Astrology has become a buzzword, one that seems to be applied to every situation as of late. Trouble at work? Mercury is in retrograde. Love life in tatters? That’s so very Scorpio of you. But what does it all mean? Astrology seems to have suddenly become trendy, with the word constantly trending on Twitter, due to the rise of meme culture and the idea of ‘Astrology is fake but…’ poking fun at people’s personality traits. Astrology has always been a way of understanding the confusing thing we call life, but what exactly is astrology?
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Essentially, astrology is the study of the stars and planets, analyzing their relationship and the ways in which their placement impacts what happens on earth in the future. Sounds confusing right? The easiest way to think about astrology is that it is less about telling the future and more about offering a way in which people can understand themselves. It does not claim to be a science, it just gives meaning to the placement of the sun, moon and surrounding planets.
The sky is spilt into 12 sections which all represent the 12 archetypes of the zodiac. Your zodiac sign is determined by which section of the sky the sun was the moment you were born, although it may characterise your personality to a certain degree, we all embody aspects of the other signs – and this is dependent on where the other planets were when you were born. But how did the art of astrology come about?
A brief history of astrology:
Astrology was first traced back to 3rd millennium BC as an ancient way of knowledge. For centuries people have looked at the sky for guidance, with the maxim “As above, so below” supporting the central idea of astrology – that there is a connection between people and the universe. Before the rise of Christianity, it was used to understand life and its many mysteries, with Egyptians particularly making it their niche. Between the 3rd and 2nd century BC, Egyptian philosophy with merged with Babylonian to produce the horoscopic astrology we know today. The concept was considered a scholarly tradition up until the 17th century when the scientific world view was first introduced, which disputed the core of astrology. However, it remained a fairly popular concept due to its use in newspaper columns, offering people hope after despair, destruction and war.
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Is it nonsense?
Until very recently astrology was just a monthly column used to fill the backs of magazines, until the Millennial takeover, which seems to have given astrology relevance for now. Horoscopes have always been tailor made to their audiences, with the publication knowing who their reader is and molding the description accordingly. So why do we still seem to find horoscopes relevant to our own experiences? The Daily Hunch – a personalized horoscope service – suggests that “[While] physics isn’t happy with the idea that planets are meddling in our love affairs and confirmation bias keeps us from being dissuaded when horoscopes miss the mark”.
However, studies have shown that if you write a generic personality description and tell someone that it applies to them – they are more likely to perceive it as accurate. The term the “Barnum Effect” explains that people are more likely to believe a personality description if they are told it has been personally tailored to them, even if it is brief, generic and could apply to anyone reading it. With personalisation becoming an increasing consumer trend, astrology appears to be even more relevant. The concept of personalisation of astrology can be applied to anything, such as the perfect gift for your zodiac sign, or perfumes you should be wearing according to your personality.
The Millennial effect:
With reports of astrological acceptance rising among millennials, why is this generation the ones driving this sudden rise of interest? Well firstly you don’t have to believe in astrology to be interested. Horoscopes feed our desire for answers and curiosity about ourselves and how we fit into this world. The astrology of today is as fast-paced as the internet, you can now access daily horoscopes as opposed to the monthly predictions of the past.
As human beings we seek comfort in times of stress and answers for things we do not understand. Therefore, it is no surprise that Millennials seem to behind the astrological boom, seeing as they have been reported to be the most stressed generation. Mysticism offers an alternative to the harsh realties of life and appears to be sparking humor and joy across social media through meme culture. Whether astrology offers any truth appears not to matter and shows no signs of going away any time soon.
Supernovas is an extinction level event which could end the world in a blink of an eye. This is a colour composite image taken by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope of a supernova remnant in the Crab Nebula. The explosion was observed and recorded by Chinese and Japanese astronomers in 1054. Image courtesy of the European Southern Observatory.
The idea that all life on the planet can suddenly end tomorrow might sound preposterous to most – and rightly so. After all, we’re not living in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and it’s not like the mad titan Thanos is real and could disintegrate all life simply by putting on the Infinity Gauntlet and snapping his fingers.
