Everyone on the internet is now familiar with the phrase "mercury in retrograde" because of meme culture. But does it actually have any meaning or sense to it?
The phrase is often used to describe an onset of incoming terrible times - "everything is shitty - looks like mercury is in retrograde." And as closely connected as it is to astrology, it is also equally as scientific.
What does "Mercury In Retrograde" Mean?
Simply put, it just means that the planet Mercury moves anti-clockwise instead of the usual clockwise motion. But, it is only an apparent motion, because it looks that way from the Earth. So what does this have to do with anything happening in our lives anyway?
According to astrology enthusiasts and astrologers themselves - when the planet Mercury enters apparent retrograde motion, it marks the beginning of a span of misfortune down on Earth. In the realm of astrology, a retrograde motion has a lot of negative connotations. Since Mercury is the planet said to rule communication, those who are astrologically inclined expect frequent misunderstandings, scheduling problems and disagreements with friends during this period.
Mercury is also the fastest planet in our solar system, it enters apparent retrograde motion between three and four times a year, for about three weeks at a time. The frequency makes it an ideal scapegoat or confirmation bias for any sort of misfortune, so much so that there is a whole website devoted to the question of whether today is one of those days, which you can visit to seek validation on a particularly bad day.
Astronomers, on the other hand, tend to disagree with these associations. "The idea that the gravity from these very distant bodies affects our lives in some way just doesn't work in the framework of physics," said Jean-Luc Margot, a planetary astronomer, and professor at UCLA.
"All the planets rotate around the sun in the same direction, and that never changes," Margot said. However, if a person were able to trace Mercury's position during retrograde — which is a challenge because the sun blocks our view — they'd end up with a line that changes direction. This is because Mercury retrograde is an optical illusion resulting from our position (on Earth) relative to Mercury.
And as far as the potential influence of this seemingly odd movement on our daily lives is concerned, science doesn't back it up. James Zimbelman, a geologist at the Center for Earth and Planetary Studies at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum, said "The force is so small compared to either the sun or the moon, that any kind of planetary effect would just be swamped by the things the Earth is always feeling by either the sun or the moon."
So perhaps, the whole "Mercury in Retrograde" brings bad luck is a sham - or an under-researched scientific discovery. Either way, those who believe that the position of Mercury affects their lives take it seriously.
What Millennials Think About It
"Apparently it's the worst time to do new things and also it brings a whole lot of bad luck. Looking at the way my life is going - Mercury has to be in retrograde 24*7, 365 days every year. So either someone hasn't done their science right or I'm just making bad decisions. It's more likely to be the second one." Sana, 21, student.
"I have heard of this everywhere. I have zero ideas about what it means. But I know bad things happen during this period and I'm not a big fan of astrology, but if a bunch of people around the world find something to blame all their problems on - I'm not passing up that opportunity. Mercury sucks, or whatever the slogan is." Pranav, 24, Engineer.
" So every year, for a few days or weeks - Mercury apparently moves back on its orbit. In astrology, any kind of backward movement means shitty things will happen. So during this period, everyone's supposed to be extra careful and extra cautious. I know this could just be like horoscopes - but every time the whole Mercury in retrograde event starts - things go downhill. So I'm just going to assume that it's true and take extra care. That never hurts anyone anyway." Radha, 26, Baker.
"Listen when the whole world decides things are going to be shitty - they are going to be shitty. Not because of Mercury, but because everyone is just going to do stupid things and make dumb decisions and blame it on a planet that literally isn't even in retrograde. So the whole thing is a scam. You have to own up to your shit man," Karan, 32, Operations Manager.
"I wish I could blame everything onto other planets for the rest of the year when things go downhill. Like oh Jupiter is spinning too fast, no wonder I didn't finish my assignment or Venus' rings are moving around individually which is why I reached late to work. Everything would be easier then." Rohan, 22, Student.
It's an easily debatable issue but many people do religiously believe in the concept. What do you think?