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Are you afraid of the stars?

  1. Nov 28, 2015 #1
    "At a deeper level, I've had several people tell me that the stars scare them."
    -Tony Flanders, Sky & Telescope, Jan. 2016 issue
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  3. Nov 29, 2015 #2


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    what was the stated reason ?
    seems a bit oddball

  4. Nov 29, 2015 #3


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    I suspect this has to do with human psychology and mythology, deeply embedded in our species' memory and DNA over tens of thousands of years. We deeply suspect our origin and destiny are tied to the stars. And we don't fully understand it.

    I have detailed and distinctive memories of first gazing at the stars as a very young boy on the high plains of Texas, and of my first experience gazing at them through a telescope. Somehow, there and then, I sensed that the stars were alive and had meaning, that they were aware of me, and I became very afraid and ran inside. Later, when I first applied my eye to a telescope - it had been trained on Venus - I saw not a planet, but a yin-yang symbol! And again, I ran inside. It was only many years later that I learned what a yin-yang symbol, stars and planets actually were.
  5. Nov 29, 2015 #4
    None given. He discusses fear in general, fear of the dark in particular, and how it affects astronomy - we (humans) want to light up the dark. After the above statement, he does go on to say that he sympathizes, "The stars are utterly alien, completely and forever beyond our control."

    I've always found that a very dark sky inspires a sort of calm, contemplative, almost reverent state. The definition of sublime.
  6. Nov 29, 2015 #5


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    Whatever. I've learned not to act too surprised at the quirks of random people.
  7. Nov 30, 2015 #6
    Fear usually comes from ignorance, those who fear stars probably simply don't understand them in any real sense. There are people that don't understand that the sun is a star, and since the dawn of man, a comet was a terrifying spectacle.

    Go look at youtube for the amounts of pure ignorance, there are some quite entertaining ideas about a flat earth, geocentric universes, and my favorite: time dilation around a black hole being caused by the simulation computer struggling to keep up.
  8. Nov 30, 2015 #7
    Colliding galaxies, gamma ray burst from imploding stars, our solar system getting sucked into a SMBH. Pick your poison. Its probably not so much ignorance as it is scientific documentaries proposing "what could happen". The same could be said about near earth asteroids, or invasion by an alien race. How ever irrational a fear of remote possibilities can be.
  9. Nov 30, 2015 #8
    Not me, but I do know someone who isn't afraid of stars as such,
    but they find that considering the vastness of space and the distances between things is just too much for them,
    so they would rather not think about it.
  10. Nov 30, 2015 #9


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    That's hilarious. Hadn't heard that one before. Thanks for posting :smile:
  11. Nov 30, 2015 #10


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    I've never been afraid of the stars however when looking out at them on a particularly clear night I have *FELT* the vastness of space. At those moments I feel compelled to grab a hold the earth lest I fall off and the small mote I live on be swept away.

  12. Nov 30, 2015 #11


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    I think there is an excess of cynicism here. And prejudgment. The original quote has no context, so these hypotheses shed no light on the subjects (not as much light as it sheds on the hypothesizers :wink:).

    Things always sounds crazier when taken out of context. For all we know, these are intelligent people who are expressing a deep connection with the cosmos in a way you and I might in an intimate, reflective moment. If our intimate thoughts with another astro-buff were publicly splashed across a glossy page for all to judge, it might look pretty crazy too.

    I'd hate to be on the receiving end of this.

    Sure, there's lots of fools out there, but I'd rather give em the benefit of the doubt until shown otherwise.

    My 2c.
  13. Nov 30, 2015 #12


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    Dave, you are much too generous :smile:

  14. Nov 30, 2015 #13
    No prejudgement here, I don't think it's odd to have healthy respect for anything in the realm of "possibility". Nor do I think any type of phobia has an impact on intelligence. Fear of any kind may be deemed irrational to some, but if you are the one with the phobia its not irrational to you at all. My mom was a smart woman but was terrified by spiders. I have a friend that is a software engineer that's scared of clowns. I know a lady who's a great person who is agoraphobic. You and I may veiw it as irrational for us....but we aren't inside their heads and therefore can't really know what's that's like.
  15. Dec 1, 2015 #14
    I have sometimes wondered if a particular star I'm looking at is even really there. Considering the night sky is filled with light from stars millions of years ago. We are looking at ancient history.
  16. Dec 1, 2015 #15
    Not really, humans fear what they don't understand, therefore ignorance causes fear. That's true for any animal, not just humans.
  17. Dec 1, 2015 #16
    That statement is a half truth. I have a fear of being shot in the face. I'm not ignorant of guns, I understand them quite well as part of my job, I'm actually a professional and an expert marksmen. My fear actually comes from knowledge, I know what a bullet can do to you.
  18. Dec 1, 2015 #17


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    My point is that I think you're reading too much into it.
  19. Dec 1, 2015 #18
    I didn't claim all fear was caused by ignorance, I merely stated that ignorance causes fear. I fear space because I don't know what's lurking out there, I fear the amazon river because I do know what's lurking there.

    Fair enough, there's not enough context to know why these people say that stars scare them.
  20. Dec 1, 2015 #19
    That's a broad statement though. Sometimes ignorance causes the opposite, "curiosity".
  21. Dec 2, 2015 #20
    I've reread the thread and I get the point about context, but I also get the negative stereotype label "ignorant" that Dave pointed out.
    After thinking about it a while I came to the conclusion that ignorance or fear of the unknown was probably an important survival instinct. And actually its not so "irrational, stupid, foolish or quirky" it actually maybe what's kept humans alive as a species.
  22. Dec 2, 2015 #21
    Yes, as long as they are mentally healthy. That case can be counted in. :biggrin:
  23. Dec 2, 2015 #22
    Exactly, all higher creatures fear what they don't know. Why does "ignorant" have a negative stereotype? I certainly didn't mean it that way, and that's not it's definition. Ignorance is simply a lack of knowledge.
  24. Dec 2, 2015 #23
    Just from the type of fear I'm guessing. A phobia that is relatable as opposed to one that isn't. Fear of heights is quite common and understandable, where as coulrophobia (fear of clowns) is not common. People with unusual fears are often ridiculed. As are people with different lifestyles, ethnicity, and beliefs.
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