How Everything Works
How Everything Works How Everything Works
 

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
 
Question 617

Does the pull of the moon have any effect on a person's behavior? — PSC, Summerville, WV
No, but for an interesting reason. While the moon's gravity acts on people, it also acts on everything around them and everything falls toward the moon at the same rate. Because of this uniform falling, we don't feel the moon's gravity at all. This effect is identical to the one that astronauts feel as they orbit the earth—the earth's gravity pulls on them and on their spaceship, but they are falling freely under the influence of that gravity and they don't feel it—they feel weightless. Since we are falling freely under the influence of the moon's gravity, we don't feel it either—we feel moon-weightless.

Since we are being pulled toward the moon by the moon's gravity, you might wonder why we don't crash into the moon. That's because we're traveling sideways so fast that we perpetually miss the moon and circle it once every 27.3 days. Similarly, the moon perpetually misses the earth and circles it, too.

The only significant effect of the moon's gravity is to create the tide. The earth's oceans are so large that they're sensitive to variations in the moon's gravity. The moon's gravity decreases with distance from the moon, so that the oceans on the near side of the earth are pulled harder than the oceans on the far side of the earth. The result is two bulges in the oceans—one on the near side of the earth and one on the far side of the earth. These bulges create the familiar high and low tides that we observe at the seashore.

         

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