Why the moon is still such a mystery | BBC Ideas

Why the moon is still such a mystery | BBC Ideas


It is our constant companion. Influencing many aspects
of our culture, thought and being. Ever-present in design, art, music,
science, technology, religion, but what is the Moon? It depends who you ask. The ancient Mesopotamians
would speak of Nanna, the god of the Moon
and creator of all things. While a present day cosmologist
might describe the stabilising influence
of our Earth’s tilt. And most of us picture the Moon
as being closer than it actually is. Hmm, quite a squeeze for a textbook. Strangely, the Sun is 400 times
further away from the Earth than the Moon and is 400 times its size. This means that,
viewed from the Earth, they appear to be
exactly the same size. Science fiction writer Isaac Asimov
described this natural quirk as ‘the most unlikely
coincidence imaginable.’ These correlations
didn’t go unnoticed by early star-gazing cultures. Notably, 108 is an auspicious
number for Hindus who count 108 marma points,
or sacred places in the body. Many believe the Moon
affects our bodies. We know its push and pull
affects the tides and we are organic creatures
made largely of water who evolved in an ecosystem
reliant on this celestial neighbour. What about the Moon’s effect
on our state of mind? The word lunacy is derived
from the Latin word lunaticus, meaning moonstruck. Statistics do show a consistent rise
in crime rates around a full moon. Scientists prefer to attribute this
to convenient light levels for the plying of nefarious activity. And it’s not only our minds
in question – the perceived connection between
fertility and the cycles of the Moon goes back a long time. Perhaps that’s just because
the lunar and menstrual cycles correlate so closely. In the ancient world, the Moon
was generally personified as male with the shift to female deities
and ideas happening more recently, relatively speaking. If the Moon is female, there has been
no shortage of historical characters trying to fathom her mysteries to harness this elusive beacon
of the natural world. So it’s nice to hear Nasa
has just announced an initiative to put a woman on the Moon by 2024, aptly-named Artemis, after
Greek god Apollo’s twin sister. And the Moon’s many faces continue with some seeing her
as a harbinger of doom. The Maori people call the Moon
Hina, the man-eater, who was the bringer of death. Then there’s the melancholic
reflective Moon. Around the turn of the 18th Century, as we adjusted to the brave new world
of science and discovery, artists became increasingly focused
on our place in the natural world. Paintings from the likes
of Caspar David Friedrich and Joseph Wright of Derby turned to the Moon
as a central theme – often with small human figures, their backs to the viewer
in quiet reflection. Finally in July 1969, we successfully
landed two men on the Moon and we discovered
what she’d been silently gazing upon for all this time. So what is the Moon? Male, female, a life support system,
or a bringer of death? Inducer of madness, a conspiracy,
a symbol of peace? What if it’s all these things? Embodying all the light and shade
of human experience. It seems the Moon
is whatever we choose to see – a constant reflection of us. Thanks for watching! 🙂 Don’t forget to subscribe and click the bell to receive notifications for new videos. See you again soon!

5 thoughts on “Why the moon is still such a mystery | BBC Ideas

  1. "Oh jeez you drank a redbull, redbull gives you wings. Come back and we'll do the whole thing in a studio."

  2. The song between 1:56 and 2:05 is called Subbacultcha and comes from The Pixies' 1991 album, Trompe Le Monde

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