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Fear

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MatC
286657.  Thu Feb 28, 2008 12:07 pm Reply with quote

Unfounded fears through the ages, perhaps? Social panics, moral panics, health scares, media driven panics, and so on?

Does anyone remember the Bogus Social Workers? They were - for reasons of their own - going around the country, tricking mothers into letting them examine their children. There were hundreds of reported cases, and at one point the police forces were reported to have set up a national unit to correlate their response to this national emergency. Millions of pounds were spent ... not one BSW was ever arrested or identified. (FT published a lot on this subject, which I can dig up).

 
Flash
286720.  Thu Feb 28, 2008 2:26 pm Reply with quote

I read a case in the paper about a chap who became morbidly obsessed with the risk to his eyes when the solar eclipse came to Cornwall in 2000 (?). Every paper was just full of dire warnings about not looking at the Sun, you'll remember. He stayed indoors with the curtains drawn, didn't look at the eclipse at all, but was still convinced that his eyes had been damaged. Went to get his eyes checked several times, was told there was nothing wrong with them, but eventually killed himself anyway.

 
MatC
287116.  Fri Feb 29, 2008 5:43 am Reply with quote

Quote:
Astronomy fans can avoid damaging their eyesight by staring at the sun during tomorrow’s partial eclipse.
- (Mirror)

 
MatC
287126.  Fri Feb 29, 2008 5:53 am Reply with quote

Apparently, salt cellars have been banned from [some?] British school canteens. I’ve no idea if this is true or not - perhaps an elf with young children would know? If so, it does seem like a pretty classic example of moral panic: humans enjoy the taste of salt, therefore salt must be bad.

Like 99.999% of all such panics, this one began in the USA, and - despite being relentlessly debunked by increasingly angry orthodox scientists - it marches on unstoppably.

In 2003, the BMJ reviewed all major salt studies and concluded:

Quote:
“that a low-salt diet does reduce blood pressure, but only by 1mm of mercury: too small for the equipment in GPs’ surgeries to measure.”


S: Daily Telegraph, 13 Nov 06.

 
Flash
287361.  Fri Feb 29, 2008 8:16 am Reply with quote

Can fear turn your hair white overnight? Apparently there is:
Quote:
a delightful essay on the subject by J.E. Jelinek, a dermatology professor at NYU. Overnight graying or whitening of hair has been reported for centuries, Jelinek says. For almost as long as doctors have been arguing about whether it actually occurs, and if so, how.

The hair of Thomas More, for one, is said to have become entirely white the evening before his execution in 1535. Henry of Navarre, later Henry IV of France, supposedly went suddenly white following his escape from the Saint Bartholomew's Day Massacre in 1572.

But the evidence for such stories is often highly suspect. Legend has it, for instance, that Marie Antoinette's hair turned white the night before she was beheaded.

Several writers clearly state, however, that in fact her hair had lost its color long before. (One claims it turned suddenly white following her failed attempt to flee France in 1791.)

Even in modern times reports of rapid graying often turn out to be secondhand or to have originated with doctors who examined the patient months after the supposed event.

The problem with sudden whitening, of course, is that hair is dead tissue. So you'd think it would be incapable of becoming entirely white until it grows out from the roots, a process that takes weeks.

Still, as you say, there does seem to be one way that hair can appear to turn gray in a very short period of time. What happens is that a condition called "diffuse alopecia areata" may occur in somebody with a mix of normal and gray hairs.

Alopecia can result in sudden, substantial hair loss. For unknown reasons it seems to affect mostly pigmented hairs, leaving white ones untouched. The impression one gets, therefore, is that the patient has become suddenly gray.

The sequence of biological events resulting in alopecia is not well understood, but it's thought emotional stress can contribute to it. Wherefore, chill. If you're male you're probably going to lose all that hair eventually, but no sense hurrying the process.

http://www.straightdope.com/classics/a2_315b.html

Not sure there's a straight answer in that.

 
MatC
287374.  Fri Feb 29, 2008 8:25 am Reply with quote

I’ve often wondered about that - as your quote says, it’s hard to understand how dead material could be effected. And yet, reports of it happening seem universal in time and space, and plentiful. Are they all wrong, made up, or poetic?

I did hear an explanation of sorts once, on the radio; the details are hazy, but the woman speaking (might have been a GP) suggested that unsuspectedly large numbers of women in middle age and above dye their hair to disguise whiteness or greyness - and that when something terrible happens, they give up doing so, or don’t get around to it, or don’t feel up to it. Thus their “suddenly white hair” is actually the hair they’ve long had, revealed by disaster. So, “I saw her a week later and she’d gone completely white.”

But I don’t know the mechanics of hair dye; would that work?

 
suze
287376.  Fri Feb 29, 2008 8:26 am Reply with quote

MatC wrote:
Apparently, salt cellars have been banned from [some?] British school canteens. I’ve no idea if this is true or not - perhaps an elf with young children would know?


Despite not being an elf, and the nearest I have to children being a step daughter who is at university, I can confirm this one. The rule is that "Salt must not be provided at tables or at service counters. Condiments such as ketchup or mayonnaise should only be available in sachets or individual portions of not more than 10g or 1 teaspoonful."

