Nazi who originated Donald Trump Jr.’s Skittles metaphor was hanged at Nuremberg

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The Intercept's Naomi LaChange presents the curious origins of Donald Trump Jr.'s tweet comparing Syrian refugees to poison Skittles. "The concept dates back at least to 1938 and a children’s book called Der Giftpilz, or The Toadstool, in which a mother explains to her son that it only takes one Jew to destroy an entire people."

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Hayley Ashburn balances on a tightrope buffeted by winter winds

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Hayley Ashburn narrates this short but intense film on fear, overlaid on heart-stopping footage of her highlining on a line 2800 meters up, between Italy's snow-dusted Torri del Vajolet in winter, the first person ever to do so. Recognize the quote? Read the rest

What the stampede at JFK airport tells us about fear

Photo: @locodoggy

Travelers mishearing applause apparently triggered a full-scale "stampede" at JFK, complete with screaming crowds, people shouting about guns, and police running around aimlessly with weapons drawn. It was shut down for hours.

The fact that there was no attack at the center of it was both the weirdest and the scariest part — that an institution whose size and location and budget should make it a fortress, in a country that has spent 15 years focused compulsively on securing its airports, in a city with a terrifyingly competent anti-terror police unit, could be transformed into a scene of utter bedlam, stretching out from all eight terminals across the tarmac and onto the adjacent highways, by the whisper of a threat. ...

For several hours, we were in the flood of panic and chaos of an ongoing act of terror. There’s no other way to describe it. That it was an overreaction almost doesn’t matter; in fact, that is how terrorism works.

Hysterical fear was always the invisible counterweight to security theater. Each is as real as the other. Read the rest

Famed electronics author Forrest Mims was choked by an airline captain

The near-infrared hygrometer used on the Chicago flight whose captain choked Forrest Mims

Forrest Mims is the author of the famous book, Getting Started in Electronics, published by RadioShack for many years. I bought the book in the 1980s, and had a blast making the projects in it. When I was editor-in-chief of MAKE, I asked Forrest to write a column for the magazine, called The Backyard Scientist. Forrest is interested in atmospheric measurement, and in his column he explained how to make different kinds of measurement devices. I met Forrest for the first time last year at Moogfest, where he was treated like a celebrity for being the creator of electronic sound makers, such as the one that has been called the Atari Punk Console. Forrest, now in his 70s, was surprised by the attention he received there. He came across as a very polite and humble man.

It made me sad to read his story today in MAKE about the time an airline captain attacked him because he wanted to take some harmless measurements. The story has a happy ending, at least.

While checking in for a flight at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport several years before 9/11, I made the mistake of telling an American Airlines check-in agent that I was planning to measure the water vapor outside the aircraft with a homemade near-infrared hygrometer. This alarmed the agent, who quickly called her supervisor. After the supervisor grilled me, she called her supervisor, who told me that the captain would have to approve my presence on his aircraft. She then said, “Follow me,” and escorted me through the checkpoint without even inspecting my carry-on bag.

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Watch debt grow in real time at the US Debt Clock

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The politics escape me, but I'm fascinated by the US Debt Clock, a website covered in real-time tickers and counters purporting to show all of the unpleasant statistics piling up in America.

They also have a World Debt Clock for all your international inchoate anxiety needs. Read the rest

Petrified pooch overcomes his fear of crossing lines

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Dog logic! Good boy, Artie.

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Why screams are terrifying

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Why are screams so frightening? Because sounds with frequency modulations in 30-150 Hz range have a particular "roughness" to them that activates the fear circuit in the amygdala, according to research published in Current Biology, titled "Human Screams Occupy a Privileged Niche in the Communication Soundscape." Read the rest

Boy, missing 6 days, found in Ikea

"A 12-year-old boy who went missing after being told off by his mother last Monday was found by police on Sunday afternoon in an IKEA store in Shanghai." Previously. Read the rest

Animation explains the dangers of Computercop, the malware that US police agencies distribute to the public

Dave from EFF writes, "Here's a funny, easy-to-understand animation explaining why ComputerCOP parental monitoring software is actually dangerous to kids. More than 245 local law enforcement agencies have purchased this software in bulk and handed it out to families for free."

Using an imaginary kid named Timmy, who gets "pantsed" by ComputerCOP, the animation by Fusion also ties ComputerCOP to the unnecessary equipment locals cops have obtained, like mine-resistant trucks. Fusion's cartoon is based on an EFF investigation published on Wednesday.

Who needs the NSA? Anyone could spy on your kids thanks to ComputerCop

(Thanks, Dave!) Read the rest

Good news about that horrific brain-eating amoeba

Turns out, it doesn't kill absolutely everybody it infects. A 12-year-old girl in Arkansas is recovering from her battle with the killer single-celled organism. She's the third known person to survive. Nobody knows yet how she, or the other survivors, made it through. Why? Well, that's more (sort of) good news. There've only been 130 recorded cases of brain-eating amoeba infection since 1962. It's so rare, that it's difficult for doctors to study. Read the rest

Who’s afraid of the amygdala? Research blows away "fear center" myth

New revelations about your brain’s so-called “fear center” explain why it’s misleading to say “this part of the brain does x”. Maggie Koerth-Baker talks to neuroscientist Paul Whalen and learns that there’s more to fear than fear, itself.

