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Environment

By the Numbers: Don't Blame It on the Moon

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Folk wisdom holds that more babies are born during the full moon than at other times. Many doctors and nurses agree. Astronomer Daniel Caton of Appalachian State University wondered if anyone had ever put the claim to a test. After unearthing a few inconclusive studies, he began to hunt around for a data set large enough to yield reliable statistics. He and his students collected data on 70 million births over the past 20 years from the National Center for Health Statistics. Then they painstakingly entered the numbers into a computer to search for patterns. At last, Caton can deliver an unambiguous verdict: The phase of the moon has no influence on the number of babies born. "The full moon is the most obvious moon—it rises at sunset and it's up all night. People remember what they happen to notice," Caton says. Next, he hopes to tackle another bit of lunar folklore, which claims that more crimes and emergency-room admissions occur when the moon is full.

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