Research methodologist, computer programmer and astrologer David Cochrane is a past President of the International Society for Astrological Research (ISAR). He is founder of Cosmic Patterns Software Inc. and the Avalon School of Astrology. And he currently is enrolled in a PhD program in research methodology at the University of Florida. Although no one is keeping score, over the past 30 years he has seemingly been involved in more astrological research studies than any other astrologer on the planet.
David’s PhD dissertation will focus on practical applications for data mining, a discipline that involves extracting patterns from large data sets by combining methods from statistics and artificial intelligence with database management. His driving ambition is to collaborate with academics in related disciplines to produce research papers for peer-reviewed journals that convincingly support specific astrological assumptions.
In the meantime, he continues to tweak Cosmic Patterns’ Sirius software, the research program he believes can be used to demonstrate the validity of astrology once and for all. The software has been used in a series of pilot tests that have successfully linked planetary alignments with observable events. The most exciting and promising of these tests, the Gold Forecast Report, used minor harmonic aspects between the sun and Jupiter to accurately predict short-term bumps in gold prices over a period of time that spanned more than three decades. In the study, the astrological “signature” for short-term gold price gains was 7th harmonic aspects (angles of 51, 102 and 154 degrees) formed between the sun and the solar system’s largest gas giant.
ANS: Can you simply describe the research in a step-by-step fashion?
DC: Daily gold price data was collected for a 31½ -year period between January 1, 1975 and June 20, 2006. Because of the effects of overall economic conditions on gold prices, there was no expectation that astrological variables would be able to predict long-term price trends. However, it was reasonable to assume that short-term price trends might be predicted. The collected data was divided into 126 three-month periods. The Sirius astrology software program was used to pick out dates when gold prices peaked during these relatively short-term periods, and then was used to see if aspects that were expected to occur did in fact show up during these times. Another feature of the Sirius program was then used to create an astrological forecast for gold prices, compare this forecast to actual prices, and provide statistical significance values. These results were then exported to a file and analyzed using a program written for the R statistical software package, a freeware product that can be downloaded from the Internet.
ANS: What is the likelihood that the correlation observed between the signature aspect and rising gold prices occurred by chance?
DC: Less than one in a thousand.
ANS: In your opinion, what about this research was most impressive?
DC: The study demonstrated that a simple and elegant astrological formula that is based on previous research and a clearly specified theoretical framework was able to predict short term changes in gold prices. One study does not prove anything, but this study provides a strong indication that astrological effects are measurable. And that astrology really works. Of course, further research is needed to confirm this.
This finding may be surprising not only to non-astrologers but also to many astrologers as well. There is a growing sentiment among astrologers that astrology has symbolic meaning and can reveal meaning and purpose in a person’s life, but is not capable of measuring anything tangible. This study challenges this belief among astrologers as well as the assumption of many people that astrology is not capable of being validated through research. Although the study is not a 100% solid proof that astrology can be validated through research it strongly suggest this.
ANS: Why do you say the analysis represents one of the strongest validations of a measurable effect of astrological variables?
DC: There are several reasons. For one thing, the formula used in this research is based on earlier research and is founded on principles that have been developed over the past 30 years. So the research is not just exploratory research where the researcher blindly searches for relationships without having a clear theoretical basis. In other words, it’s not a random finding.
Also, importantly, the findings of this study can be applied to other research. There is a lot of economic data available that can be used in additional studies. And the astrological formula used in the study can be refined or expanded upon in future research.
A simple formula has a greater likelihood of successfully being replicated with new data. Purposely, the astrological formula used in the Gold Forecast Report is simple and was not touched up to fit the data. No non-astrological variables are included in the formula.
It can also be argued that the astrological formula used in the study is more compatible with mainstream scientific thinking than many other astrological ideas. There is no idea in astrology that clearly builds upon well established scientific theories and findings, but some astrological theories are more far-fetched than others. For example, the astrological concepts of zodiac signs and planet rulerships of zodiac signs are more removed from any kind of scientific principles than the concept of harmonics, which was re-introduced in the modern era by British research astrologer John Addey more than 35 years ago. This research is quite different from anything Addey attempted, but harmonic astrology nevertheless provides a theoretical framework for the Gold Price Report. Simply, the report assumes that relatively rare and large massive objects (the planets) somehow create an as yet unidentified wave function with different wave sizes having different effects. This idea is still a bit far-fetched but not as radical a departure from established scientific theory as many other astrological ideas.
ANS: What are the practical implications of this particular research activity?
DC: Investors study an enormous number of different factors to determine if commodities or stock prices will go up or down. Investors who are buying or selling over relatively short periods of time may find the forecasts give them a better sense of how prices are likely to change when used in combination with other economic indicators. But the stronger implications are on the science side. The theoretical foundations of the research may very well have unlocked a new secret of the universe that can be developed and improved upon in future studies.
ANS: What are the broader implications of the research for the astrological community?
DC: Many astrologers seem to dismiss scientific research as unimportant, preferring to view what they do as a symbolic language that imparts meaning to a person’s life but nothing of scientific value. An astrologer may say that someone is stubborn because of fixed signs, picky and critical because of a Virgo stellium, optimistic because the sun in Sagittarius trines Jupiter, and so forth. And they may claim the variables that they analyze are too complex for scientific research, even though breakthroughs in research methodology can model extremely complex relationships among variables. In fact, astrologers continually make statements that can be scientifically tested.
Although there may be some concern about this, astrological research does not deny or contradict the potential benefits of other uses of astrology. If astrologers continue on their current path of dismissing science as irrelevant, the case could be made that astrology is heading towards a crisis that eventually finds it on equal footing with tarot cards and the I Ching. Tarot cards and the I Ching may be useful and helpful divination tools, but they are vastly easier to master than the endless rules of astrology. And you do not need cutting edge software in your computer to use them. In this analysis, tarot cards and the I Ching have huge advantages over astrology. If, on the other hand, astrological effects can actually be measured through scientific research, then astrology can be credibly applied to a much wider range of problems.
ANS: What does the future for astrological research look like to you?
DC: With the possibility of obtaining huge amounts of data through social networks, the availability of large economic databases, and the rapid advancement of research methodology and computer technology, the opportunities for astrological research today seem almost endless. At this time, researchers can inexpensively purchase economic data. So with relatively few resources and low costs it’s possible to open an entire new field of study with many practical benefits. In short, the future of astrological research looks very bright and very exciting to me. The key issue is to pick out an area of research and investigate it with sufficient thoroughness. Also, successful research is typically conducted with collaboration and feedback from others with expertise in various disciplines. Hopefully this kind of collaboration can develop in the future.
ANS: Where can I learn more about the Gold Forecast Report?
Articles describing the Gold Forecast Report and other research activities can be found on the www.AstroSoftware.com website. For the more serious student there is a DVD audio file of a two-day seminar and a large PDF file that can be purchased. The astrological theory and the ways it can be applied in astrological research is sophisticated and requires some training to develop facility with it. The software is fairly elegant and easy to use, but one needs to know what to look for. Weekend seminars on the subject are planned at the Avalon School of Astrology when interest is expressed.