Sun Signs, ICQ and Surfing Astrology Sites


Back in 1976, John M. Addey wrote his pioneering work "Harmonics in Astrology" published by L.N. Fowler.  This book provides a first-class account of the application of Harmonic Analysis to the field of Astrology.  I studied Addey's methods soon after the book was published, and I have retained an interest in this field.

Opponents of the validity of Astrology argue that it cannot be proven to be valid, and that of course is a truism.  It would also be very difficult to prove that Astrology is not valid!

Let us look at some evidence and see what can be derived from this evidence.  The Internet is an ever-growing source of information within the public domain, and I report here on a couple of findings that appear to be of some interest.

As most people are aware, there are twelve Sun signs.  These can be grouped into four types according to the four Elements, namely Fire Earth Air and Water.  These are shown in Table 1, together with the abbreviations used in the other Tables in this article.

Aries AR Fire
Taurus TA Earth
Gemini GE Air
Cancer CN Water
Leo LE Fire
Virgo VI Earth
Libra LI Air
Scorpio SC Water
Sagittarius SG Fire
Capricorn CP Earth
Aquarius AQ Air
Pisces PI Water

Table 1

The Evidence

I decided to look at something very simple, so I chose Sun signs.  Most people understand Sun signs and many look at the newspaper horoscopes under their own Sun signs.  I felt that if there were any findings to discuss, it would be preferable to refer to matters that were well understood, rather than to look at astrological aspects or houses, for example.

My search  was soon rewarded when I came across the popular ICQ site, which hosts the number of members in each of their twelve Sun sign Groups.

As of a certain date (12th September 1999), the numbers are as set out in Table 2.

Table 2

There are 217 members of these groups in total, and the totals show the number of members of each Group.  Thus there are 24 members in the Aries Sun sign Group, 12 in the Taurus Group, 19 for Gemini, 20 for Cancer, and so on.

The distribution certainly looks a bit non-random, though the numbers are relatively small.

I looked at the totals for each Element, finding totals of 63 for Fire, 42 for Earth, 42 for Air and 70 for Water.  This looks quite suggestive, with Fire and Water  both scoring considerably higher than Earth and Air.  But how significant is this result?  This is where Harmonic Analysis comes in.  For the technically minded, the 3rd Harmonic wave has an amplitude  of 32%, phase 352 degrees, Chi-Square = 11.29 with 2 degrees of freedom, p < 0.005.  Translated into English, this confirms that there is quite a strong tendency for Fire and Water Sun signs to subscribe to their ICQ Sun sign Group, by comparison with Earth and Air Sun signs.  The probability of this result arising by chance is less than one in 200.  Of course statistics only show the likelihood that a non-random distribution exists, not the strength of any alleged effect, nor its cause.  However the results were sufficiently suggestive for me to look for a larger sample.

I found this data in the (publicly available) Extreme Tracking statistics for the very popular high-traffic site at Astrology Online.  This large Astrology site contains a page describing each of the twelve signs in the zodiac, and the tracking statistics show how many times each of the twelve pages has been visited.  The results, ( again viewed on 12th September 1999), are shown in Table 3.

Table 3

There are 13516 surfers in this much larger group.  Again Aries is in the first column with 1213 surfers visiting the Aries Page.  1061 visits have been made to the Taurus Page and so on.

Taking the Elements again, the totals are Fire 3685, Earth 3005, Air 3143 and Water 3683.  This time the 3rd Harmonic has an amplitude of 12.8%, phase 354 degrees, Chi-Square = 111.5 with 2 degrees of freedom, p < 0.000000........ well trillionths, anyway.  There is also a less obvious 2nd Harmonic with amplitude 6.9%, phase 127 degrees, Chi-Square = 32.2 with 2 degrees of freedom, p = 0.0000001.

Harmonic Analysis has its limitations, especially with only twelve signs to sample, but in a less rigorous way, I hope I can persuade you that the 3rd Harmonic is significant.  Fire and Water Page Visits add up to 7368, while Earth and Air Page Visits amount to 6148.  The average of these two figures is 6758.  Even with these coarser blocks of data, it is clear that Fire and Water are about 9% over the average, and Earth and Air are 9% below the average. 

There are other ways of looking at the data, aside from Harmonic Analysis.  Looking at table 3, (with a bit of imagination), it appears that the peak at Scorpio/Sagittarius is surrounded by troughs in the regions Virgo/Libra and Capricorn/Aquarius.  This is reminiscent of the so-called "Mexican Hat" Function, which crops up in various branches of Science.  More research needed!


