Archive for December, 2010
At last count, there were 530 distinct phobias cited on the master “Phobia Index” list, including such gems as “Arachibutyrophobia” (the fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of the mouth) and “Allodoxaphobia” (the fear of opinions). A phobia is generally defined as an irrational, intense and persistent fear of certain situations, activities, things, animals, or people. The main symptom of this disorder is the excessive and unreasonable desire to avoid the feared stimulus. However, what if what you are terrified of is objectively terrifying?
Take “Coulrophobia,” or the abnormal and exaggerated fear of clowns. How can anyone be any less than completely terrified of clowns? I believe I speak for many when I say that this so called “Coulrophobia” is actually just a completely sane reaction to the insanity that is clowns.
In fact, recent highly scientific social science research supports this assertion. The holy sh*% findings of a recent study of suggest that a majority of small children are, yes, terrified of clowns. This should come as no surprise to anybody who has ever been a child at a clown infested birthday party, which pretty much includes everybody.
The study, conducted by bored psychiatrists at the University of Sheffield, interviewed 250 kids for a report on hospital design for a children’s hospital ward. The responses to the survey indicated that children overwhelmingly found the clown motifs “frightening and unknowable” (not a direct quote from the children, I think).
These researchers hypothesized that the children’s fear may have less to do with clowns per se and more to do with being unsettled by something as unusual-seeming (and looking) as a clown. However, this theory doesn’t explain why children continue to be afraid of clowns despite their consistent exposure to them—after all, clowns are still a mainstay at birthday parties. One might suspect that popular culture is to blame, thanks largely to the undisputed master of terror, Stephen King.
“It”, King’s 1986 bestselling horror novel classic, features an “eponymous inter-dimensional predatory life-form that exploits the fears and phobias of its victims in order to disguise itself whilst hunting its prey.” (I just couldn’t top Wikipedia on that description). This amorphous beast, aptly dubbed “It” by the terrified children “It” tormented, primarily appears in the form of “Bob Gray” a.k.a. “Pennywise the Dancing Clown.” Unsurprisingly, Pennywise is even more terrifying looking than your average clown, and is variously described by characters as an goosebump inducing combination of Bozo, Clarabell and Ronald McDonald.
And it seems like it’s not just the little ones who admit to being terrified of clowns. In July 2006, the Bestival, a three-day music festival held in England, was forced to withdraw it’s request to festival goers to wear clown costumes to the concert, due to the unexpectedly high prevalence of coulrophobia among the potential audience.
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The colored part of the eye is called the iris, which has pigmentation that determines our eye color. The iris is a thin, circular structure in the eye, responsible for controlling the diameter and size of the pupils and the amount of light reaching the pupil. Human eye color originates with three genes, two of which are well understood. These genes account for the most common colors — green, brown, and blue. Other colors, such as gray, hazel and multiple combinations are not fully understood or explainable at this time.
We used to think of brown being “dominant” and blue being “recessive.” But modern science has shown that eye color is not at all that simple. Also, eye colors don’t come out as a blend of the parents’ colors, as in mixing paint. Each parent has two pairs of genes on each chromosome. So multiple possibilities exist, depending on how the “Wheel of Fortune” spins. Humans and other animals have many phenotypic variations in eye color, as blue, brown, gray, green and others. These variations constitute phenotypic traits.
In human eyes, these variations in color are attributed to varying ratios of eumelanin produced by melanocytes in the iris. In contrast, the brightly colored eyes of many bird species are largely determined by other pigments, such as pteridines, purines, and carotenoids.
Dutch researchers have announced they are working on ways to determine eye color of adults with sophisticated DNA analysis that can predict with 90 percent accuracy whether people have brown or blue eyes. Researchers said these discoveries also have implications for forensic investigations at crime scenes where recovered DNA may give clues about the actual appearance of suspects, making it easier for authorities to find suspects on the lam.
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Music06 Dec 2010 12:53 pm
Stravinsky first achieved international fame with three ballets commissioned by the impresario Sergei Diaghilev and performed by Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes (Russian Ballets): The Firebird (1910), Petrushka (1911/1947), and The Rite of Spring (1913).
The Rite, whose premiere famously provoked a riot, transformed the way in which subsequent composers thought about rhythmic structure, and was largely responsible for Stravinsky’s enduring reputation as a musical revolutionary, pushing the boundaries of musical design. The premiere involved one of the most famous classical music riots in history. The intensely rhythmic score and primitive scenario shocked audiences more accustomed to the demure conventions of classical ballet. Vaslav Nijinsky’s choreography was a radical departure from classical ballet.