How safe is safe?

The precautionary principle comes up a lot when you're talking about the side effects of technology in the real world. When you don't have evidence that something is dangerous — but you suspect it might be — you could cite the precautionary principle as a reason to ban or limit the use of that thing. It's a messy idea, though, and I'm still not sure what to think about it. On the one hand, technology is often available before data on the wide-ranging effects of that technology are available. Do you use it or not is a legitimate question. On the other hand, following the precautionary principle in a blind sort of way can lead to things like this. Read the rest

Forced internment of British civilians during World War II

Something I didn't know about world history: During World War II, the British government rounded up thousands of its own citizens — people of German, Austrian, or Italian ancestry. Some were put into camps, others deported to Canada and Australia. Others were simply labeled as potential enemies and spied upon. The really crazy part: Many of these people were Jewish refugees who had become citizens of Britain in order to get away from the Nazis. (Via Carol Roth) Read the rest

The risks of visiting volcanoes

In 1993, Stanley Williams survived a close-encounter with a volcano. A volcanologist, he was standing on the rim of Colombia's Galeras volcano when it erupted with little warning. Six of his scientific colleagues and three tourists were killed. Williams fled down the mountain's slope — until flying rocks and boulders broke both his legs. With a fractured skull, he managed to stay conscious enough to huddle behind some other large boulders and dodge flying debris until the eruption ended and his grad students rescued him.

Williams and the other scientists were there to study Galeras, and hopefully get a better idea of what signals predicted the onset of eruptions.

This is something we still don't understand well.

While volcanologists have identified some signals — like distinctive patterns of small earthquakes — that increase the likelihood of an oncoming eruption, those signals aren't foolproof predictions. There are still volcanoes like Galeras that give no warning. And volcanoes like Mt. St. Helens. In 2004, that volcano gave signals that it would erupt. And it did. Sort of. The Seattle Times described it as "two small burps and a lava flow". Basically, the signals don't always precede an eruption, and even when they do happen it doesn't tell you much about how big any ensuing eruption will be.

And that presents an interesting question, writes Erik Klemetti at Wired's Eruptions blog. How close to volcanoes should tourists really be? That's a question with real-world applications. This year, New Zealand's White Island volcano has been ... Read the rest

Surviving a plane crash is surprisingly common

Between 1983 and 2000, more than 95% of people involved in plane crashes survived.

Cow Week: Angry cows vs. angry mothers

Editorial note — Cow Week is a tongue-in-cheek look at risk analysis and why we fear the things we fear. It is inspired by the Discovery Channel's Shark Week, the popularity of which is largely driven by the public's fascination with and fear of sharks. Turns out, cows kill more people every year than sharks do. Each day, I will post about a cow-related death, and add to it some information about the bigger picture.

Now that we have three entries behind us, Cow Week is starting to fulfill its intended function—a format in which to talk about what we do and don't know about why we consider some things risky and some things safe.

Today, we're going to look at the way different emotions have different effects on how we perceive risk. But first, the cow-related violence:

In 2011, a British teenager named Emma Gregory was attacked by cows. Like yesterday's victim, Gregory was crossing a cow pasture with a dog in tow. (Bear in mind here, crossing cow-occupied pastures as part of moving around your community is a more normal thing in the United Kingdom than it is in the United States.) Gregory survived and her furious mother launched a campaign to change signage around the field and generally make sure that people are familiar with the fact that cows are not always docile, friendly, and adorable.

Mrs Gregory also wonders whether or not it would be “reasonably practicable” to install temporary fencing alongside the public right of way to keep ramblers and cattle separate.

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Cow week: Welsh cattle hate dog walkers

Editorial note — Cow Week is a tongue-in-cheek look at risk analysis and why we fear the things we fear. It is inspired by the Discovery Channel's Shark Week, the popularity of which is largely driven by the public's fascination with and fear of sharks. Turns out, cows kill more people every year than sharks do. Each day, I will post about a cow-related death, and add to it some information about the bigger picture.

In 2009 and again in 2011, Welsh cattle joined forces to surround and kill women who were out walking their dogs on the outskirts of Cardiff. Apparently, cows really do not like it when you bring a dog around them. So, FYI on that. This story is from a survivor of the 2009 attack:

"I was slightly ahead when I saw the cows, they looked up and seemed curious and started to move towards us both," she said.

"They were coming in a semi-circular formation so I was heading towards the end so I could get away from them."

The next time she looked around Ms Hinchey appeared to be surrounded by the cows, she said.

One of things that made me post this particular story was the disconnect between the idealized image of a field full of docile cattle, happily grazing on grass ... and the truly creepy and threatening image presented in the quote above. I mean, it's like something from a Stephen King novel. Of course, I also don't have a lot of experience with cows in my personal, daily life. Read the rest

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