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.
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make firms record numbers of foreign workers, saying the data was needed only to highlight skills shortages and would not be published.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:
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
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?
It delivered 12.6 bn letters bearing the recipients’ addresses and 3 bn unaddressed mailshots.