May as well call it a Bleu Moon
Friday, Jul 30, 2004
I love it when news sites publish scientific articles. They try to get people excited about the ephemeral or intangible, and they usually do a pretty good job. Then there's the exception to the rule. Today's CNN story about tomorrow's blue moon is one of the worst-written articles I've ever seen on CNN, barring when they accidentally insert the same paragraph twice in a row.

First, there's an image of a reddish moon with a caption explaining how soot from recent volcanos or fires can make the moon appear blue. Then the first paragraph talks about how tomorrow will be a 'blue moon' because it's the second full moon in a month. Next they explain how a 'blue moon' has nothing to do with a color change, but is purely a coincidental conjunction of the moon's orbit with the Gregorian calendar, and it happens every 32 months or so, except last year, when it happened twice in three months, thanks to a February without any full moon.

Then we go in to a long first-person (?!) discussion of where the term 'blue moon' came from, culminating by a reminiscence of that time that the author put forth a theory that it was a derivation of 'belewe' from Old English, which means 'to betray.' Allusions to Billy Crystal's rendition of Miracle Max in the Princess Bride ("He clearly said 'to blathe' which, as we all know means 'to bluff'!"), the author proposes that the 'belewe moon' is so named because it 'betrays the usual perception of one full moon per month.'

Then follow another few paragraphs explaining how the author's offhand hypothesis later proved to be false, and that the original term came from the Farmers Almanac in the 1920s, to refer to the one extra full moon in a season, and then was bastardized in the 1940s by a writer at rival publication Sky & Telescope (the author writes for

In closing, the author brings the subject back to this blue moon, or more exactly, to the first full moon of the month, four weeks past, and how it occurs when the moon coincidentally is at perogee with the Earth, making tides higher than usual, and warning, all in the present tense, that if there are any cosatal storms on the 4th of July weekend, it could mean big flooding in those areas. This is because the story originally appeared on on July 2nd, and someone decided to push it up to the CNN home page today, after changing a few words in the first paragraph while ignoring the context of the latter part of the article.

Don't mind me. I'm just having a bitter day and am taking it out on one less-than-perfect story...

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Hi, I'm Kevin Fox.
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