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Sunday, October 31, 2010

Afraid Of the Dark

Last night, the History Channel had a show on called Afraid of the Dark. It was two hours long and I was ready for bed long before it was over, but it had an interesting premise. The first question was is being afraid of the dark something hardwired into the human DNA or is it a learned response? Unfortunately, I didn't see that question answered.

My personal theory is that both reasons hold some sway. I think the hardwired part comes in because we don't have the nighttime vision that other animals do. In the daylight, we can see threats coming, but at night? Not until they're right on top of us. But it's also learned because that's when the bad guys come out to play.

The other thing that was hugely interesting to me is that there's a scale of darkness that goes from 1-9. New York City is a 9 because of all its lights, and according to the show, a ship would have to sail 300 miles away from NYC to reach a 1 on the darkness scale--far enough for the curvature of the earth to block the lights.

According to the show, there is no place left in the continental United States that is a category 1. I'm guessing there must be some up in Alaska, but wow. The other interesting factoid was that city dwellers can see about 1% of the stars that were visible to Galileo with the naked eye. That was another wow moment.

Anyway, the show went on to list reasons why we're afraid of the dark. It started with being eaten alive and looked at an area between Tanzania and Kenya which is a level 2 darkness area and what the people who lived there had to do to protect their village from lions. That was seriously OMG stuff. I didn't realize that lions attacked human villages or that 100 people a year in Africa die from attacks.

I'm afraid I missed the rest of the show because it started so late. I was hoping the History Channel would replay it, but they're too busy showing Swamp People and stuff like that. Um, what? Dear History Channel, how is Swamp People related to your channel? At least Afraid of the Dark looks at historic reasons why humans fear the dark. Catching alligators just doesn't seem to fit your charter. But then that's another blog.