo to Scorpio, which was true (at least at the time — the moon moves quite quickly, and so is now somewhere in the vicinity of Pisces or Aquarius), that the sun was in Leo, which was also true, and that Mars was in retrograde.
Unfortunately for Linda C. Black, Mars is not in retrograde. Previously mentioned world famous astronomer, Professor Stuart L. Mufson said “it isn’t even close.” When I attempted to soften the blow for Linda C. Black by saying at least she only made a mistake on one out of the three, he swiftly and killingly responded, “yeah, but that’s a pretty serious mistake, don’t you think?” So much for that.
Professor Mufson said for Mars to be in retrograde, it would have to be in direct opposition to the sun, 180 degrees away in the sky. It’s right next to the sun. Oops. Sorry, Linda.
So the lesson in all this? Don’t believe your horoscope. It’s calculated on an outdated system, which for all intents and purposes completely fails to justify any insane acts you might commit. Not only that, but the people who write it seem to be several drawers short of a file cabinet. Being off by that much with regard to Mars is unforgivable. Pardon me while I get my cleaver.

This opinions piece originally ran Thursday in the Indiana Daily Student (Indiana University).