However, would it surprise you to learn that statistically, an average person is five times as likely to die from an extinction-level event (ELE) compared to a car crash? In addition, would it shock you to hear that more than two dozen ELEs have occurred on earth during the past few billion years? Some of the causes include a supernova of a star from the Scorpius-Centaurus cluster about two million years ago (Pliocene–Pleistocene extinction), a gamma-ray burst from deep space approximately 443.8 million years ago (Ordovician mass extinction) and the depletion of oxygen in oceans about 542 million years ago (End-Ediacaran extinction).
To be fair, these occurrences were spread across extraordinarily long periods of stability and calm. For perspective, modern humans have only been existence for about 200,000 years, which is just a fraction of earth’s 4.5 billion years of existence.
And yet, you might be curious by now about the types of ELEs that might impact your plans this weekend.
1. Crashing asteroids
Asteroids are no stranger to us, since they crash quite regularly into the earth. The majority of asteroids though burn themselves in the atmosphere, while the few that land on the ground typically end up in museums and universities. Every once in a long while though, asteroids of monstrous sizes do fall on earth, and they will inevitably result in massive planetary upheavals.
The last significant asteroid to smash into the planet was the Chicxulub Impactor about 66 million years ago, an event which scientists termed the Cretaceous-Tertiary extinction. With an estimated diameter of up to 53 miles, the asteroid had the stored energy equivalent of up to 900 billion atomic bombs used to decimate Hiroshima during World War II. The impact resulted in massive explosions, hundred-metre tsunamis, raging fires (even rocks melted), and cyclones. The resulting dust and smoke rose into the upper atmosphere and eventually blocked sunlight from coming through.
The Chicxulub Impactor crash effectively led to the extinction of dinosaurs, as well as three quarters of all animal and plant life on earth. The site of the impact, the Chicxulub crater, is buried underneath the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico.
Despite what we’ve been led to believe in movies, humans currently have no effective countermeasures or collision avoidance strategies against any large asteroids approaching earth, even if we had years of notice.
The land which we walk, run, and live on are actually relatively thin layers of solidified landmass called crusts, which technically floats above an inner liquid core. We are introduced to the inner core occasionally when volcanoes erupt and spew hot magma. These eruptions are typically caused by plate tectonic motions, which have sculpted the surface of the world as we now know.
The plate tectonic motions are caused by a variety of factors, such as thermal convection currents, gravitational changes involving molten minerals, chemicals and gasses, and fluctuations of the sun’s magnetic field.
Once in a while though, these factors combine to produce massive movements which trigger explosive eruptions of lava, gas and even water. Aside from the obvious devastation caused by fiery magmas and inflammable gas, volcanism will set up a chain of earthquakes and flood basalts.
If that’s not bad enough, depending on the spread of the event, the ash and gas discharged during the eruptions will block sunlight and cause a volcanic winter. Heat on the surface of the planet will drop to below freezing levels, oxygen will be depleted as plants are no longer able to perform photosynthesis, and the world will be in perpetual near-darkness for a period of time. As energy runs out, so will the majority of living creatures.
Volcanism played a notable role in the Permian-Triassic extinction event which caused the extinction of up to 96% of all marine species and up to 70% of terrestrial species.
Global map illustrating known tectonic plate boundaries and volcanic fault lines which would be most vulnerable from volcanism. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
3. Climate change
As noted above, the Permian-Triassic extinction event 252 million years ago nearly decimated all lifeforms on earth, making it one of the deadliest ELEs in history. There were several factors which contributed to the ELE, dubbed ominously as the Great Dying. Cumulatively, however, these factors caused dramatic climate changes which eventually culminated with a 10◦ Celsius (20◦ Fahrenheit) rise in ocean surface temperatures in the tropical region.
A ten degrees spike isn’t so bad, right? Britons regularly experienced higher temperature jumps during the summer months. Are the climate change deniers right then, in that, global warming is a hoax despite an almost universal consensus from the global scientific community?
No, climate change deniers and the fossil fuel companies which fund them are still very wrong, on all counts.
A permanent 10-degree increase on a scale that large is cataclysmic. Heck, projections show that a ‘mere’ 6◦ Celsius increase could end life as we know it – cities will be drowned with water from the melting ice caps, marine life will face an immediate extinction, extended heat waves will create deserts in population centres and agricultural land, forests will be engulfed in firestorms, and the air we breathe will be heavily polluted with methane from the ocean floor.
