Inspired by this excellent post on all the things wrong with astrology, I decided to try to design a universe in which astrology actually does work. My criteria, in order, were:
1) At the end, something similar to modern astrology would be able to make accurate predictions.
2) Explanations should be good enough that it wouldn’t drive me screaming out of a theater if a sci-fi movie used technobabble of approximately this quality. Ideally I wouldn’t facepalm, but that’s negotiable.
3) Within those constraints, it’d be nice to have it be as similar to the real universe as possible. By similar I mean that a casual observer looking at Earth wouldn’t notice the…alterations…I perpetrated in the background.
Disclaimer: I know virtually no astrology, so if any of my blunders were too bad, feel free to correct me and…who are we kidding, if you’re reading this you’re probably not the kind of person to know astrology either.
To start with, I should clarify what astrology can do and what it can’t. The most important thing to recognize is that it’s a statistical effect only. Being a Sagittarius can’t guarantee you’ll be an extrovert, but it can make it more likely. If you’re genetically predisposed to something opposite your sun sign, or raised in a way opposed to it, that can probably overcome it. But being born under a certain sign definitely makes it more probable that you’ll have those characteristics. Current research suggests that the position of the heavens probably has more of an effect than what kind of books or music you grew up with but less of an effect than genetics. (See Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers, in which he shows that what time of year someone is born can have huge effects on their life.)
There’s also a lot of information necessary for a good prediction. Those one-line predictions they print in newspapers are barely better than worthless. They even give the same prediction to everyone born within a month of you, so clearly they don’t take themselves too seriously. “You are dedicated to your goals” might be disproportionately true of Leos, but it’s not reliably true of anyone.
But enough of what it does and doesn’t do, and on to how. As far as mainstream science goes (if you listen to those sheep), there are precisely no forces that could account for astrology. Only gravity even really reaches far enough, and gravity has a pretty well-understood list of effects. (Noticeably absent: mind-controlling humans.) So there must be something else going on.
See, what all those mainstream scientists don’t know about is that there’s a particular type of subatomic particle called the fakeion. The fakeion travels at lightspeed and, like a neutrino, can be hard to detect. But there are more of them than neutrinos. In fact, Earth is perpetually being bombarded by vast numbers of fakeions of all types. (There are twelve types, one coming from each constellation in the zodiac. More on that later.)
The particles themselves have no measurable mass and are hard to observe, but they have detectable effects when zipping through the Earth. They even affect humans. Sometimes it’s just a subconscious sense that something’s different. Sometimes it seems like there’s something in the air when the concentration of different types of fakeions changes. (Perhaps literally true, caused by collisions of fakeions with the nuclei of atmospheric gases?) Changes like this, indirect evidence of fakeion distribution, can be and have been detected by scientists. But they tend to be considered normal seasonal things, since they do vary regularly around the year. So even if they notice a correlation between, say, enthusiasm and the sun being in Leo, they’ll put it down to the fact that people are just more enthusiastic about things in the summer. And they’re not wrong, but there’s more to it than that.
Psychologists know that what you’re surrounded by can have significant effects on your mood. Being in a room painted blue can calm someone, for instance, even though calmness isn’t exactly an essential property of the color blue. It’s just that the human subconscious interprets things weirdly sometimes. In just the same way, when surrounded by Libra fakeions and their effects on the environment, it can subconsciously influence people to be slightly more social. Other types have comparable effects. It’s not like the stars can beam down empathy rays that make humans more empathetic; that wouldn’t make sense. It’s just that just like how being in sunlight can make people happier, being flooded with fakeions can have different effects.
I said earlier that there’s one type of fakeion coming from each constellation. That’s oversimplified, because a constellation isn’t exactly a place that anything can come from. It’s a group of stars, many of which are farther from each other than they are from Earth. Saying something is coming from there is really just talking about the direction, not the location.
Now, there’s one emitter of fakeions in each of the twelve sections of the night sky. They’re all at the same (humungous) distance and intensity, so there are the same amounts of each type. With one exception. At different times during the year, the Sun is in the same direction as one of the signs.
