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See Inside August 2008

Looking for a Sign?: Scientifically (In)accurate Horoscopes

The most accurate horoscope a science magazine could ever hope to publish



Matt Collins

We Scientific Americans are emphatic empiricists. And although astronomy and astrology have common historical roots, the modern practice of astrology is total hooey. (And we say that only because we choose not to use stronger words than hooey in a family magazine.)

Nevertheless, some staffers were recently musing about what a horoscope would look like in our august pages. (Or September, even.) So here’s a proof-of-concept. It’s not based on science, because it’s impossible to have a horoscope based on science. But it’s science heavy. Specific predictions accompany individual zodiacal signs as per the form of the typical newspaper or magazine horoscope page (and shame on all you allegedly legitimate news outlets for running such garbage). Some of the predictions may seem intimately related to the sign in question. Even so, consider them all totally interchangeable, as the truly important aspect of the coordinates of your birth is the GDP at that time and place. And away we go.

Aquarius: “When you walk through a storm, hold your head up high” is a lovely song lyric but terrible advice if the storm is electrical.

Pisces: You fear the addition of fish proteins to ice cream, added to improve smoothness. But you’re basically just a modestly modified fish—anatomically, physiologically and genetically. So take some omega-3 pills and read Neil Shubin’s Your Inner Fish, just for the halibut.

Aries: Your attempt to clone your dog Binky based on the hope that Binky 2 will know where “original” Binky hid the leather wallet he took off your end table and hid for the last time just before he died of distemper betrays your utter ignorance of both cloning and Binky’s deeply malevolent nature.

Taurus: While looking at a region of space in which a supernova was in progress, researchers at Princeton University recently noted the beginning of another supernova through the detection of x-rays. Which reminds me, the films came back, and the radiologist says your arm is broken in two places.

Gemini: The influence of genetics on behavior is apparently so strong that you and the identical twin brother you haven’t seen since birth and don’t even know about both spend most of your time watching sports on television, whereas the average American man only spends a great deal of his time watching sports on television.

Cancer: Rather than employing hemoglobin, the blood of the horseshoe crab contains hemocyanin, which binds oxygen with copper rather than iron. The crab’s blood is therefore a beautiful pale blue rather than the bright red, viscous liquid that you will continue to lose unless you get a tourniquet on that busted arm.

Leo: “A fatal, Alzheimer’s-like disease that attacks cheetahs’ internal organs and has impeded breeding of the cats in captivity may be spread by their feces.” Thus ran a report on May 12 at www.SciAm.com. So remember that when it comes to longevity, waste makes haste. What, you were expecting “cheetahs never prosper”?

Virgo: Some people are against the use of a cervical cancer vaccine because they fear it will promote promiscuity. This is roughly the equivalent of being against the use of the polio vaccine because it may increase the risk of drowning in public swimming pools. Anyway, get your shots already.

Libra: The good news is that you will be part of an investigation using the advanced forensic CSI techniques that you find so fascinating, methodologies like DNA amplification that can identify a person based on only the tiniest amounts of physical remains. That’s also the bad news, if you see where we’re going with this.

Scorpio: If you hadn’t been born prematurely, you could have been a Sagittarius, maybe even a Capricorn. But it’s the related fact that your mother smoked while she was pregnant that’s the salient point in influencing your life’s trajectory.

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