The Spectator

Barometer | 13 October 2016

Also in Barometer: we provide those foreign worker figures Amber Rudd wanted; which appliance will set your home on fire?

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Fears of a clown

Professional clowns complained that the current craze for scaring people by dressing in clown outfits was damaging their trade. But why do some people find clowns frightening?

— The effect was analysed in 1970 by Japanese professor Masahiro Mori as he researched robot faces. He found that the more lifelike faces induced increasing feelings of empathy until a critical point, at which point people began to find them scary. Then, as the face was made still more lifelike, empathy quickly returned. He called the effect the ‘uncanny valley’, after its shape on a graph.

— Clown faces occupy a gap between primate and human, so the fear may originate from ancient aversion to breeding with near-human relatives.

Abroad picture

The government backtracked on plans to make firms record numbers of foreign workers, saying the data was needed only to highlight skills shortages and would not be published. Actually, the Office of National Statistics already records the number of foreign nationals by industry, as follows:

Industry or sector

All non-UK

Lodging & food services

20%

Household employers

19%

Admin/support services

15%

Manufacturing

13%

Transport and storage

13%

Info & communication

12%

Industry or sector

Just EU

Lodging & food services

13%

Household employers

16 %

Admin/support services

10%

Manufacturing

10%

Transport and storage

8%

Info & communication

6%

Home fires burning

Samsung withdrew its latest smartphone after reports of batteries bursting into flame. Which household appliances are most likely to catch fire?

Number of fires 2011-14

Washing machines

1,723

Tumble dryers

1,456

Dishwashers

1,324

Cookers

1,080

Fridge-freezers

861

Central heating

606

Microwaves

427

Toasters

495

Televisions

372

Electric blankets

236

Irons

92

Source: Which?

Stand and deliver

Royal Mail was accused of profiting from fraudulent scam letters which it delivered with its own official stamp. How much of its £7.7 bn revenue came from junk mail in 2015/16?

Letters

£3.3 bn

Marketing mail

£1.2 bn

Parcels

£3.2 bn

It delivered 12.6 bn letters bearing the recipients’ addresses and 3 bn unaddressed mailshots.