October 31, 2011

Torah Kachur

It is All Hallow's Eve - the night where North Americans pacify the evil spirits with offerings of candy, apples and toothbrushes; it is the night of pumpkin carvings, hauntings and little children on sugar highs and it gives the adults a chance to face the darker sides of ourselves.


Halloween is also the day where we try to scare ourselves silly and confront our phobias.  A phobia - or irrational fear - is any conditioned response to a stimulus that causes a sufferer to avoid that situation or object to the point of impairment.  The most common recorded phobia is arachnophobia - or fear of spiders - a condition where the image below can illicit panic attacks, cold sweats and heart palpitations. 


We, at Science in Seconds, have devised a test to determine if you suffer from arachnophobia - scroll down and if you faint, scream or wet your pants you are now diagnosed as arachnophobic.  Please seek medical help.


Jumping Spider Eyes Arachnophobia Science in Seconds



Most spiders are completely harmless, like Charlotte, and yet they are still the most feared creature on the planet.  Certainly, some spiders are poisonous - the bites of the brown recluse cause hemolysis and necrosis, in other words, bites cause your flesh to die and slowly peel off.  I understand a certain amount of caution around these guys but the brown recluse is far from the most venomous animal in existence.  I'm not scared of spiders, they occasionally make my skin crawl but that's about it.  So without arachnophobia, what should I fear?


If I had a phobia, I wouldn't waste it on spiders, I would be more worried about organisms like the Marbled Cone Snail (should we call it Conidophobia).  The Marbled Cone snail contains a neurotoxin so poisonous that one drop could kill 20 humans.  The only problem with this phobia is that people would laugh at me if I ever admitted to it, sparking new agoraphobia symptoms. 


Or how about the stonefish, an organism so ugly it is mistaken for a rock, but it's camoflage isn't the only form of defense, the stonefish also contains a potent hemolytic toxin that causes an increase in vascular permeability -  fancy term meaning that your blood vessels begin to leak fluid and you swell like a fat kid with a candy bar.  Stonefish are found mostly at the Great Barrier Reef of Australia so this phobia would be a bit far fetched for me as well.



Sharks are scary, but I live in Edmonton so that would also be a bit pathetic.  Some people find flying scary, but I like the world too much to bother.  And I guess heights can be intimidating but that is only because me standing on the edge of a 200m cliff makes other people nervous.


I suppose the mission of this Halloween is to find myself a phobia - zombies, bats, fairies or pumpkins perhaps?  Or maybe I'll just stick to a fear of commitment.



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