Source: www.schoolfoodtrust.org.uk/UploadDocs/Library/Documents/School-food-trust.pdf
(page 8)

 
MatC
287390.  Fri Feb 29, 2008 8:34 am Reply with quote

Thanks, suze - that really is astonishing. Are they allowed pepper? Probably not, as it has long been known to inflameth ye lustes.

 
suze
287422.  Fri Feb 29, 2008 8:45 am Reply with quote

Pepper might be OK actually. p22 of the document repeats the bit I quoted above, and goes on to say that "condiments include: tomato ketchup, brown sauce, mayonnaise, French dressing, mustard, pickles, and relishes". No mention of pepper, although common sense would suggest that it's a condiment.


On the hair dye thing, dyed hair grows out from the roots - which is why you'll have seen blonde haired women with dark roots. But unless a woman wears her hair rather short - which women of middle years by and large don't - it would take several months for it to grow out to the extent that a haircut would leave no trace of the artificial color.

 
MatC
287430.  Fri Feb 29, 2008 8:48 am Reply with quote

"Pickles"??

Did you have pickles on the table at your school canteen? And what imaginary health risk are they tied to, I wonder?

 
MatC
289062.  Mon Mar 03, 2008 6:01 am Reply with quote

How they deal with tomato sauce is interesting; ketchup is officially good for you (in fact, currently it's officially better for you than tomatoes) - but it's also officially bad for you, because children enjoy it, and because it contains Satan and Beelzebub (disguised on the label as sugar and salt). So - should children be forced to eat it, or beaten for desiring it? It's not easy. Best thing, probably, is just to beat them anyway, on general principles.

 
MatC
289064.  Mon Mar 03, 2008 6:01 am Reply with quote

In his book “Flat Earth News” (Chatto, 2008; as reviewed in London Review of Books, 6 March 08), Nick Davies reprints some of the headlines from British papers pre-reporting the Millennium Bug. They do make quite amusing reading ...

“National Health Service patients could die” (Daily Telegraph) [but not private patients, presumably!]

“Banks could collapse” (Guardian)

“Riots, terrorism and a health crisis” (Sunday Mirror)

“Pension contributions could be wiped out” (Independent)

“NATO alert over Russian missile millennium bug” (Times).


Davies says that the British government spent “a figure variously reported as £396 million, £430 million and £788 million.”

He claims that the Bug - while it did exist - could only be a problem on computers that met four requirements, and that the number of such computers (ie, meeting all four) was tiny: the computers must have internal clocks; their clocks must calculate time using an internal calendar; calculate the date using 2 not 4 digits; and “were in use by programmes which were calculating dates across that boundary.”

In other words, there never was a danger, it was all whipped up by an unschooled media, and the authorities fell for it. But was it really that simple?

 
dr.bob
289109.  Mon Mar 03, 2008 7:08 am Reply with quote

MatC wrote:
In other words, there never was a danger, it was all whipped up by an unschooled media, and the authorities fell for it. But was it really that simple?


In short, fuck no!

I began working in the IT industry in 1997, so lived through the whole y2k* bug. There were, in fact, a metric buttload of software that was affected by the y2k bug. The most worrying of these were code written for large financial institutions. Such places aren't keen to spend the vast amounts of time and money testing out new code (necessary in case a missed semi-colon in a 50,000 line program causes someone to mislay a few billion quid). Therefore, old code that "just works" is generally left to get on with it.

A lot of this code was written in the 70s and 80's in COBOL (a popular language at the time). For this reason, the cost that COBOL contractors were able to charge in the late 90's went through the roof.

Towards the millennium, there was a lot of shrieking in the media about the y2k bug, much of which was complete bolleaux. Stories about planes falling out of the sky, or microwave ovens blowing up were clearly nonsense. Firstly, my microwave has no idea what year it is. Secondly, why would not knowing the year cause it to blow up?! Likewise, not knowing the year is not going to stop a plane from sending fuel to the engines. It might conceivably interfere with something high-level like navigation, but planes tend to have low-tech backup systems like compasses to help with that kind of thing.

However, hysteria aside, there was a genuine problem and a huge number of people in the IT industry around the world worked hard to make sure the problems were fixed (it's hard to meet anyone working in Systems Management at that time who didn't put some work into combating the problem).

Sadly, the result of the hard work by the IT industry to avoid the problem, combined with the utterly nonsensical predictions by some media, lead to the impression in the general public that the whole story was a red herring and nobody needed to have worried at all.



*Typical! It's precisely this kind of abbreviation by IT workers that lead to the whole problem in the first place!

 
MatC
289110.  Mon Mar 03, 2008 7:11 am Reply with quote

Thanks, Bob, I suspected there might be more to it than that; it's classic that "We're all going to die" as the universally accepted version is replaced by "It was all a hoax", with no space for nuance.

Quote:
*Typical! It's precisely this kind of abbreviation by IT workers that lead to the whole problem in the first place!


I like that - surely we can make something out of that point?

 
Flash
289117.  Mon Mar 03, 2008 7:24 am Reply with quote

I was the layman in charge of our Y2K project in the financial institution where I worked at the time (ie I knew nothing about it but was in charge of the people who did, which is how many businesses operate) and bob is right to say that a tremendous amount of work was done, but it does appear to me (still as a layman) in retrospect that it was a total crock - my layman's reasoning being that if there had been a real issue then something somewhere in the World would have gone wrong, and nothing did.

 

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