What does all this mean?  Well the only pretty sure thing is that the results are strange, if the a priori expectation would be for equal sign representation in both the ICQ Sun sign Groups and the Page Visits at the Astrology Online site.  Even taking into account small effects like the unevenness of birthdays through the year, and the different number of days the Sun spends in each sign, does not significantly affect results like these.

The results almost certainly mean something, although of course they do not necessarily have any meaning related to Astrology.  Let us deal with possible non-astrological explanations first.

(1).  Pure chance.  This is not likely at all.  While Statistics does not provide explanations, it does provide facts about how likely something is to occur by chance.  The ICQ distribution could, ( just about, if you were very sceptical ), be due to chance, but not the results for the Astrology Online site.

(2).  Non-random distribution in ICQ users and Astrology surfers.  This almost begs the question.  Suppose it is argued, for example, that ICQ users and surfers have to be interested in computers.  Then we have the problem of why Fire/Water people should be interested in computers.

(3).  People join ICQ Groups other than their Sun sign, and look at horoscope pages for signs other than their own.  Quite possibly so, but why in this distribution?

(4).  What might be called the Media Effect.  Variations on this theme have been pointed out to me by several correspondents recently (April 2000).  The argument goes something like this :-

(a)  Let us suppose that there is nothing to Astrology, and that it is all a load of nonsense.

(b)  Despite this, there is a lot of material in magazines, on television, on the Internet etc. which discusses the meanings of the sun signs.

(c)  Individuals, regardless of their own sun sign, may have heard that Scorpio is "deep" or "mysterious" or "difficult to fathom out".

(d)  Individuals may therefore be more likely to seek info about their Scorpio friends/family/lovers than they are to do so about (say) their Virgo or Libra friends/family/lovers.  

(e)  The Scorpio page therefore receives more hits than the other pages, and there is no need to bring in Astrology to explain the figures.  Natural and understandable human behaviour is sufficient to explain the non-random-distribution.

This is a very powerful argument and it certainly deserves serious consideration.  Similar arguments could explain why Fire and Water signs predominate - for example it could be argued that the popular sunsign descriptions for these signs encourage the Fire and Water sign individuals to reaffirm what they see as being attractive role models.

Possible astrological explanations include:

(1).  A genuine Sun sign effect.  Fire and Water signs are projective, rather than objective, (Air and Earth), and therefore show more interest in getting involved in ICQ Astrology Groups and/or reading about their Sun sign.  It is interesting that both the ICQ study and the astro-surfing study show high values for Fire and Water.

(2).  A different astrological effect.  For example, ( I'm not saying I believe this! ),  the effects of Uranus and Neptune passing through Capricorn and then Aquarius somehow diverting Earth and Air signs away from ICQ and astro-surfing.

(3).  A mixture of astrological effects.  I believe this to be the most likely explanation.  More studies need to be done in this field.  I believe I have only just begun to scratch the surface with these two studies.  I shall have to look for more information, and I hope that others are encouraged to do the same.

I think I should add that I do not believe that Astrology causes anything, ( any more than I believe that a Chest X-Ray causes Tuberculosis ), but I do believe that a proper study of Astrology can reveal correlations between planetary patterns and human patterns of behaviour.  I am however very mindful of the arguments concerning the possible Media Effect, although it should in principle be possible to test for this.   

I hope to report further here in due course!

Update 8th January 2000

The ICQ page containing the Sun sign Group statistics has moved - I shall have a look to see whether the data is still available elsewhere.

The Astrology Online statistics continue to fascinate.  When I looked at the tracking statistics again today, the number of visitors tracked on the relevant pages had risen from 13516, in September 1999, to 27653 - just over double.  Surprisingly the shape of the graph has remained essentially the same.  All the signs have approximately doubled in line with the total.

The actual figures are shown below, and in the graph below in Table 4.

2500 2166 2484 2164 2382 1894 1861 3071 2480 1962 2258 2431


Table 4

There is still a third harmonic of 13% and the Mexican Hat phenomenon.  Strange!

Relevant links

Astrology Online - First-Class Astrology Megasite

Extreme Tracking - an excellent Tracker for your site

ICQ Home Page - for instant communication, messaging and much more

Thank you for visiting

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Page Created 12th September 1999

Last Updated 21st April 2000



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