In this picture (from Wikipedia), the Sun is in Cancer, meaning it’s between that constellation’s fakeion emitter and the Earth. That emitter is shooting out its particles in every direction, and only a tiny number of them head toward the Earth. That goes for all twelve emitters, actually. But with the Sun in Cancer, it slightly increases the how many of that type of fakeion reach the Earth. It does this through a phenomenon called gravitational lensing. So you end up with slightly more of the ones from Cancer hitting Earth than the other types. Through the effect of the environment on the human subconscious, this is enough to cause more empathy and sensitivity and that kind of thing. Effects could be different if it were a different type of particle; this is just what happens with the ones from Cancer.
That’s why it’s so important what sign the Sun is in. Gravitational lensing can “brighten” the image of whatever is directly behind the Sun at appropriate distances. I don’t know enough relativity to say precisely what kind of distances we’re talking about here, but it’ll be at the interstellar range if not more.
More information on those emitters. At any given time, a straight line from the Earth through the Sun intersects precisely one of them. There’s always one directly behind the Sun at any point. That means they’re really really huge. Picture a gigantic circle around the Sun, with a radius of plenty of light years. And the gigantic circle is in twelve segments (the signs), each of which sends a different flavor of particle, and whichever segment is currently behind the Sun is overrepresented in the composition of Earth’s current fakeion environment.
(Incidentally, a giant ring like that centered on the Sun would not only prove the existence of some extraterrestrial intelligence, but also that they had some interest in this solar system in particular. And they’re well over a two on the Kardashev scale.)
So, the position of the Sun in the zodiac can have some effect on people’s general mood. But people’s personalities also have to be influenced by where it is when they’re born. Well, as we know, the earliest times in neurological development can be crucial. And if there are huge numbers of these fakeions around (there are), it makes sense that they would affect the youngest the most. These are weakly interacting particles, so it’s not like they’ll do anything to people directly very often, but with this many of them, there will be secondary effects from the rare occasions when they do interact with something.
Most of the subatomic collisions happen inside the Earth of course, since that’s where most of the mass is. But those have little to no effect on the surface. Looking only at the collisions that do happen in the surface range, it produces various types of low-level radiation or temperature change or things like that. Things like that can have a strong effect on an undeveloped brain, so it’s no surprise that the effect the environment has on someone that only just started interacting with it would end up lasting longer. Tangentially, this implies that if a child were raised in a carefully controlled environment, probably with its own air and light supplies, astrology might have no effect on them at all. Nobody has ever tried this experiment, for good reason.
So, this takes care of the Sun and the signs. But the planets have some effect, too. As that Bad Astronomy article points out, each planet has an approximately equally strong astrological effect despite the fact that they’re different in basically every way that planets can be. The obvious answer is that on each planet (or in orbit around it, for the ones where “on” wouldn’t work very well) there is a bit of machinery. A fakeion detector wouldn’t be too hard to build. (I’ve been lobbying the astronomers to build one for years, but they don’t seem to take me seriously after I tell them that a major component is beer.)
There could easily be a high-quality, long-lasting, beerless detector at each planet (plus the moon). Once the machinery knows what section of the zodiac the planet is in, it can fire up its own fakeion emitter and have the standard effects. (Consult any reputable horoscope for what those would be.) So we can say that, for instance, when Mercury is in Aquarius it’s a good time for logical objectivity. Even more so than usual, that is.
The planetary emitters would of course be far weaker and FAR smaller than the interstellar ones, but they’re also closer. The giant ring around the Sun needed to be so big not in order to be powerful enough but so that the Sun would always be between it and the Earth. These don’t have that requirement. Smaller ones are all it would take for closer things like planetary ones.
The biggest thing to note is that this entire array would have to be put there intentionally. It is even more obviously focussed on Earth specifically than the giant ring around the solar system. And if creating astrology is its purpose instead of just an unintended effect, then it would have to be set up by someone who understood human brains better than humans currently do, enough to predict what reactions they’d have right down to the second-order side effects of subatomic particles. The astrology is not even the most important thing any more.
But since I still can’t convince the astronomers to finance my expedition to the moon, we’ll have to settle for predicting the future. The next time I’ll have a good chance at convincing someone would be…sun in Sagittarius…Mercury in Aquarius…pretty soon, actually. With the stars on my side, it’s just a matter of time.