The Sciences

Horror scoped

Bad AstronomyBy Phil PlaitJan 22, 2011 12:00 PM


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The wonderful website Information is Beautiful does terrific work taking interesting data and turning into easy-to-grasp information. They recently turned their attention to astrology -- guess why -- and did something truly cool: made a word cloud of the most commonly used terms in horoscopes. The sample was pretty big, comprising 22,000 horoscopes taken from Yahoo (which itself got them from Here's what they found:

Heh. Note that the common words appear over and over again in all the horoscopes despite the sign. Feel, keep, life, sure, energy, better, and of course love... you see these in all the signs. Why, it's almost as if the signs make no difference! And what I found more interesting is what you don't see: words with significantly different descriptive power. If different signs tend to describe different personalities, why don't I see unique words like angry, powerful, extroverted, introverted, and so on? They scraped the most commonly used unique words for every sign, and they're really not very predictive (scroll down to the Word Analysis 2 section on the Information Is Beautiful page to see). Again, it's almost as if astrology isn't really terribly descriptive of different people. Whenever I write about astrology, I get comments from astrologers (and believers) who say that the type of astrology I'm describing is wrong, but their type, of course, is accurate. But these horoscopes were supplied by, which claims to describe various types of astrology. Of course, this is also the website that features "Heather the Cosmos Gal" who wrote about the recent sign mix-up, "...try not to worry too much right now about what scientists are saying." Hmph. She also mentioned that we get our zodiac signs from the Greeks, not the Babylonians; however, even if true it doesn't change anything! The constellations have still drifted since that time, and the problem with star sign astrology remains. Well, all the problems still remain. By the way, if she looks familiar, it may be because she's the same one who achieved internet infamy a couple of years back when she was filming the daily horoscope but somehow didn't manage to predict an earthquake hitting while she was on camera! You'd think her horoscope might've predicted that. Now, I suppose you could argue that by collating so many different horoscopes cast for so many different types of people it's not surprising the predictive power, if any, were diminished. But the folks at Information Is Beautiful took the most common words and created a metahoroscope:

That sure sounds a lot like every horoscope I see!

Related posts: - Wacky astrologer is wacky - Mike Adams fails again: astrology edition - Astrologers jump on Cox - Dear media: Hello, it's me, science

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