During the Permian-Triassic extinction, the domino effect from global warming was less sophisticated, but equally deadly. The increased temperature sped up the metabolism rate of marine animals, which increased their oxygen requirement. However, the warmer waters held a lower amount of oxygen. Consequently, marine life began to suffocate and die off. On land, the temperature increase caused flooding, heatwave and wildfires, while volcanism accelerated the release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Not only did these changes spark a chain reaction, but they also propagated and worsened existing climate instabilities.
Make no mistake – climate change is an ELE, and humans are in midst of going extinct. We are already witnessing radical changes in weather patterns, water supply, temperature and much more. One of these changes could very well affect you tomorrow.
For instance, the August 2003 European heatwave directly caused the deaths of 2043 people in the United Kingdom. Scientists predict that this kind of deadly heatwaves would be a common occurrence by the 2040s, and temperatures could skyrocket to of 48◦ Celsius (118◦ Fahrenheit). But such is the nature of climate, that a single unstable element will trigger other failures in the ecosystem. Heatwaves will lead to droughts, disrupted water cycle, the emergence of diseases, invasion of non-native animal species and much more.
The Financial Times revealed households devoted more of their budgets to clothing, food and online purchases at the end of 2017 than the year before, according to figures on consumer spending. Figures from Statista, which presents statistics and studies from more than 22,500 sources, proclaim Britons spent £149 billion online in 2017 – up from £133 billion in 2016. Internet spending doesn’t seem to be slowing either, as the same stats reveal, in 2017, online retail sales were up 12.1% on average year-on-year (YoY.)
These facts and figures prove selling on an online marketplace can be highly lucrative. But, it’s difficult to know where to begin, in terms of buying and selling. Which online marketplace fits your needs? Which can you trust? Which would you be confident to recommend?
‘Pulling a sickie’ is familiar territory for employees, but an inconvenience for employers. In fact, figures by BreatheHR shows that £357 is the average cost to an employer for each worker who throws a sickie. The same research found they cost the UK an astronomical £900 million a year.
If you are looking for Santa Clause this winter, you will find him in Victoria Park and other London locations, on the 3rd of December. In fact, you will find 4,000 jolly Santa’s who are looking to run (or walk) a 5k or 10K route to keep fit while raising funds for different charities. This yearly event gets people into the holiday spirit and brings them together with the aim of helping those in real need this festive season. There is no better time of the year to think about those not so fortunate and make an effort however small or large to put a smile on their faces.
The airport expansion and the dilemma of Heathrow's third runway has been going on ever since the Roskill Commission was set up in 1968 to look into a potential third airport for London. 48 years on, following years and years of indecision, the current government has finally made a decision. They have boldly approved a third runway at Heathrow Airport. A decision which was likely influenced by Sir Howard Davies, who along with other members of the Airports Commission in 2015, collectively agreed that the best solution was to add a third runway to the north-west of Heathrow’s current pair.
Whilst the Government has finally set its stance on its preferred option, next year there will be a statutory public consultation followed by a final decision being put to MP’s.
The recent outbreak of the cyclospora infection in the luxury resort of Riviera Maya (Mexico), which is extremely popular with British tourists, is just another reminder that trying local food isn’t always a good idea. To make matters worse, people who became ill from this foodborne disease didn’t get it from eating food from street vendors or drinking water from the local wells. They got it from eating in luxury hotels where food is supposed to be safe. But apparently, it wasn’t. Fortunately, the tiny parasite Cyclospora cayetanensis that is responsible for the outbreak usually doesn’t pose any major threat to human health although the infection can be very unpleasant, not to mention that it can ruin your holidays.
This image of a peaceful protester in Baton Rouge being arrested by heavily armoured police officers on Saturday has spread like fire on social media. Many have compared it to the iconic image of the man who stood in front of tanks in Tiananmen Square in 1989. In one hand, its saddening to think powerful images like these will be remembered for a dark time in our history, but this is what we are living through. It’s images like these that are necessary. It captures the excessive response to protesters across cities in America, but is also a metaphor for the excessive actions that have seen too many people die at the hands of police in the United States.