Howler Monkeys are coming for your soul

Beautiful beaches. Lush jungles that thrive in volcanic soil. Friendly people and amazing local cuisine. You can keep 'em all. One of the things I enjoyed most about my last trip to Costa Rica were the calls of local howler monkeys. It didn't matter that I knew what was making their horrific calls. Hearing their low, simmering rage-filled grunts and screams never failed to make the lizard bits of my brain insist that my face was about to be eaten and that I would soon be dead.

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Amnesty International warns that Trump's hatemongering sets "a dangerous precedent for other governments to follow."

If you've had the sneaking suspicion over the past year that the world is going to hell, you're not alone. Amnesty International's 2017-2018 State of the World's Human Rights Annual Report says that in many countries, the politics of hate and fear are quickly becoming the norm.

The report, which covers the activities of 159 countries paints a troubling picture of the conditions that many people are forced to endure on an alarmingly more regular basis. For those who keep track of human rights issues, this is old hat--the world can be a shitty place, full of shitty people doing shitty things to folks that don't deserve it. What's new this year, although it's likely news to no one, is that America is one of a small group of countries at the forefront of Amnesty International's concerns. In a press release for the report, the Secretary General of Amnesty International, Salil Shetty, states:

"The specters of hatred and fear now loom large in world affairs, and we have few governments standing up for human rights in these disturbing times. Instead, leaders such as al-Sisi, Duterte, Maduro, Putin, Trump and Xi are callously undermining the rights of millions."

The report goes on call out the Trump administration's attempted rollback of women's rights and to block the entry of visitors and immigrants from Muslim countries, as particularly troubling and that Trump's "...backward steps on human rights are setting a dangerous precedent for other governments to follow."

The whole text of the annual report is available for download, here. Read the rest

Scientist builds remote-controlled collapsing chair to study fear in people

At the University of Chicago in the early 1920s, psychology grad student William Blatz built a remote-controlled trick chair that would collapse when he pressed a switch. (It was padded to avoid injury.) Then he had subjects sit in the chair while wearing electrodes to measure heart rate and other vital signs. Blatz's goal was to "study the physiology of fear under controlled, repeatable conditions." I think he also probably just wanted to build a remote-controlled trick chair. From Weird Universe:

Blatz offered this description of their reactions:

"The observations of the subjects after the fall, of course, varied, but they were sufficiently in agreement to indicate the arousal of genuine fear in naive subjects. Some examples of these remarks were, 'startled,' 'surprised,' 'frightened,' scared,' etc. In most cases the subjects cried out, and some called the experimenter by name. They all made some effort to escape, thinking an accident had happened. In all cases they acknowledged that they had not anticipated 'anything like it at all.' From these statements, it was concluded that the stimulus was wholly unexpected, and unsuspected."

The electrodes registered the effect of the fright. The hearts of the subjects began hammering, and their breathing rapidly increased. Blatz also observed "striking changes in the electrical conditions of the body in the nature of an increased development of the electromotive force."

"Dr. Blatz’s Trick Chair of Terror" (Weird Universe) Read the rest

Kellyanne Conway says media aren’t 'afraid enough'

Interviewed by Fox and Friends, Trump surrogate Kellyanne Conway had thoughts on the general response to his rally rage meltdown in Arizona. The media, she says, aren't "afraid enough here." Read the rest

Asshole motorist repeatedly attempts to block motorcycles

A driver on California's 210 freeway attempted to block and scare motorcyclists out of lanesplitting. Read the rest

Vacuum cleaner frightened of gaps

Posted in Russian that machine-translates to "My vacuum cleaner is afraid slots," Fluff Zabrat's video is a startling reminder of the terrifying chasms and voids we must all leap on our journey to immanence. Read the rest

Animated interview with Alfred Hitchcock

"We all have fear in us and we like to enjoy a vicarious, shall we say, toe in the water of fear," said Alfred Hitchcock in 1957. (Blank on Blank)

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Minister frightened of doll

Rev. Keith Ogden of Hill Street Baptist Church in Asheville, NC is afraid of a new boy doll announced by American Girl.

"This is nothing more than a trick of the enemy to emasculate little boys and confuse their role to become men," he wrote in an e-mail to his congregation. It was titled, "KILLING THE MINDS OF MALE BABIES."

"There are those in this world who want to alter God's creation of the male and female," he wrote. "The devil wants to kill, steal and destroy the minds of our children and grandchildren by perverting, distorting and twisting (the) truth of who God created them to be."

I suspect Rev. Ogden described American Girl as an "enemy" because he's secretly telling his followers to obey the Lord's command to "love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back." Read the rest

Turtle vs. Herd of Cows

Who would win in a fight between a turtle-sized turtle and a dozen cow-sized-cows? [via r/funny.] Read the rest

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dog logic! Good boy, Artie.

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Why screams are terrifying

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

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