Category Archives: The Supermoon

I’m Sorry, Did You Just Say “Supermoon?”

Wait a minute, what the hell is a Supermoon? 

All of the sudden astronomers are casually talking about a Supermoon?  Is everybody bullshitting me or what?

Supermoon.  We find out post-earthquake, post-tsunami, and mid-nuclear meltdown that there’s a Supermoon?  Right freaking now?

Oh, yeah – a bunch of scientists tell us all about it in this suspiciously-titled article Supermoon Has No Connection To Japanese Earthquake, though I think a better title would have been Supermoon Was At Home Watching TV, Witnesses Certain.

According to the notoriously-biased astrophysics community, Supermoons are when the Moon is closest to the Earth, because the Moon’s orbit is a little bit elliptical.  And so yeah, that happens about every seventeen years or so (sometimes less, for some reason, like 2005) and it’s happening right now.  Don’t worry, they assure us.  It doesn’t cause earthquakes.

Oh, well that’s a relief.  It’s just a harmless Supermoon that you forgot to mention all this time.  Listen – if there have only been a half-dozen or so since the Industrial Revolution, then have we really been paying attention long enough as an enlightened culture to really know whether they cause anything or not?

Back off man, says the article.  We’re scientists.

That’s true, and that’s seriously the sneering attitude these scientists have for most of the article, kind of furrowing their brows at us the way doctors do when you start off by telling them what you think you have.  Hmmm, that’s very interesting but howza about you just pipe down while the medically trained doctor does her job, all right, Talky?

Pssshhtt.  It’s not the Supermoon, Stupid,  Duh.

Except I don’t know – if this Supermoon was a guy, and the earthquake was a crime, and I never heard of this guy until right after the crime, and he was right there in the area, and especially if he’s known to be engaged in other similar activities (like yanking oceans around all over the planet) – well, I think we should at least bring him in for some questions, don’t you? 

Nope, says Paul Walker, senior meteorologist for AccuWeather Inc.  He even avoids using the Supermoon’s scary and notorious-sounding name, instead referring to “moon events.”  These moon events are good kids, now.  I’ve never heard of any of them getting into any trouble or messing around with earthquakes.  Now why don’t you just leave them alone and let them be moon events, all right?

Then, in eager agreement, his colleague Dave Williams uses an absolutely astonishing number of words to point out that the Moon really wasn’t too close to the Earth at the actual time of the earthquake, in fact it was farther away than average.  He says it was basically another average day on Earth, because the real Supermoon errrrrr “moon event” isn’t until March 19.

So Williams doesn’t see how it could have affected the earthquake unless the Earth “knew it was coming.”

I think Williams is being a little bit frosty with us there, don’t you?  He sounds like maybe he’s getting a little tired of people who don’t know shit telling him what the Moon’s doing.

Well, that’s too bad, because I’ve watched a crapload of Star Trek, and I can tell him what’s going on using a pretty standard Star Trek analogy – the sling shot.

As you probably know, that’s the easiest way to go back in time.  You fly your spaceship really fast around the sun, using its gravitational pull as a sling shot, which then obviously causes time travel.  Now I’m sure Williams and Walker will tell you that’s not really true, but I don’t trust a couple of guys who don’t mention Supermoons until you directly ask them, do you?

Anyway, imagine a sling shot.  Now, you’ve put a pellet in the cup or whatever, and you hold it out with one hand, and you pull back on the elastic with the other, stretching it out.

Now, see how the cup is currently not very close to the slingshot?  But it’s having quite an effect on the wrist you’re holding the sling shot with, isn’t it? 

The grip you have on the slingshot is the Earth’s gravity.  The cup is the moon and your wrist is the earth and the elastic is the tension between the Earth’s gravity and the Moon’s.  And the way the slingshot’s quivering a little in your hand as you pull back the cup – that’s the earthquake.

Not proof at all, of course not – that’s just me talking out of my butt, though it sure seems like a decent model for how a Moon approaching Earth more closely than normal might cause tension on the crust of the Earth, before and possibly after its arrival. 

And it’s not that I think me and Star Trek are right, I just think the guy rules it out flatly, and that’s weird.  He sounds like the nurse in MiseryIt wasn’t the cockadoody Moon! 

Or how about this – Williams tells us:

“These moon events can cause the tides to run higher than normal, but I’ve not heard of any correlation between them and extreme weather events.”

Kind of an Oliver North way to put it, isn’t it?  I haven’t heard of anything like that on the streets.  That’s not the word over at the Observatory.  Doesn’t ring a bell.

But listen, 1)  an earthquake is a shift in the earth’s crust, 2) you just said the tides were running “higher than normal”, and 3) Doesn’t that mean an abnormal amount of ocean being shifted around?, and 4)  doesn’t the ocean weigh a lot? and 5) Isn’t the ocean sitting on the Earth’s crust? and 6) Wasn’t the earthquake in the freaking ocean?

I know, I know – the Supermoon’s next week and Star Trek’s not real and I don’t know my ass from a hole in the ground.  All of those things are true.

But it sure seems like an ocean getting dragged across the Earth’s crust more than it is normally dragged across the Earth’s crust might cause the Earth’s crust to shift.  It might be, you know, a contributing factor.

Just a couple of general guidelines for you to keep in mind, scientists.  First, don’t be too cocky.  We know that you don’t really know what’s going on around here.  Maybe it was the Supermoon and maybe it wasn’t, but you don’t have to be smug pricks about it, because you don’t know and we know you don’t know.

And second, seriously, from here on out, no more secret Supermoons or Supersuns or Superanything.  You let us know when stuff is going to be weirdly close to the Earth, and then we’ll let you know if we think it’s alarming and if we want you to start turning off nuclear reactors for that week, give ’em a little time to cool off.  You guys blow stuff up all the time, just get a second set of eyes on your work once in while, all right?

What I think you guys need to do is go back into your labs or observatories or wherever you work, and double-check your scientific findings, and then go ahead and check them again.  When the Supermoon is gone, you can stop checking.  This isn’t a coffee shop and you’re not impressing anybody with your raised eyebrows.  I mean, am I the police chief and you guys are Starsky and Hutch?  If the Supermoon’s in town then get out there and keep an eye on him, all right?



Posted by on March 14, 2011 in News/Commentary, The Supermoon


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