The full moon, despite its hoary reputation as a cause of madness or other aberrant behavior, is not associated with any increased incidence of crimes, accidents or other strange and unusual happenings, a scientific team has found.

Their determination was based on an analysis of 23 previously published reports in which various people claimed to find that, during a full moon, there were increased rates of murder, suicide, arson, automobile accidents, epileptic seizures, alcoholic drinking bouts and a host of other untoward events. So old is the alleged link that the words "lunacy" and "lunatic" are derived from the Latin for moon, luna, and survive as current terms.

The new analysis, published in the Skeptical Inquirer, the journal of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal, used a method, called meta-analysis, by which all the studies were analyzed as a group. After correcting for statistical flaws in nearly half the studies, the researchers found that, in the aggregate, there was "no consistent relationship between phases of the moon and acts usually described as lunatic."

The scientists also dismissed the notion that the moon's gravity, which creates the tides, can influence human behavior. Although gravity is a function of mass, its strength diminishes so rapidly with distance that the gravitational force of a 120-pound mother holding her baby pulls 12 million times more powerfully on the child than does the moon directly overhead.