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Fear & Extreme Circumstances

Date: 03-06-12
Host: George Noory
Guests: Jeff Wise, Robert Felix

Writer Jeff Wise talked about the psychology of fear, and the various ways we cope with extreme circumstances. He detailed his investigation into the crash of Air France 447, which disappeared over the middle of the South Atlantic Ocean in 2009. It turned out that during a severe storm, the auto-pilot disengaged, and one of the co-pilots panicked and made a fatal error, pulling the plane into an aerodynamic stall. Fear can shut down the brain or make things difficult to figure out-- you have to prepare yourself in advance for dire circumstances, if you want to have a better chance of taking the correct action, he explained.

People are surprised at how they react in unfamiliar life and death situations. "It's almost like we've been taken over by a stranger...it's this part of us that lurks in our subconscious that we are so rarely exposed to," and it may behave in ways we don't want, he said. Fear can become contagious amongst a group, and when people are seized by it, they are more likely to defer to authority. Regarding the fearful notion that the world might end in 2012, Wise recently penned an article for Popular Mechanics, delineating various doomsday scenarios including atomic warfare, and bird flu.

Fear can sometimes go into a feedback loop that can quickly self trigger, Wise reported. Also, people sometimes fall into "mind traps," where one mistake leads to another in a sequence of events that can snowball into a life-threatening crisis, he detailed. On the other hand, mistakes can be growth opportunities, that can help someone become a better person, he added.

Climate & Ice Ages

First hour guest, researcher Robert Felix spoke about climate and the possibility we could be heading into an ice age. According to a study, the Himalayas have lost no ice in the last 10 years, and glaciers are growing in areas such as Mount Everest, he noted. Ice age cycles occur around every 11,500 years, and one sign that one is impending is increased volcanic activity, particularly underwater, he stated.

News segment guests: Mitch Battros, Lauren Weinstein, John Curtis

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