BBC BLOGS - Gregory's First Law

Archives for August 2010

Two online experiments to take part in

David Gregory | 15:28 UK time, Wednesday, 18 August 2010

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ScienceFestivallogofinal.jpgIt's nearly time for the British Science Festival which this year is taking place at Aston University and other sites across Birmingham. You can find all the details here.

Obviously we'll be doing plenty during the festival itself. But in the meantime there are two experiments you can take part in. One is an investigation of memory, the other is research into advertising. The memory test took me about twelve minutes to finish. The Adlab experiment just under five.

To take part in either experiment, or both, just click here.

Are you scared of snakes?

David Gregory | 12:11 UK time, Thursday, 5 August 2010

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adderfinal.jpgI was out filming a fascinating project to tag and track adders in the Wyre Forest yesterday. Click play on the video at the end of this blog to find out more.

But talking the story over in the office I was surprised at just how many people expressed total revulsion for snakes in general. Indeed one or two couldn't even watch my report. And while out filming the researchers said that they still find dead snakes throughout the forest. Apparently beaten to death by people out for a walk in the woods.

So what is it about snakes that triggers such extraordinary reactions in people? Why are we so frightened of them when usually never come across them in our modern lives?

Well experiments show that children and adults are much faster at picking out snakes in groups of objects than other less threatening creatures. It would seem we've actually evolved to be wary of snakes. Which makes sense as leaving a snake alone is a sure way to avoid being bitten by one.

Snakes would have been quite common when humans were evolving. And since they have the potential to inflict a fatal wound it seems we evolved this response. Lions or bears on the other hand may well be dangerous but were less common in the daily life of our ancestors. Which is why tiger-phobia is pretty rare.

In the meantime learn from our ancestors, if you see an adder in the wild then leave it alone. Most adder bites occur on the arms of people who are foolish enough to pick them up.

There's a fascinating article about all this here.

Are you scared of snakes?

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