The complex music and violent dance steps depicting fertility rites first drew catcalls and whistles from the crowd. At the start, the audience began to boo loudly. There were loud arguments in the audience between supporters and opponents of the work. These were soon followed by shouts and fistfights in the aisles. The unrest in the audience eventually degenerated into a riot. The Paris police arrived by intermission, but they restored only limited order. Chaos reigned for the remainder of the performance. Fellow composer Camille Saint-Saëns famously stormed out of the première allegedly infuriated over the misuse of the bassoon in the ballet’s opening bars (though Stravinsky later said “I do not know who invented the story that he was present at, but soon walked out of, the premiere.”
Harvard University professor Thomas Kelly suggests that one of the reasons that the Paris premiere of “The Rite of Spring” created such a furor was that it shattered everyone’s expectations. The evening’s program began innocently with a performance of “Les Sylphides.” However, as the follow-up piece, “The Rite of Spring” turned out to be anything but spring-like.
One of the dancers recalled that Vaslav Nijinsky’s shocking choreography was physically unnatural to perform. “With every leap we landed heavily enough to jar every organ in us.” The music itself was angular, dissonant and totally unpredictable. In the introduction, Stravinksy called for a bassoon to play higher in its range than anyone else had ever done. In fact, the instrument was virtually unrecognizable as a bassoon. When the curtain rose and the dancing began, there appeared a musical theme without a melody, only a loud, pulsating, dissonant chord with jarring, irregular accents. The audience responded to the ballet with such a din of hisses and catcalls that the performers could barely hear each other.
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A pheromone is a secreted or excreted chemical factor that triggers a social response in members of the same species. Pheromones are chemicals capable of acting outside the body of the secreting individual to impact the behavior of the receiving individual. There are alarm pheromones, food trail pheromones, sex pheromones, and many others that affect behavior or physiology. Their use among insects has been particularly well documented. In addition, some vertebrates and plants communicate by using pheromones.
Just what do the VNOs of rodents—or, perhaps, humans—respond to?
Probably pheromones, a kind of chemical signal originally studied in insects. The first pheromone ever identified (in 1956) was a powerful sex attractant for silkworm moths. A team of German researchers worked 20 years to isolate it. After removing certain glands at the tip of the abdomen of 500,000 female moths, they extracted a curious compound. The minutest amount of it made male moths beat their wings madly in a “flutter dance.” This clear sign that the males had sensed the attractant enabled the scientists to purify the pheromone. Step by step, they removed extraneous matter and sharply reduced the amount of attractant needed to provoke the flutter dance.
Other studies have demonstrated that the smell of androstadienone, a chemical component of male sweat, maintains higher levels of cortisol in females, and that the compound is detected via the olfactory mucosa. The scientists suggest that the ability of this compound to influence the endocrine balance of the opposite sex makes it a human pheromonal chemosignal.
In 2002, a study showed an unnamed synthetic chemical in women’s perfume appeared to increase intimate contact with men. The authors hypothesize, but do not demonstrate, that the observed behavioral differences are olfactorily mediated. This, and a previous study by the same authors with the still undisclosed “pheromone” preparation, has been heavily criticized for having methodological flaws and that upon re-analyzing there was no effect seen.
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Red Clover is a species of clover, native to Europe, Western Asia and northwest Africa, but planted and naturalized in many other regions. It is a wild plant that is used for grazing cattle and other animals. It has also been used medicinally to treat a number of conditions. Traditionally, these have included cancer, whooping cough, respiratory problems, and skin inflammations, such as psoriasis and eczema. Red clover was thought to “purify” the blood by acting as a diuretic (helping the body get rid of excess fluid) and expectorant (helping clear lungs of mucous), improving circulation, and helping cleanse the liver.
Red clover is considered to be one of the richest sources of isoflavones (water-soluble chemicals that act like estrogens and are found in many plants). It is used for hot flashes/flushes, PMS, lowering cholesterol, breast enhancement and breast health, improving urine production and improving circulation of the blood. It is also used to help prevent osteoporosis, reduce the possibility of blood clots and arterial plaques and limiting the development of benign prostate hyperplasia.
Modern scientific tests have shown that red clover contains isoflavones, plant-based chemicals that produce estrogen-like effects in the body. Isoflavones have shown potential in the treatment of a number of conditions associated with menopause, such as hot flashes, cardiovascular health, and osteoporosis.
However, as researchers have become aware of the side effects of taking estrogen, there is also some concern about the safety of isoflavones. And the evidence that red clover helps reduce any menopausal symptoms — like hot flashes — is mixed. However, for women with normal estrogen levels, red clover isoflavones may displace some natural estrogens, possibly preventing or relieving estrogen-related symptoms, such as breast pain, that are associated with PMS.
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